Last week I had the pleasure of spending 24 hours with Rich Rod and his staff at Arizona and came away believing that the future of Arizona football is bright.
We met a couple of the staff for dinner the night we arrived in Tucson. Plenty of jokes amongst these guys, even though the three guys we were with had virtually never met prior to about 3 months ago. These guys are excited about where this program is headed.
When we arrived at the facility in the morning, Rich and his staff were in a staff meeting and immediately welcomed us in. The room had a family feel. Everyone seemed to know their spot, have an understanding of their role, be on the same page; yet there were plenty of wise-cracks in the room as well...honestly, if I had had my eyes closed, I might have thought this was a band of brothers sitting around the kitchen table.
First thing on the agenda that day was a meeting with Arizona's AD Greg Byrne. We'll bring you more from that meeting later; but one thing that Byrne said really stuck with me. He said that one of the reasons he hired Rich was that he felt Rich could reinvigorate the Arizona community to rally behind this program...to create a greater sense of pride in the program.
Later in the day I had the opportunity to visit with Rich Rod (along with Mike from Overtime Software) in his office and came away with an even greater belief that Rich specifically hired this staff to bring the family feeling back to Arizona football.
At practice that afternoon I saw the same...literally and figuratively as I saw Rich Rod's wife and kids observing practice and his son working with some of the support staff (including director of on-campus recruiting Matt Dudek) ensuring one of the more important pieces of equipment was working as planned (see the mobile sound system pictured). I add figuratively because I also noted a large number of local high school coaches observing practice and interacting with the staff as well.
After practice, the team and the coaches and their families head up to the training table on the club level of the stadium for dinner. One comment we heard a few times while touring the place and meeting a few of the players was that before this staff was hired there was desert as part of the training table dinners. Rich Rod and his guys had the standard ice cream cooler installed and judging by the grins we saw as the players mentioned it, we think that was a wise investment.
From up top of the stadium you can really see the status of their new end zone addition (which will also house all of football operations). The project is rolling and is scheduled for completion shortly before Fall camp begins in 2013.
As we all know, facilities are nice (and Arizona's will be quite nice once done); but players win games for you and right now several of the players will tell you that as a team they need to get stronger. Rich brought in a new strength & conditioning staff and over the next few recruiting classes will be able to bring in and cultivate more and more talent. We see these guys competing real soon; and in a few years, we can see Arizona scrapping their way into a Rose Bowl. Until we sat down with Rich we had no idea that Arizona had never played in the Rose Bowl. When they do, we want to be there to see the smiles on the coaches, administrators and players faces.
More to come about this staff over the next few weeks...