Rich Rodriguez

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Mike MacIntyre takes on interim coach tag at Ole Miss

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While the search is on for a new head coach of the Ole Miss football program, defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre will take on the role of interim coach.

Ole Miss is not playing in a bowl game this season, so MacIntyre’s main objective, for the time being, is keeping as good a face as possible for the program in recruiting efforts. That is key because the early signing period is rapidly approaching (Dec. 18) and Ole Miss, like any other school looking for a new head coach at this time of the year, is hoping to have a new head coach in place as soon as possible in order to manage to save a recruiting class inspire of a transition.

MacIntyre does have previous head coaching experience, of course, with Colorado and San Jose State before that. MacIntyre joined the Ole Miss staff prior to the 2019 season, along with offensive coordinator and former Arizona, Michigan, and West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez. MacIntyre previously was a part of the coaching staff at Ole Miss from 1999 through 2002 before taking a position with the Dallas Cowboys in 2003. Rodriguez is still currently a part of the Ole Miss program as well, at least for now.

Ole Miss officially parted ways with former head coach Matt Luke on Sunday after three seasons. Luke started as the interim head coach of the Rebels following the dismissal of Hugh Freeze (currently the head coach at Liberty, who is bowl-eligible this season). With Ole Miss in a tough spot with the NCAA at the time, Luke was a good solution for the short term given his Ole Miss roots and familiarity with the program, but struggles on the field  the past three seasons ultimately led to Ole Miss looking to find someone new to provide a spark for the program.

Whether or not MacIntyre will be considered for the head coaching position on a full-time basis remains to be seen.

Helmet sticker to OM Spirit.

Report suggests Matt Luke will continue coaching Ole Miss in 2020

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As we approach the end of the college football regular season, it’s just about time for the coaching carousel to get spinning once again. A few of programs have already made some coaching changes (Arkansas, Rutgers, and Florida State), but it does not appear any changes will be made at Ole Miss. According to a report from Football Scoop, Matt Luke is expected to remain the head coach in Oxford, Mississippi in 2020.

Not too surprisingly, the cost of a buyout is a key piece of information in this particular story. While the price to buy its way out of Luke’s contract is $6.5 million, the actual cost to move on from Luke is nearly doubled when Ole Miss accounts for the buyout costs of Luke’s assistants. Namely, offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez and defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre. Rodriguez and MacIntyre have head coaching experience and were sensible additions to the staff for a first-time head coach like Luke. But with experience, comes cost. According to Football Scoop, the buying out of contracts to Luke, Rodriguez, and MacIntyre could climb to over $12 million if Ole Miss is to make a change.

Another reason Ole Miss may hold off on making any changes with the football program are due to the school actively focusing on naming a new full-time athletics director. The common line of thinking is it makes more sense to allow your next full-time AD to make the call on the head coach of a football program, ensuring a higher likelihood of positive chemistry between coach and AD that leads to everyone being on the same page for the good of the program moving forward.

So, between the buyout cost and the ongoing search for an AD, Matt Luke appears to be in a pretty stable position at this point in time.

Rich Rodriguez and Bret Bielema were also at Alabama’s pro day

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Alabama’s pro day tends to draw a big crowd, which is nothing new. In addition to likely future Alabama staffer Butch Jones being on the scene today along with the likes of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, others caught on camera at the pro day event were former Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez and former Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema.

Bielema’s presence at the Alabama pro day could likely be explained by Bielema’s recent connection with the Patriots. During last week’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, it was reported Bielema was working as a representative of the Patriots. There has been no announcement on whether or not Bielema will be joining the Patriots staff this offseason, but Belichick has been known to bring former college coaches with him to events like these. Belichick previously took Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano after Schiano had been fired by the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014, according to NESN.

Rodriguez is a bit of a new one though. He previously had no documented connection to any NFL team following his removal as head coach at Arizona, which continues to be a legal issue being taken care of off the field. Perhaps Saban was throwing Rodriguez a bone as coaches tend to do in allowing Rodriguez an opportunity to mingle with other coaches and scouts with the intent of finding his next job. These pro days can be good opportunities for disgraced coaches as well.

