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Territorial Cup: No motivational gimmicks needed, RichRod says

Rich Rodriguez celebrates after last week's win over No. 5 Oregon. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Rich Rodriguez celebrates after last week’s win over No. 5 Oregon. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As Rich Rodriguez tells us, he doesn’t have a lot of “Dr. Phil moments” with his players, and it’s not like the team sits around, holds hands and sings “Kumbaya.”

His typical answer to a problem: Work harder.

A player feeling sorry for himself? Boo-hoo. Work harder.

So, it’s perfectly in keeping with who he is as a coach that — while completely understanding the importance of the Territorial Cup with Arizona State — he isn’t into a lot of gimmicks before a rivalry game.

No season-long countdown clock to kickoff in the weight room (like ASU’s Todd Graham does). No reminder bracelets. No special posters around the locker room. No extra motivational words on the wall.

“I used to put up motivational stuff,” he said.

“And then the players accused me of making up quotes,” he added with a guilty grin. “I only did that a couple of times — making up quotes that their players said this and that. I just kind of paraphrased it at times.”

As former coach Dick Tomey used to say, Arizona-ASU is a season unto itself.

What extra motivation is needed?

“I just have to think that you have to be living under a rock if you’re playing for Arizona and don’t realize how important the ASU game is, or the rivalry is,” Rodriguez said.

“Do I have to come in and say, ‘This game is really big. It’s the Territorial Cup. It’s ASU.’ Really? If they don’t hear that every day in the offseason, and hear it quite a bit, then there’s something wrong with them.”

Oh, they hear it plenty. At least, Rodriguez did. He is 0-1 in the series, as the Wildcats succumbed to ASU’s fourth-quarter rally last season and won 41-34 in Tucson.

He described his typical reaction when someone would bring up that loss in the offseason.

“Oh really. That’s a great revelation. I didn’t know that. Thanks for reminding me. Next person.”

He added: “It gets a little old, but I can’t blame them. It’s an important game for a lot of people. Trust me, you think it’s not important to us? You think it’s not important to our players? That’s our livelihood. That’s what we talk about quite a bit.

“If we lose, I’m going to be really mad, but I’m not going to jump off a bridge. We don’t have a lot of bridges around here anyway.”

Rodriguez said the team does focus more film study on a rival during the offseason, but this week of game preparation is the same as the others during the season.

“I mean, does a rivalry game get you more jacked up and watch more film or something?” he said. “Never has, never will. They’re all the same to me. We’ll watch the same amount of film. You only have so many hours in the day, right?”

Yep. And they’re all counting down to Saturday night at 7:30 at Sun Devil Stadium.

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