Friday, January 5, 2018

Arizona Football: Kevin Sumlin Heads List of Names to Replace Rich Rodriguez

Posted By on Fri, Jan 5, 2018 at 5:48 PM

Former Texas A&M and Houston Coach Kevin Sumlin - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • Former Texas A&M and Houston Coach Kevin Sumlin
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 24 hours, you probably know there will be a new football coach in Tucson come fall.

The University of Arizona is tasked with finding said coach after ending its relationship with Rich Rodriguez, siting concern over the “Direction and climate of the football program,” as stated in a bombshell released on Tuesday night.

There are many names that will jump to the top of people’s lists, including former star athletes (cough, cough—Chuck Cecil), and big-names, like former Texas A&M and Houston coach Kevin Sumlin.

The bottom line is that whoever the next UA football head coach is will be tasked with the unenviable assignment of keeping the 16 players that signed their National Letters of Intent last week, while adding more by the Feb. 7 deadline.

It’s imperative that Director of Athletics Dave Heeke and President Robert C. Robbins find their man, and find him quickly, so that person can have ample time to lock down a solid recruiting class.

The Wildcats, fresh off a 7-6 season that ended with a disappointing 38-35 loss to Purdue in the Foster Farms Bowl, have a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball—with dynamic quarterback Khalil Tate on offense, and a defense spearheaded by rising sophomores Kylan Wilborn, Colin Schooler and Tony Fields, II.

There’s plenty of talent on both sides of the ball to build around for the next coach in The Old Pueblo, but the clock is ticking for Heeke and company to nail down a solid recruiting class.

Without further ado, here’s who I believe Heeke should seek out to be the 21st coach to roam the Arizona Stadium sidelines.

1. Kevin Sumlin: The former Houston University and Texas A&M coach should be Heeke’s main target, with an impressive 86-43 record in 10 seasons of work. Sumlin was chased away from College Station for “only” winning seven-to-nine games a year, and has recruited the state of Arizona exceptionally well, landing sure-fire first round NFL pick and Scottsdale native Christian Kirk—who’s hauled in 234 catches for 2,855 yards in his three seasons under Sumlin, as well as Tyler Bruggman and Priest Willis. It’s clear that Sumlin, who’s owed $10 million from Texas A&M regardless of whether he lands another job or not, will likely come cheaper than you’d expect. That extra money can be used to entice quality assistant coaches to come to Tucson, which would be a win-win for all involved.

2. Derek Mason: The 43-year-old Vanderbilt coach is a Phoenix native, and went to college at NAU, which bode well for his familiarity with the region. Mason has experience coaching in the Pac 12, working as the defensive backs coach, defensive coordinator and assistant head coach under David Shaw at Stanford from 2010 to 2013, and knows how to recruit west coast kids. Mason knows how to recruit players to unenviable locations, having led the Commodores to a bowl bid in 2016, and a respectable 5-7 campaign in a brutally tough SEC East this fall. He’s clearly an up-and-coming coach, and could likely be talked into moving back west, considering his paltry $2 million salary—less than the $2.1 million base salary Rodriguez received this year.

3. Jeff Monken: Monken has quietly built Army into a powerhouse program, making back-to-back bowl trips, with wins over North Texas and San Diego State in those games. Monken, who has lived a vagabond life, with assistant coaching jobs at Hawaii, ASU, Buffalo, Georgia Southern, Navy and Georgia Tech, as well as a three-year head coaching stint with Georgia Southern before taking the Army job. His Black Knights’ led the nation is rushing yards per game (362.3), and his run-first mindset would pick up where Rodriguez and offensive coordinator Rod Smith left off, with the Wildcats ranking third in the same category this season.

4. Lane Kfifin: The outspoken former Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Volunteers and USC Trojans coach has found his niche in Boca Raton, leading the Florida Atlantic Owls to a 11-3 record in which he won the Conference USA Championship, before knocking off Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl. It’d be awesome to see the “Lane Train” return to the Pac 12, and to see what Kiffin, who engineered the USC dynasty of the early-2000s as the Trojans’ offensive coordinator, could do with Tate at quarterback.

5. Chuck Cecil: I frankly don’t see why anyone would want to hire a man with zero college coaching experience, but everyone else keeps throwing Cecil’s name into the ring, so why not? Cecil, who returned to Tucson in an advisory role this fall, previously worked as an assistant in the NFL, as the Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator and St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams’ secondary coach. He’s the go-to guy, if Heeke is looking to pull a page from ASU’s playbook, as the Sun Devils hired former NFL head coach Herm Edwards for their opening last month, despite the fact that Edwards hadn’t coached at any level since 2008.

