Arizona Athletics

With so much to deal with, Arizona just couldn’t keep Rich Rod another day

I remember the conversation as if it was yesterday. In a quick interview – at a time when the local media could get with a coach one-on-one before it was conducted in a crowd – I flippantly said to Rich Rodriguez to enjoy Tucson because he won’t be here long.

As he walked away, he said, “You already trying to get rid of me?”

I laughed and said, “You’re too good for this place.”
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I thought, given his reputation, he’d do so well he’d only be here just a handful of years. It almost happened when he had a chance to leave to go to South Carolina. If you believe Arizona/Rodriguez, he turned them down. If you believe South Carolina an offer never happened.

Welcome to college athletics where it’s a case of who do you believe?

It was very obvious to me – and others telling me – that it was very apparent he didn’t want to be here. Instead, he stayed because there was nowhere to go. Coaches who go 7-6 and 3-9 in back-to-back seasons aren’t hot commodities.

And now all this: public confirmation of an affair, lawsuits that involve millions, a program where it’s a hostile environment and a tired act of belittling the media after losses (save for out-of-ordinary niceness after his last one).

It proved to be his last act as Arizona’s head coach. So the man who loved Clint Eastwood movies will eventually ride off into the sunset much like the Outlaw Josey Wales – injured but still alive.

What it all means is it clearly doesn’t all play well when you have a new athletic director and new president as bosses. If they don’t like you or don’t think much of you or don’t respect you, or, or, or then people find reasons to get rid of you. And, well, if UA needed a reason, Rich Rod gave them a plethora.

“This evening, we informed Head Football Coach Rich Rodriguez that we have terminated his employment effective immediately and will honor the separation terms of his contract. The decision is based on several factors, including the direction and climate of our football program,” UA president Robert Robbins and AD Dave Heeke wrote in a letter to UA students.

Pile on with alleged allegations and up-coming lawsuits, why even deal with it? Now, you’re messing with a reputation as a school with a bunch – boatload? – of problems.

Basketball – FBI probe. And who knows what direction that will go in?

Track: Where former assistant coach Craig Carter is facing felony charges for threatening a former track athlete, who he admitted to having a sexual relationship with.

There’s the unfortunate death of former UA football player Zach Hemmila, who passed away before last season as a result of the combined toxic effects of two prescription drugs. The drugs found in his system were oxymorphone, an opiate painkiller, and alprazolam, an anxiety medication.

A few weeks later running back Orlando Bradford was arrested for aggravated assault. UA is being sued in federal court by one of three victims of Bradford. Bradford was sentenced to five years in prison on two felony counts.

Arizona’s reputation surely in jeopardy … and has been way before this Rich Rod thing just happened.

This just brings it back into the spotlight.

It’s clearly a sad way to start the new year for a school and a football program. Heck, the whole athletics program is on alert right now. Heeke and Robbins inherited a mess as one looks back on it now.

That from a program that tries – and does – everything to control the message at every turn. It’s been that way for more than eight years now. They clearly haven’t won any favors from the local press – not that it needs to have any, but I’m pretty sure no one is showing any tears for what’s going on.

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