A Return To The Desert
Dec. 4, 2000
TUCSON, Ariz. - After three years as an television footballanalyst, John Mackovic decided he wasn't through with coaching after all.
When Arizona called about the opening created by the resignation of hisgood friend Dick Tomey, Mackovic jumped at it.
On Monday, Mackovic appeared at a news conference to be introduced asthe Wildcats' new coach, the fourth program he has headed in what will be his14th season as a major-college coach.
'The TV gig was nice,' he said, 'but it's not coaching. It doesn't havethe same feel of coaching.'
Mackovic, 57, returns to the school where he was a young offensivecoordinator and quarterbacks from 1973-76.
'It's been a long wait,' he said, 'but I feel like I'm finally home.'
Since then, he's had a nomadic career that included head coach at WakeForest from 1978-80, the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs from 1983-86, Illinoisfrom 1988-91, and Texas from 1992-97.
He was coach of the year in all three collegiate conference, butdecided to quit the profession when he was fired by Texas after a 4-7 season. He thenworked for ESPN.
'I chose to say I was retired because I was hurt,' Mackovic said. 'Ijust didn't know if I wanted to continue because I felt we had done the thingsthat were asked of us and we had put our program at Texas in not only acompetitive but a winning position, but we had an off year.'
Athletic director Jim Livengood first contacted Mackovic a week ago.They worked out the details of the five-year contract at meetings late last weekin Phoenix. Livengood said no one else was offered the job.
'I think the biggest thing that probably convinced me more thananything else is that he has a passion, a burning desire to get back into collegefootball and coach young people,' Livengood said.
Mackovic's salary was not disclosed pending approval by the Board ofRegents.
Livengood wanted an offensive-minded coach, and Mackovic fills thatbill. He said he will call the plays.
'I will be vitally involved with all parts of the program,' he said,'but I do expect to be involved on a minute by minute basis with the offense.'
After 14 years as coach, Tomey resigned moments after the Wildcats lostto Arizona State 30-17 in the season finale. One of his main failures was hisinability to get Arizona to the Rose Bowl. The Wildcats are the only Pac-10team never to make it to the Pasadena classic.
'I want us to be the best. That's why I do things,' Mackovic said.'First of all, we have to get to and win the Rose Bowl. This university has notbeen there. That would be my No. 1 obligation to our team, our university, ourfans.'
He also talked about bolstering dwindling fan support.
Mackovic said he wants the home crowd to become 'as ferocious and asfearsome and as loathed by opponents as we can make it. It can be done. It'sbeen done other places in the Pac-10 that at one time were not known fortheir home field advantage.'
He said he had turned down another offer recently and had beencontacted by a third school but had already accepted the Arizona job.
Mackovic's record in 13 seasons as a college coach is 85-64-3. He was30-34 with the Chiefs.
He was offensive coordinator at Purdue in 1977 and was quarterbackscoach for Tom Landry's Dallas Cowboys in 1981 and 1982.
Mackovic directed Texas to a 10-2-1 record in 1996 but was fired afterthe Longhorns went 4-7 in 1997. His overall record at Texas was 41-28-2.
Mackovic said he had no problems going to a school where the basketballprograms overshadows football.
'It overshadows only in the sense that they've had such phenomenalsuccess, and they deserve every bit of the recognition,' he said. 'That Arizona logowith the Saguoro cactus sticking out of it, that is better known today thananybody could have dreamed, and that helps every team in recruiting.
'Lute deserves all that success. Our job is to earn that same type ofreputation and same kind of admiration.'
By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer