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As Rodriguez, wife Rita, daughter Raquel, 15, and son Rhett, 13, got to know the Byrnes and their two teenage boys, Rodriguez sat on a stool in the kitchen of the Byrnes' home and workshopped material for the next day's press conference. He told the story of his first game at Glenville State, in 1990. The 25 players he inherited were so pitiful that he resolved to declare the season a success if his team made one first down. He would repeat the story almost word for word at the next day's press conference.
Rodriguez sat in the office of Arizona compliance director Bill Morgan taking a practice version of the NCAA recruiting-rules test he needed to pass before he would be allowed to recruit off-campus. Rodriguez ran afoul of the NCAA at Michigan after the Detroit Free Press reported in August 2009 that the Wolverines had practiced longer than the NCAA allows and that quality-control staffers—who are not allowed to coach players but who served as part-time strength coaches on Rodriguez's staff—had overstepped their boundaries. Rodriguez said the strength staff did not realize that time spent stretching and in warmups counted if staffers were present during the warmup.
In November 2010 the NCAA placed the Wolverines on three years' probation and docked them 130 hours of practice time. Although Rodriguez was cleared of the most serious charge, failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance, the investigation left a stain.
Byrne popped into the office with the Memorandum of Understanding that will serve as Rodriguez's contract until the school's Board of Regents approves his hiring. Rodriguez and Byrne negotiated the MOU themselves. "I don't need a high-priced attorney for that," Rodriguez said. "I've had enough lawyers the last three years to open my own firm."
After Byrne and Rodriguez signed the MOU, the room cleared for the actual recruiting test, which Rodriguez took on a secure NCAA website. Minutes later he emerged smiling. He had aced the test.
Grim faces around a conference table stared back at Rodriguez as he introduced himself to the football support staff. Employees of any major program know that their futures hang in the balance whenever there is a coaching change. The new coach did not mince words. "There are people that I've been comfortable with that will be joining the staff," he announced. "But there are other cases where I'd rather have someone who has been here."
After the meeting a young strength coach approached Rodriguez and asked about Mike Barwis, Rodriguez's strength coach at West Virginia and at Michigan. Barwis is a logical choice to join Rodriguez in Tucson. "He's indicated that he's probably going to do that," Rodriguez told the young coach.