Shrewd move by Livengood

On Monday afternoon Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood met with the football beat writers of the Tucson Citizen and Arizona Daily Star to discuss the state of the Wildcat football team. During the conversation he gave head coach Mike Stoops a vote of confidence. It was the perfect move at the perfect time.

At a time when the rumblings are starting to come from Wildcat football fans and boosters, Livengood stood up for his football coach.

It was the right play.

Barring a scandal, Mike Stoops will be coaching this football team for at least two more seasons. Financial and public relations reasons, as well as football reasons, dictate he gets five years.

Livengood knows he has to give Stoops time. The hole left by John Mackovic was too great for a quick fix, and it can take even longer with a rookie head coach. He also knows that his reputation as an administrator is at stake. Dick Tomey has many friends in the coaching community and many felt he was unjustly let go back in 2000. Combine that with the dismissal of Mackovic in the middle of his third season and Livengood cannot afford the reputation of having a quick hook for his coaches.

Livengood handled the situation perfectly. Instead of holding a big press conference, which could have smacked of desperation, Livengood made it an informal affair with just two writers. He obviously knew what the end result would be, but it did not come off as a big dog and pony show.

The vote of confidence itself accomplishes a number of things.

1. It creates positive headlines. Livengood had to know that during a bye week of a losing campaign most of the headlines would be about looking toward next year. With players and coaches not available until midweek, there wouldn't be a whole lot to write about.

Livengood insured that the headlines on Tuesday would be about the vote of confidence, not about next season when there are four games left. He made sure to stress that the season was not yet over, but at the same time promised changes for the struggling program.

2. It helps recruiting. The Pac-10 is notorious for negative recruiting and you know opposing coaches were going to use Stoops' job security as a tactic to keep recruits away from the Wildcats. Assuming the Cats don't make a huge rally over the final four games, the Cats will likely take a dip in recruiting anyway. The vote of confidence will at least alleviate one negative ploy that can be used.

3. He was forthright with the stage of the program. Livengood addressed the fact that fans are not happy with the state of the program. Instead of trying to sugarcoat things and work a sell job, he was honest. He admitted that the offense has performed poorly. He said he understood why fans would be disgruntled. He may have done a better sales job by not selling, than he could have done if he came out and blatantly tried to convince fans to buy tickets.

He may not have succeeded in convincing anyone that the final four games of the year will be a success, but he set the tone for the future. He promised that there would be some changes. He addressed concerns that even diehard fans seem to have. Next year won't open with the type of fan enthusiasm that was prevalent before the BYU game, but at the same time Livengood laid the groundwork for hope.

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