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Rich Rodriguez on Arizona ‘honeymoon’; other schools just begin dating

Rich Rodriguez

Rich Rodriguez meets with fans in the tailgate area before Saturday's game.

This is one of the reasons why Arizona Wildcats athletic director Greg Byrne fired Mike Stoops at midseason.

He was able to research, interview and investigate his candidates for weeks, make a splashy hire and then parade the new guy, Rich Rodriguez, in front of the home crowd at Saturday’s season finale.

Worked out pretty well.

As Arizona happily steps off the coaching carousel, other schools are just now beginning a potentially dizzying ride. As of Sunday morning:

Washington State’s Paul Wulff appears out after four seasons.

Arizona State’s Dennis Erickson likely can count the rest of his time in Tempe in hours.

Rick Neuheisel will coach UCLA in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game, but then he’s expected to be gone.

Elsewhere across the country, Texas A&M’s Mike Sherman and Tennessee’s Derek Dooley are in deep doo-doo. Ron Zook is out at Illinois. The Kansas job might open up. That’s just some of the stuff going down as the season nears its end.

Arizona State has been expected to target Houston’s Kevin Sumlin, but the competition is heating up, especially with Texas A&M and UCLA being potential destinations. The Seattle Times said former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach will be at the top of the wish list.

He would be perfect there. Never mind Pullman; he could attract recruits on the force of his personality and his Air Raid passing offense. He is interesting, quirky. He is an “outlier” coach in the league’s most outlier location.

Leach and Rodriguez joining the Pac-12 in the same year? Yes, please.

Hmmm… and could UCLA finally be the school to pry Chris Petersen from Boise State? We’ll see.

Other schools are just getting started as Rodriguez makes recruiting calls, puts together a coaching staff, meets his players, starts breaking down game film and introduces himself to the public.

Rodriguez was formally introduced as the head coach at a press conference Tuesday, and he and Byrne informally walked through the tailgate area before Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Lafayette, shaking hands and taking pictures.

“First time I have ever tailgated I think in 26 years,” Rodriguez said at halftime.

“I got to enjoy it. I appreciated the fans. Got me some of the local flavor to eat. Stayed hydrated; had a couple of waters. What a beautiful day. Are you kidding me? It’s late November, 75 degrees. Just a terrific environment.

“I’m enjoying the honeymoon. I know there is work to be done, but I’ve been enjoying the last couple of days.”

Related link:

Rich Rodriguez in a sombrero? Picture and story about him talking about recruiting and hiring assistant coaches.

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