The team sang the fight song and reveled in the celebration after the Arizona Wildcats beat the second-ranked Oregon Ducks on Thursday, 31-24.
But outside the locker room, rumblings began about what this could mean for head coach Rich Rodriguez’s future in Tucson.
This is the second straight season Rodriguez has led the Wildcats to an upset over a top-five Oregon team, and the coach is garnering attention like a runaway train with Arizona starting 5-0.
Rodriguez was a guest Friday on Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, where the pair asked what was in store for the coach after this outpouring of positive attention and the possible intrigue of other coaching opportunities.
“I just signed a new contract a few months ago,” said Rodriguez. “The people, the support I’ve gotten, and my staff has gotten, from the U of A fans and the university is outstanding. So we’re really happy, and we want to build the best program in America right here in Tucson, Arizona.”
But the attention is not new to Arizona’s coach. Rodriguez made himself known as one of the best coaches in the country when he was at his alma mater, West Virginia.
Rodriguez took the Mountaineers from a 3-8 record in his first season to three double-digit winning seasons and a Fiesta Bowl bid before defecting to the Michigan Wolverines in 2007.
In three seasons in Ann Arbor, Rodriguez accumulated a 15-22 record, finishing no higher than seventh in the Big Ten.
Victories like Thursday night’s were hard to come by during his time at Michigan, but Rodriguez is thankful for an opportunity to make people forget about his years with the Wolverines.
“I appreciate when they bring (Michigan) up and sometimes it’s kind of painful when people bring it up, and the other times, as a competitor, you hope you get a chance to prove yourself again,” said Rodriguez. “A lot of our staff was on that ride with me as well, and we were so disappointed when we didn’t get to see the thing through at Michigan, and now we get an opportunity to try again.”
In over 100 seasons, Arizona football has won six conference titles, but no national championships.
But with the Wildcats sporting a perfect record, Rodriguez is confident that Arizona can contend for national championships in the future.
“I do,” said Rodriguez, acknowledging that the program still has a lot of work to get to that level. “But I think we can win it all. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, and it’s going to maybe be a little tougher than some other places, but we are committed to that.”