It is also worth a reminder that Rodriguez previously turned down an opportunity to be the head coach at Alabama. Alabama ended up hiring Saban instead, and Rodriguez eventually landed at Michigan. Safe to say these two coaches have taken contrasting career paths.

Khalil Tate saving Rich Rodriguez and putting Arizona in Pac-12 contention

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Those who have sacrificed their sleep on the weekends to watch a talented running back duo of Stanford’s Bryce Love and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny this season are already conditioned for this, but Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate has become one more reason to stay up late on Saturdays. Tate is close to carrying Arizona by himself as the main attraction in a much-needed turnaround season for Rich Rodriguez and the Wildcats.

After diminishing win totals each of the past two seasons, it was fair to suggest this was a critical season for Rodriguez in Tucson. And after a 2-2 start to the season that included some offensive struggles against Houston and Utah at home, Tate’s sudden rise could not have come at a better time. Since taking over at quarterback in early October against Colorado, Tate has been off and running, literally. Tate is essentially Rodriguez’s 2017 edition of Pat White.

Tate is Arizona’s leading rusher with 926 yards and eight touchdowns following his 146 rushing yards and a touchdown Saturday night against No. 15 Washington State in a 58-37 victory. Tate also had 275 passing yards and two scores through the air to lead Arizona to a blowout win with a strong second half.

Tate is playing his way into the Heisman Trophy mix against incredible odds, and it is easy to see why. He legitimately has a chance to break a big play every time he touches the football. And as the quarterback, he has his hands on the football every play Arizona runs. Tate is second in the Pac-12 in plays of 30+ yards with 12, trailing only Stanford’s Love. He is one of five players in the conference with a play of 80+ yards and he is the only Pac-12 player with 4 plays of 70 yards or longer (Washington’s Dante Pettis is second in the Pac-12 with two).

As we have noted before, Tate was not the starting quarterback for Arizona at the start of the season, making Tate’s sudden rise in the Pac-12 even more entertaining to those tuning in. This week Tate will be one of the reasons to stay up late once again as Arizona prepares for a road game at USC. With the Trojans also winning last night on the road against Arizona State, first-place is on the line for the Wildcats and Trojans, the last two teams in the Pac-12 South with just one loss in conference play.

If Tate can make similar plays happen against USC and Arizona can leave Los Angeles with a win and a head-to-head tiebreaker, Arizona will have an incredibly manageable path to the Pac-12 Championship Game. Taking down the Trojans will be no easy task, but neither will USC’s mission of stopping Tate.

USC hosts Arizona at 10:45 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4. Put a pot of coffee on. It will be worth it.

Rich Rodriguez not overly thrilled with NCAA rule changes

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A bunch of new rule changes are set to take effect this football season, and Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez appears to be not-so-enthusiastic about some of the key changes. Rodriguez took aim at the new recruiting guidelines that include an early signing period in December and new rules regarding official visits. He was not complimentary, according to quotes provided by the Arizona Daily Star.

“December’s better than February, but it doesn’t solve the problems,” Rodriguez said when reacting to the addition of an early signing period in December. “I still think it makes more sense to have no signing day. I was one that voted against the December one, because I think there should be none.”

Rodriguez has been in favor of having no official signing day and instead allowing student-athletes to sign with a team whenever they are ready to do so. It remains to be seen just how much of an impact an early signing period will truly have on the game, but the expansion of the dates recruits can make official visits (beginning April 1 of recruit’s junior year, ending in late June) could be a negative change for a school’s budget, warns Rodriguez.

“Right now, you’re allowed 56 official visits. We only use 36. So we save the school money,” Rodriguez said of Arizona’s approach to official visits. “You kind of zero in on the guys you know (will come) by the time the official visits come. Now everybody’s going to use 56, because it’s so early in the process. So it’s going to cost schools more money.”

In addition to having concerns about how much schools will spend on additional official visits, Rodriguez also suggests the time is taken away from assistant coaches will take a toll.

“The life of an assistant and the work that they do now is already pretty hectic. Which is OK; they get paid well,” Rodriguez said. “But to have official visits in those months is way too much to ask for kids, coaches and schools. I think it’s a bad idea.”

When the acting president of the American Football Coaches Association comes out with this kind of reaction to the new rules, you cannot help but wonder how many other coaches feel the same way.