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Arizona Diamondbacks offer special Spring Training presale to Tucson residents

Posted By on Thu, Jan 4, 2018 at 3:53 PM

Fans trying to get a sneak peek at this year's Arizona Diamondbacks squad are in luck, at least if they live in the Tucson area.

The team, who went 93-66 a year ago, winning the National League's Wild Card game, is offering a 50 percent off, one-day special on Friday for Tucson-based fans.

Interested fans can snag their tickets at, with the special running from 9 a.m. to midnight. General sale for all 17 of the team's Spring Training games go on sale on Saturday.

Enter the promotional code 18CACTUS in conjunction with a Pima County zip code when purchasing the tickets to receive the discount.

The Diamondbacks kick off Cactus League play on Feb. 23 against the Colorado Rockies, and host the Cleveland Indians the next day in its Spring Training home opener at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale. 

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The Tip-Off: Allonzo Trier and Deandre Ayton Face Utah/Colorado in the Mountains

Posted By on Thu, Jan 4, 2018 at 12:35 PM

Allonzo Trier spots up for a three-pointer during Arizona's 84-78 win over Arizona State on Dec. 30. - STAN LIU | ARIZONA ATHLETICS
  • Stan Liu | Arizona Athletics
  • Allonzo Trier spots up for a three-pointer during Arizona's 84-78 win over Arizona State on Dec. 30.

It’s beginning to look a lot like March, at least for those that follow the Arizona Wildcats basketball team.

The Cats, fresh off an 84-78 win over in-state rival ASU, are 11-3 on the year and have won eight straight games.

They’ve done so by lighting up the LED scoreboard of McKale like a dollar-store piñata—averaging 83.2 points per game, while surrendering 69 points per game during said streak.

The Wildcats put their recent luck on the line, first against Utah at 7 p.m. tonight from the unfriendly confines of Huntsman Arena in Salt Lake City.

They then will hop over the majestic Rocky Mountains to visit the most overrated college town in America, Boulder. (Can you tell I went to CSU yet?) They play the Buffs at noon on Saturday.

The Utes (11-3, 2-0) have an uncanny ability to adjust their offensive tempo, depending on their opponent, scoring 80+ points in six of their 13 games, while also scoring 66 points in wins over Oregon and Oregon State last weekend.

The Buffaloes, meanwhile, sit at 8-6 for the year, having lost their last three games—against Iowa, Oregon State and Oregon by a combined score of 233-192.

It’s the first time Sean Miller and company have ventured to the Rocky Mountain schools since getting swept in 2015.

That trip included a 70-64 loss to the Utes, the Wildcats’ first against Utah since the 1998 NCAA Tournament.

Miller didn’t seem too worried about his team’s mindset heading into the clash, telling reporters in Tuesday’s press conference that this year’s squad is completely different from the one that fell at Huntsman 23 months ago.

“That was, like, 15 years ago," Miller said. "It’s irrelevant to the world today. Obama used to be the president. Trump is now. Khalil Tate is the quarterback. Remember when [Rod] Gronkowski was here? Sean Elliott used to play here; it doesn’t have much to do with today.”

Whether there will be a hangover of sorts for the Wildcats after the high-energy defeat of the then-undefeated Sun Devils is yet to be seen, but rest assured that Sean Miller totally doesn’t have any hard feelings about their last meeting in the Wasatch.

How to Watch: Tonight’s game against Utah is on ESPN at 7 p.m. Saturday’s game against Colorado is on the Pac 12 Network at noon.

How to Bet: Arizona is favored by 3.5 over Utah. The line against Colorado has not been released.

Who to Watch: Keep an eye on Utah’s David Collette and Justin Bibbins, who average 13.2 and 13.1 points per game, respectively. Senior Tyler Rawson could also be a thorn in Miller’s side, averaging 11 points per game this season. Colorado’s McKinley Wright IV is the player to watch, averaging 16 points, 5 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. Senior George King is another name to watch in Saturday’s game, as the senior has scored in double figures in 11 of the Buffs’ 14 games,
averaging 13.2 points per game this season.

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Rich Rod's Accuser Filed $7.5 Million Claim for Sexual Harassment and Emotional Distress

Posted By on Wed, Jan 3, 2018 at 1:08 PM

  • Stan Lui/Arizona Athletics
A former assistant to ex-UA football coach Rich Rodriguez, who was fired Tuesday night amid sexual misconduct allegations, is seeking $7.5 million for emotional distress, according to a notice of claim filed with the Arizona Attorney’s General’s Office on Dec. 28.

