Arizona Football

Off-the-beaten-path storylines: Arizona Wildcats at USC Trojans


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Compiling off-the-beaten-path storylines of Arizona’s game against USC tomorrow night while wondering how it is that speculation this week over Rich Rodriguez’s future in Tucson has overshadowed the Trojans’ coaching search? …

WILL HE STAY OR WILL HE GO?

Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne wrote in his Wildcat Wednesday blog this week that all the rumors surrounding Rodriguez potentially taking a job elsewhere next season is “a great reflection on our program and Coach Rodriguez.”

True but the rumors can only do more harm than good when it comes to team morale and recruiting. The thought of Rodriguez taking the attractive job at Virginia Tech is not what a program needs coming off a 49-3 loss at Washington in which the Wildcats appeared to give up mentally in the third quarter.

In his weekly press conference, Rodriguez addressed the rumors this way: “It’s all just rumors and speculation. The speculation on message boards and rumor sites is speculation for everybody, not just me. It normally happens around the last week or two around the regular season anyway.”

Rodriguez did not say: “I’m not going anywhere. I’m only in my fourth year here. I have a job to do.”

In private, Rodriguez is assuring his recruits, at least, that he is staying put. I reached out to a well-placed source who is familiar with Arizona’s recruiting and the person told me, “We have been told he’s staying at Arizona and not going anywhere as of (Monday).”

The source went on to say, “I believe he will stay but that Virginia Tech job (after Frank Beamer announced his retirement) threw a wrench in things. That said we have been told he’s staying. I wasn’t concerned about him leaving until that Virginia Tech job opening.”

“My biggest concern is the way some in the local media are talking because they are the ones who are not understanding how their comments and negative attitude might discourage a kid that’s made a commitment to Arizona,” the source continued. “The lack of support from fans attending games and supporting the team and players is also frustrating for recruiting.”

The fan base and support I am sure will factor into whether he stays or not. Perhaps it won’t be the major element in his decision but it will be a factor along with the fight with the Pac-12 over late starting times and the travel distance within the conference.

It’s too bad some rabid fans out there critical of his 3-3-5 defense and recruiting do not realize injuries played a major role in this year’s decline, more than I’ve ever seen impact Arizona, including the injury-riddled 1991 season.

Arizona won the Pac-12 South last year because of fortunate endings and pieces falling into place with USC and UCLA faltering.

That created a monster of expectations for fans who should realize Rodriguez’s first full recruiting cycle hits next season in his fifth year. The whole roster will be comprised of only his players for the first time, if he is around to coach them. If not, Arizona starts all over again. That should be more of a sobering thought to fans than if Rodriguez were to stay.

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Site founder and award-winning sports journalist Javier Morales has published his first e-book, “The Highest Form of Living”, a fiction piece about a young man who overcomes a troubled upbringing without his lost father and wayward mother through basketball and hope. His hope is realized through the sport he loves. Basketball enables him to get past his fears. His experience on the court indirectly brings him closer to his parents in a unique, heartfelt way. Please order it at Amazon (for only $4.99) by clicking on the photo:
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