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Commentary: Let Livengood's history speak for itself

Justin St. Germain
staff writer
By Justin St. Germain
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday September 30, 2003

Well, everybody got their wish. Mackovic's gone. The only question now is, what took so long? Why didn't Jim Livengood listen to all the people calling for Mackovic's head sooner?

The truth is, it's nobody's turn to play high and mighty now, or to say, "I told you so." Believe it or not, Livengood didn't fire Mackovic because he felt pressure from all the people who have been calling his ability as an athletic director into question. He didn't read any of the angry letters to the editor in the Wildcat (not even the one from my brother) and all of a sudden have a reader-caused epiphany. I'm sure he didn't need to log on to or see the "Mackovic sucks" T-shirts that are popping up around town.

Jim Livengood fired John Mackovic for one reason and one reason only: because he's a good athletic director and he knows when it's time to move on.

A lot of people might say, and have said of late, that if he was really a good athletic director he wouldn't have hired Mackovic in the first place. Before Arizona State's recent choke job (which, by the way, has made for great entertainment), a lot of Wildcat fans were looking to the north and wondering why Livengood hadn't hired Dirk Koetter. After his team stunned Southern California on Saturday, it seems like Jeff Tedford would have been a better choice.

All of that may be true. But before anybody starts to question Livengood's effectiveness at evaluating and hiring coaches, consider some of the other moves he's made.

Just last week, he signed baseball head coach Andy Lopez to an extension after Lopez took control of a flagging baseball program and took it to an NCAA regional in his second year. With the No. 4 recruiting class in the nation according to Collegiate Baseball, Lopez whom Livengood hired to replace Jerry Stitt in 2001 is well on his way to resurrecting the glory days of Arizona baseball.

DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Athletic Director Jim Livengood speaks after introducing Mike Hankwitz as the interim head coach for Arizona football.

There's also women's golf coach Greg Allen, who in his three-plus years has coached some of the best golfers in NCAA history and won two Pac-10 titles. He specifically cited working with Livengood as a reason for coming to Arizona. His predecessor, Todd McCorkle also a Livengood hire led the Wildcats to the 2000 NCAA title.

Gymnastics head coach Bill Ryden was named the Pac-10 coach of the year in 2002, though he was with the program as an assistant before Livengood arrived. Women's tennis coach Vicky Maes, a former Wildcat player whom Livengood decided to keep in the fold, led her team to a Pac-10 Championship win and put three players on the All-America team.

If that's not enough, Livengood has the unflinching support of a certain local Hall of Fame basketball coach, who has intimated that he would not coach for another athletic director.

And that's just his Arizona hiring record. At Washington State he had similar success, including the hiring of former head coach Mike Price, whose recent indiscretions at Alabama should not take away from his considerable accomplishments. Wildcat fans might do well to get acquainted with him.

The annotated highlights of Livengood's Wildcat career include one athletic director of the year award (in 1999) and a nine-year run of UA top-10 finishes in the United States Sports Academy (formerly Sears') Directors' Cup rankings for the nation's top overall athletics program. Last year the only one of his tenure in which Arizona finished below 10th his program finished 16th, thanks in no small part to the football team's dismal season.

Add to that a history of community service and charity participation that is literally too long to list here, and it's pretty clear he deserves a mulligan. One bad hire should not define a career.

If the UA community will get off his back for the rest of the season and give him time to make his decision, Livengood will bring in a coach who can turn the football program around.

What we should all do now is just that: Get off his back. Let him do his job. He's proven to be proficient at it.

Moreover, he's been actively pursued by a string of other major universities in recent years, and has decided to stick with Arizona, despite the often fickle nature of its fans.

"I love U of A and it has been good to myself and my family, but at the same time you have to look at new challenges," he said in an interview with the Wildcat last year. "These are the kinds of jobs you can fall in and out of favor really quickly."

There's no reason for him to fall out of favor now. He's stuck by the UA community now it should stick by him. He's earned that much.

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