Greg Byrne and Rich Rodriguez

Greg Byrne hopes RichRod brought all the wins with him.
Photo by Mark Evans, TucsonCitizen.com

Twenty-seven previous coaches have been asked to run the football program at the University of Arizona. None of them has had more wins on his resume than Rich Rodriguez.

The RichRod era is days from officially getting underway and the college football world will be paying attention. Rodriguez is the biggest name to coach this sport in Tucson and that name comes with a lot of victories.

Most Wins Before Being Hired at Arizona

W L %
Rich Rodriguez 120 84 0.588
Warren Woodson 97 31 0.758
John Mackovic 85 64 0.570
Dick Tomey 63 46 0.578
Darrell Mudra 56 10 0.848

It’s not even close. Rodriguez has 18 years as a head coach under his belt and in 12 of them he finished with a winning record.

Granted, teams play more games these days. Who were the most efficient winners brought in to coach Wildcat football?

Best Winning Percentage Before Being Hired at Arizona

W L %
Darrell Mudra 56 10 0.848
Warren Woodson 97 31 0.758
Tony Mason 26 18 0.591
Rich Rodriguez 120 84 0.588
Dick Tomey 63 46 0.578

Darrell Mudra was the coach of the “Ultimatum Bowl” and Warren Woodson was the architect of the Art Luppino “Cactus Comet” teams before landing Arizona on probation. Both coaches ended up in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Dick Tomey is the only name to appear on both those lists as well as this one:

Most Wins at Arizona

W L % Years Winning
Seasons
Dick Tomey 95 64 0.597 14 9
Pop McKale 81 32 0.717 16 14
Larry Smith 48 28 0.632 7 1
Miles Casteel 46 26 0.639 8 7
Jim LaRue 41 37 0.526 8 3
Mike Stoops 41 50 0.451 8 3

That’s the only list that matters now for RichRod. Starting Sep. 1 no one in red and blue is going to care how many trophies Rodriguez held up at West Virginia or how many awards his recruits win at Michigan.

As the financial world warns us, past performance is no guarantee of future results. The third-most winningest coach hired at Arizona was John Mackovic, and he ended up being the Hindenburg landing on Titanic.

Like Rodriguez, Mackovic’s resume was filled with victories. He, too, was fired from one of college football’s most storied programs. The obvious counterargument to the optimism surrounding RichRod is JoMack (sorry, I won’t type that again).

Before you leap from your tiled roof, however, there are key differences between Mackovic’s past and that of Rodriguez. Mackovic was 57 years old and four years removed from his last season at Texas when he was hired at Arizona. RichRod landed his first head coaching gig at the age of 25 so he’s only 49, the same age as Tomey when he became the UA coach.

The other big difference is Rodriguez has left talented players wherever he’s been. West Virginia went 9-4 in each of the two seasons immediately after Rodriguez’s departure (and hasn’t slowed down since) and Michigan posted an 11-2 record last year. Nothing compared to the Mackovician crater Mike Stoops inherited at Arizona.

The sobering reality is, of the eight coaches who came to the UA with previous head coaching experience, only two were able to improve upon their career winning percentage (Larry Smith and Tomey).

Of course, none of the other six could match the 120 wins on Rich Rodriguez’s ledger, a number that is just 13 college wins fewer than fellow Pac-12 newcomers Mike Leach, Todd Graham and Jim L. Mora combined.

All of Wildcat Universe wants to know: Can RichRod be great again? Can he win at Arizona?

Getting career victory number 121 against Toldeo would be a great start.

* * *

Years
(Pre-UA)
Winning
Seasons
W L % Years
(at UA)
Winning
Seasons
W L %
Rich Rodriguez 18 12 120 84 0.588
Mike Stoops 8 3 41 50 0.451
John Mackovic 13 9 85 64 0.570 3 0 10 18 0.357
Dick Tomey 10 7 63 46 0.578 14 9 95 64 0.597
Larry Smith 4 1 18 27 0.400 7 6 48 28 0.632
Tony Mason 4 3 26 18 0.591 3 1 16 18 0.471
Jim Young 4 3 31 13 0.705
Bob Weber 4 0 16 26 0.381
Darrell Mudra 7 6 56 10 0.848 2 1 11 9 0.550
Jim LaRue 8 3 41 37 0.526
Ed Doherty 5 2 28 22 0.560 2 0 4 15 0.211
Warren Woodson 14 12 97 31 0.758 5 3 26 22 0.542
Bob Winslow 3 1 12 18 0.400
Miles Casteel 8 7 46 26 0.639
Orian Landreth 1 0 3 6 0.333
Tex Oliver 5 5 32 11 0.744
A.W. Farwick 1 0 4 5 0.444
Fred Enke 2 1 8 8 0.500 1 0 3 5 0.375
Pop McKale 16 14 81 32 0.717

(None of the nine UA head football coaches before McKale coached more than two seasons and had no prior wins.)

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