The claim, filed by the attorney for Melissa Wilhelmsen, alleges that Rodriguez forced her to help keep an affair secret from Rodriquez’s wife and later made sexual advances toward her. It also claims and that Rodriguez at one point typed up a book, called “The Hideaway Book,” which sought to establish secrecy within Rodriguez’s inner circle—including Wilhelmsen and then-assistants Charlie Ragle and Miguel Reveles.

The University of Arizona released a statement from UA President Robert C. Robbins and Athletic Director Dave Heeke Tuesday night announcing Rodriguez’s dismissal, saying that an independent investigation commissioned by the university could not substantiate Wilhelmsen’s original allegations, partly because she did not cooperate with the investigation.

But university officials decided to fire Rodriguez because "Arizona Athletics did become aware of information, both before and during the investigation, which caused it to be concerned with the direction and climate of the football program,” Robbins and Heeke said.

Wilhelmsen alleged that Rodriguez’s conduct veered from inappropriate to outright sexual harassment—including a request that she bring him his underwear from the equipment area and a conversation in which he told her his “preferred style of underwear ‘visually enhanced’ his genitalia when worn,” according to the claim.

Wilhelmsen also accused Rodriguez of touching the side of her breast, and then trying to kiss her during a meeting in January 2017, after telling her, “Whatever you need, I’m here for you.” The alleged incident occurred as Melissa and Jason were having marital troubles that stemmed from her stressful work environment, the claim said.

Wilhelmsen, according to the claim, tried to leave her role and join the athletic department’s development office after the kissing incident in March of 2017. She scheduled an appointment, but it was later canceled with no reason. She then tried to make another appointment a month later with the same person, but received no response, the claim said.

Wilhemsen said she felt trapped in her job with the Athletic Department because she feared for what would happen to her daughter—who also worked within the department and attended the UA at a discounted tuition rate because of Wilhemsen’s job, the claim said.

Wilhelmsen finally left the department in August for a non-University job, but was cornered by Rodriguez’s wife on her last day, before confessing to the truth about Rodriguez’s girlfriend, according to the claim.

Attorney Augustine B. Jimenez III, who represents Wilhelmsen, said in the claim that no public figure should be allowed to harass women with impunity.

“If this case were to go to trial, in the current climate where #MeToo is in the headlines on a daily basis, neither male nor female jurors would have any sympathy for a public figure who used his authority and power to oppress and degrade his female assistant in such ways. Undoubtedly, the verdict could be in the tens of millions of dollars because the jurors would want to send a message to such high-profile and highly paid coaches that such abuses of power are not acceptable,” Jimenez said.

In a statement on Twitter, Rodriquez admitted to an extramarital affair but said Wilhelmsen’s claims were “baseless and false” and vowed to “vigorously fight these fabricated and groundless claims.”

Read Wilhelmsen's notice of claim for yourself here: 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Rich Rod Gets the Ax

Posted By on Tue, Jan 2, 2018 at 9:39 PM

Rich Rod, in happier days. - LUKE ADAMS, ARIZONA ATHLETICS
  • Luke Adams, Arizona Athletics
  • Rich Rod, in happier days.
The University of Arizona fired football coach Rich Rodriguez Tuesday, according to a UA press release.

No exact reason was given for the school’s decision, though the university will honor the separation terms of Rodriguez’s contract, which include a $10.2 million buyout, according to USA Today.

Director of Athletics Dave Heeke cited the school’s investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against Rodriguez, which began in October.

That investigation, according to Heeke, did not find that Rodriguez posed any danger to members of the community, though the alleged victim chose to pursue further litigation.

“As a result, we have been reviewing the findings and deliberating our course of action. While this is a difficult decision, it is the right decision. And it is a decision that lives up to the core values of the University of Arizona,” Heeke said.

Update: Rodriguez took to Twitter Tuesday to release a statement regarding the UA's investigation.

He discussed a complaint by a former administrative assistant, who threatened to file a $7.5 million lawsuit alleging harassment.

Rodriguez said he cooperated with the 10-week-long investigation, taking a voluntary polygraph test, which he passed.

He admitted to have an extramarital affair with a woman not affiliated with the university and expressed regret for his conduct.

"It was wrong, and I have apologized to my wife and family. I am still working incredibly hard to repair the bonds I've broken and regain the trust of my wife and children, whom i love dearly," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez thanked his staff and players for their commitment and effort during his tenure, and vowed to fight against the claims made against him going forward.

There is no timetable for naming Rodriguez’s replacement, though the National Signing Day for high school players is Feb. 7.

