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Rich Rodriguez admires the fundamentals of championship baseball team

Rich Rodriguez

Rich Rodriguez enjoys being in a college town. Photo by Mark Evans, TucsonCitizen.com

University of Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez sent baseball coach Andy Lopez a text message after the Wildcats won the first game of the College World Series last Sunday:

“That was a fundamental clinic.”

What football coach doesn’t like fundamentals, no matter the sport?

Rodriguez came out to show his support of the national championship-winning baseball team on Tuesday, along with nearly 5,100 fans who came out to McKale Center to celebrate the squad’s return from Omaha.

“What struck me,” Rodriguez said of the baseball team, “was how fundamentally sound they were. When they needed to advance the runner, they advanced the runner. When they got a double-play ball, they made the most of it. When they needed timely hitting, timely pitching, they got it. It was a fundamental clinic.”

Some of his football players were in attendance Tuesday, when Rodriguez noted that every baseball player who stepped up to the podium to address the crowd ended with the words, “Bear Down.”

“They have a lot of love for the school,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a different sport, but I hope my guys saw the excitement and the love that our baseball players have for the fans.”

When the UA men’s basketball team won the 1997 national championship, the celebration of the team’s return was so big it had to be held in Arizona Stadium in front of an estimated crowd of 48,000.

So, while Rodriguez got a taste of an Arizona championship celebration for baseball, it might have left him wondering how crazy the scene would be for football.

“It may take us a little while to get to this point,” he said.

“But one of the reasons why I think it is so neat to coach here — and I hope for guys to play here — is because it truly is a college atmosphere. U of A athletics is a big deal to the city of Tucson, and you can see that.

“We sell that in recruiting. There’s nothing wrong with pro towns, but it’s kind of neat to be in a college town, in a college atmosphere.”

* * *

Rodriguez hasn’t been a huge proponent of a playoff system, but he said he approved of the news this week of a four-team playoff beginning in the 2014 season. A rotating group of six bowls will host the semifinal games, with the championship game being put out to bid, like the Super Bowl.

“I think they came up with a great resolution,” Rodriguez told Damien Alameda of KOLD (Channel 13).

“I think the four-team mini-playoff is probably the best solution because it keeps the importance of the regular season and it keeps the bowls, which I think are critical to college football. … I think it is going to work out great for college football. I’m excited about it.”

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