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DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Interim UA head football coach Mike Hankwitz answers questions yesterday during a press conference in the McKale Center. Hankwitz, who officially took over the program Sunday, said he is ready for Saturday's game at Washington State.
By Shane Bacon
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday September 30, 2003

11-member committee to play key role in search for new head football coach

A committee made up of university representatives, prominent Tucson businessmen and UA athletics department officials will play a major role in choosing a permanent replacement for departed head coach John Mackovic, Athletic Director Jim Livengood said yesterday.

Senior Associate Athletics Director of Sports Programs and Operations Kathleen "Rocky" LaRose has, along with Livengood, appointed 10 members from across the Tucson landscape to help with the nationwide search.

Included in the committee to be headed by LaRose is automobile dealer Jim Click and real estate developer Bill Estes, both longtime supporters of UA athletics.

The committee will be handed the responsibility of finding the best person to fill the void and will make sure the candidate follows the guidelines set forth by the athletics department, Livengood said.

"We're looking for somebody who we think will be the best fit for Arizona football," said committee member John Perrin, the UA's senior associate athletics director for business affairs. "(He) must be able to relate (to) the kids and have a football mindset that fits our school."

Livengood said he was looking for someone who has managed to stay clear of NCAA rules violations.

"We're not going to take a chance with someone who has not been squeaky clean with regards to the NCAA, (and) with regards to compliance," Livengood said.

Should the department follow these guidelines, it would likely rule out former Alabama and Washington State head coach Mike Price and former Washington head coach Rick Neuheisel, whose names had surfaced in rumors of who could become Mackovic's successor.

Price was fired from his post at Alabama earlier this year following a strip club escapade while in Florida for a golf tournament.

Neuheisel was fired from Washington after the university discovered he had taken part in betting pools during the NCAA basketball tournament.

Livengood said interim head coach Mike Hankwitz, a prospective candidate in his own respect, will have the rest of this year's campaign to himself, with nobody making a late-season entrance as head coach.

"We're not going to bring somebody in for the remainder of the season," Livengood said. "Mike will be in that position, and we'll see what happens after that in regards to Mike's candidacy."

The athletics director also said that recruiting will continue as planned and that any player that showed interest in Arizona will still have a place to come.

"Recruiting will continue as normal (as it) possibly can," he said. "Those young men who have been offered scholarships will be honored, period."

Hankwitz said yesterday that he would like to be considered a candidate for the job, noting that he realizes how critical the team's performance for the remainder of this season is to his status.

When it considers potential permanent replacements, the committee won't automatically exclude candidates who do not have head coaching experience. But those who do will already have a leg up, Livengood said.

Finding a candidate with excellent communication skills is also a priority, Livengood said.

"(He needs) that (communication skill) with student athletes, coaches, staffs, universities, boosters, alums and so on," Livengood said.

Committee member Saundra Taylor, the UA's senior vice president for Campus Life, said it is also realistic that the committee be looking for a coach who has a proven track record, solid organizational skills and the ability to exude discipline while still having a good relationship with his players.

"I'm looking for someone who really has a sort of outgoing style who will relate very well to the players," she said. "We need a coach that has the leadership qualities necessary to come in and rebuild the

program."

With the qualifications laid out, LaRose said she's ready to get the search underway.

"We will put a timeline together of when we're going to meet, and then assign duties as appropriate," LaRose said.

LaRose said she believes that the search will be extensive, but wants the committee to be aware of what coaches are available and what coaches are interested in Arizona football.

"We certainly are aware of the people out there, the people that are available, and the people that have showed interest," LaRose said. "That will certainly be our starting point, and then we'll just expect phone calls (from those people)."

After the group goes through the list of all the candidates, they will narrow it down to 3-5 people and hand that list, unranked, to Livengood.

After that, Livengood and President Peter Likins will go through the list, ultimately filling the vacancy.

The hunt has no concluding date, but both LaRose and Livengood think that Dec. 1 the beginning of recruitment would be a good time to have someone at the helm.

"We want to keep the committee on task, and we would like to narrow the list down by mid-November so we can move forward to that Dec. 1 recruiting date," LaRose said.

Taylor joins Joel Valdez, senior vice president for business affairs, in representing the university on the committee, as well as Intercollegiate Athletic Committee chair John Taylor and the UA Faculty Athletics Representative Doug Woodward.

Signing on with LaRose from the UA athletics department is Chris Del Conte, senior associate athletics director for sports programs and operations, and Bill Morgan, associate athletics director for compliance.

Gayle Hopkins, associate to the athletics director, and Perrin round out the 11-member committee.

-Brett Fera contributed to this report.

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