Here's the UA statement:

Continue reading »

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Weekly Take: Sean Miller gives hope for rekindled Arizona-New Mexico rivalry

Posted By on Fri, Dec 15, 2017 at 2:30 PM

Rawle Alkins scored seven points against Alabama on Dec. 9. - STAN LIU, ARIZONA ATHLETICS
  • Stan Liu, Arizona Athletics
  • Rawle Alkins scored seven points against Alabama on Dec. 9.
It’s been 18 years and 334 days since Arizona last made the 448-mile journey to the hallowed grounds of The Pit in Albuquerque.

That game—a bitter 79-78 defeat at the hands of the 16th-ranked Lobos—featured former Arizona coach Lute Olson’s famous declaration on their longtime Southwestern foes.

Olson, according to a 1999 Tucson Citizen piece, vowed to "unequivocally" end the rivalry, after Arizona lost to the Lobos on a last-second layup by Damion Walker that was aided by a late-starting game clock.

Call it home court advantage; call it bad sportsmanship—but Olson remained true to his word, putting an end to one of the region’s best rivalries.

The two teams concluded the rivalry 11 months after the infamous declaration, with New Mexico once again prevailing, 70-68, this time in front of a sellout crowd in Tucson.

The two teams—who played 54 times between 1950 and 1999—entered a cold war on the hardwood until Sean Miller and then-New Mexico coach Craig Neal struck a deal for a home-and-home series in 2016.

The first leg of that series took place on a chilly December afternoon last year, with Arizona rolling over Neal and company 77-46 (the largest margin of victory for either team in the series since New Mexico’s 31-point win in 1979).

The two former Border and Western Athletic Conference foes will meet on the light-stained hardwood of the Pit (now called Dreamstyle Arena) at 6 p.m. this Saturday.

The matchup is the perfect analogy for the holidays—with two long-feuding brothers reuniting to rekindle the days of yore.

Miller has made it clear that he has no problem scheduling regional rivals—playing UTEP, UNLV, New Mexico State, San Diego State and Gonzaga in recent years.

He addressed Saturday’s contest in the aftermath of Arizona’s 88-82 win over Alabama, saying his team is ready and willing to play anyone, anywhere—especially teams in their figurative backyard.

“Nobody can point their finger at our team and say we don’t play against good programs,” Miller said. “We’ve gone at UNLV, Texas A&M, Alabama, and New Mexico next week will be a heck of a challenge.”

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sports Scandal Rocks UA Basketball Program

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 10:40 AM

Longtime University of Arizona basketball assistant coach Emmanuel “Book” Richardson was one of four coaches arrested Tuesday by the FBI.

Richardson’s arrest was for allegedly receiving more than $20,000 in bribes from former sports agent Christian Dawkins and financial advisor Munish Sood, in exchange for recruiting prospective and current Arizona players, according to the FBI’s documents.

The University of Arizona’s athletic department suspended the ninth-year coach Tuesday, releasing a statement that said in part:

We became aware of the situation involving one of our men’s basketball coaches Emmanuel Richardson this morning. We have been working in conjunction with the University, and have confirmed that Richardson has been suspended effective immediately. We will cooperate fully with authorities as they move through their investigation.
Richardson, along with University of Southern California‘s Tony Bland, Auburn’s Chuck Person and Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans, were among the 10 people charged Tuesday with federal crimes.

According to the FBI reports, Richardson agreed to take the money to guide his player’s to use Dawkins as a manager and Sood as a financial adviser once their careers in Tucson ended.

Acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon Kim announced the charges Tuesday, laying out the charges facing the coaches, as well as financial advisors and representatives from an unnamed sportswear company.

According to the complaint, Richardson on June 20 agreed to take a $5,000 bribe in a meeting with an undercover FBI agent and Sood.

Richardson, according to the same complaint, also requested $15,000 more from the officer to lock down a player, identified by Richardson as a “top point guard in the country.”

Richardson faces upwards of 60 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine if convicted of all charges, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Win Tickets to See the Wildcats Play Grand Canyon University Antelopes on Dec. 14

Posted By on Tue, Dec 13, 2016 at 3:59 PM


Busy Wednesday night? We've got tickets to the Dec. 14 Wildcat basketball game against the Grand Canyon Antelopes, which starts at 9 p.m., and we want you to take them. There is one catch: The winner has to pick up the tickets at our office (near the Foothills Mall) sometime before we lock the doors at 5 p.m. We'll get in touch with the winner around 10 a.m. the day of the game, so that gives you about seven hours to get your business in order.

Want a pair of tickets to the game? Enter here:

Fill out my online form.

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