4. Arizona: Rich Rodriguez
CAREER COACHING RECORD: 84-53, West Virginia, Michigan
8-5 with Wildcats
YEAR AT ARIZONA: 2nd
Arizona rolled the dice by signing Rich Rodriguez prior to the 2012 season and the dividends paid off sooner than expected. Rodriguez guided a moribund Arizona program — one that plummeted from No. 9 in the nation by winning just four of its last 17 games under Mike Stoops and interim coach Tim Kish — to an 8-5 (4-5 Pac-12) record in 2012 and a thrilling New Mexico Bowl win over Nevada.
And he did it with players recruited by the aforementioned Stoops. RichRod knows talent. See the success West Virginia and Michigan had with his players after his departure from both schools.
Rodriguez’ first recruiting class at Arizona focused almost entirely on replenishing an offense depleted by graduation and attrition. With his players slotted into his unique spread-option offense, Arizona should be able to thrive in the Pac-12 — especially behind incumbent national rushing leader Ka’Deem Carey, who still has two years of eligibility left.
Getting Arizona to its first-ever Rose Bowl is Rodriguez’ stated goal. But the conference’s Holy Grail will be tough, if nearly impossible, to achieve with the likes of Oregon, Stanford and Southern California perennially reloading their talent pools.
A run of success in Tucson could make Rodriguez a flight risk to a bigger program — see his exodus from Morgantown, after seven seasons and a 60-26 record, to Ann Arbor after the 2007, as an example. Luckily for the Arizona, West Virginia is Rodriguez’ alma mater and a return to his dream job seems highly unlikely.
FOURTH DOWN: RichRod, has manned a ranked-team is all but two of his 11 seasons as a head coach. He is 4-4 in bowl games — including four appearances in the Gator Bowl where he is 1-3.