Courtesy of ArizonaAthletics.com, here is the second half of Rich Rodriguez’s talk to fans, as he answers questions and tells a very funny (if hard to believe) story at the end, starting at about the 11:45 mark.
Rich Rodriguez didn’t get far inside the banquet hall at the Westin La Paloma resort. He shook hands, signed autographs, posed for pictures.
About 600 fans turned out Monday night to meet and greet the Arizona Wildcats’ new football coach, and many of those fans kept Rodriguez busy right at the door before it was time for him to get up on stage to address the crowd.
Rodriguez then knocked it out of the park for about the next half hour.
He’s really good at this kind of event. Funny. Down-to-earth. He has well-honed stories and an eager, new audience that hasn’t heard them. A perfect match.
More than anything, athletic director Greg Byrne wanted a football coach who could win games (of course), but he really wanted a football coach who could win games and communicate with the masses.
“He’s a natural at all this,” Byrne said.
“I have been really impressed with how he has embraced the community and the university since he has been here. That goes a long way into buying into what is going on.”
In three weeks on the job, Rodriguez already has one well-worn phrase — “It’s great to be undefeated,” he said to laughter after being greeted with a standing ovation on the stage — but he did carve out some new ground over the next 27 minutes.
Some highlights of Monday night’s reception:
–When he introduced receivers coach Tony Dews, Rodriguez noted that Dews was the lead recruiter a few years ago on a pair of four-star recruits — defensive end Craig Roh and offensive tackle Taylor Lewan from Scottsdale Chaparral High. Dews got both players to sign with Michigan.
“He signed two of the better players in the state to go to that silly school up north,” Rodriguez said. “I wish he didn’t do that. I wish they were here at the U of A.”
–He joked about his time as a TV analyst last season and having to put on makeup. “It’s easy being an expert on TV because no one remembers what you said, and if you’re wrong, who cares?” he said. “It’s a little bit different being a coach.”
–He said as he met university officials during the interview process, he could tell they were “his kind of people.” Rodriguez added: “I could just sense the hunger that they had and the support that they were going to give me as the head football coach at the University of Arizona.”
–Rodriguez said he has met individually with every player.
“I wanted to take some time, about half an hour or an hour to get to know them,” he said.
“I didn’t ask them about football. I just asked them about their family, where they came from, how they are doing in school, how they like the school, how they’re living, all that kind of stuff. We have a good group of kids.
“Right now, they feel pretty good,” he said, before adding, “They haven’t gone through a workout yet.”
–He said he will always have the same three goals — win the Pac-12, win the Rose Bowl, win the national championship. Naturally, the crowd roared with approval.
Rodriguez joked that interim university president Eugene Sander “wants me to do that in the next year before he retires. I told him I have to wait until after spring practice to know exactly where we’re at.”
–Rodriguez, despite have rings from BCS bowl games and Big East titles, said he told recruits last weekend that he doesn’t wear any jewelry.
“They ask me why, and I said, ‘I want to have a ring that says National Champions, and that sucker would be so big and have so much bling, bling on it that my arm would be hanging down like this,” he said, lowering his arm to the floor.
–”I know we have 348 days until we play Arizona State,” he said.
–He repeated the line he used at his introductory press conference and at various times since then: “Why not Arizona?” It sounds, he said, like a great slogan for a T-shirt.
–When he met the team last week, Rodriguez gave each player a note card and asked them to rank the top three football programs in America. He said 22 listed Arizona.
“We have 22 smart guys, that’s pretty good,” Rodriguez said.
But only five players gave the true “right” answer: 1. Arizona. 2. Arizona. 3. Arizona.
“My point is, we won’t win a national championship until we think and work like we have the best program in America,” Rodriguez said.