Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Football Coach Mackovic Seeks Defensive Coordinator
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: February 28, 2001
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TUCSON--Arizona football coach John Mackovic resumed the search to complete his new staff this week in the wake of the abrupt resignation of defensive coordinator Duane Akina on Monday.

Akina, 44, was the secondary coach on former head coach Dick Tomey's staff, and was the longest-standing Tomey assistant with 14 years at UA.

Tomey resigned in late November, shortly after UA concluded a 5-6 season. Akina was hired by Mackovic, promoted to coordinator and given a raise in December to continue Arizona's use of the double-eagle flex defense. He left this week to take the secondary coach position at the University of Texas in Austin.

"The timing is bad," Mackovic said. "We had a new staff and a new situation, and he leaves three months later."

Mackovic assembled a staff by Dec. 19, in time have a full complement of coaches during the final weeks of the critical recruiting period leading up to National Letter of Intent signing date Feb. 7. (The Cats signed 18 prep players in assembling a solid class.)

Since, in addition to organizational strategy, learning Mackovic's offensive system and giving new defensive coaches a closer look at the double-eagle flex, the Wildcat staff has been completing plans for the beginning of spring practice, which starts on campus March 24. The NCAA-allowed 15 practice sessions will conclude with the annual Spring Game on Saturday, April 21.

But Akina's departure throws spring's defensive progress into question. "The biggest question is, where do we go defensively?" Mackovic said. "This (flex defense) is not a defense just anyone can walk in and coach.

Mackovic said it was possible Arizona could install a different defensive scheme, but teaching a new system typically takes considerable off-season time for both staff and players. "Most importantly, I want our team to know we will have a good defensive coaching staff," he said.

The roughest aspect of Akina taking the job at Texas is that Mackovic said he can't expect another coach to leave a position to join the Arizona staff as college football programs enter the critical stages of spring practice preparations. He said he had received several calls from prospective coaches, but that there would be only a couple of qualified -- and available -- candidates. "I can't expect somebody to walk out on another program at this time."

Arizona athletics director Jim Livengood echoed Mackovic's comments. "The timing stinks and I told Duane that," Livengood told the Tucson Citizen. "If this had happened in December it would have been so bad, but this is a terrible time for such a decision. Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge Duane an opportunity to move on... but I do begrudge the timing."

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