Mackovic, 57, was named to succeed Dick Tomey earlier Monday in a news conference held by UA athletics director Jim Livengood and UA President Peter Likens. Terms of the hiring were not disclosed, though Likens said the university would pursue a five-year contract subject to later approval by the Arizona Board of Regents.
Tomey, Arizona's winningest coach and a popular figure with Arizona players, was at the team meeting to help introduce Mackovic and ease the transfer of coaching duties in what could be his his last official team meeting. He has publicly termed Mackovic a "very good friend," which Mackovic has echoed.
"Dick felt it was important that the players know of his support for John and the fact John's a good man who will work in their best interests, much as Coach Tomey has during his career," Livengood said.
Several of Arizona's assistant coaches may be considered for Mackovic's new staff, the new coach said, but added that he would meet with the staff Tuesday before formulating any plans. "I've found that as I grew, it became more important who you hire than how quickly you hire them," he said at his initial news conference.
The ESPN college football analyst has been out of the college ranks since 1997, his final season at the University of Texas. He told reporters that he watched about 20 games on ESPN's studio monitor banks each week in his capacity at the national cable network. "We had a good feeling of college football and the trends in the game... I kept seeing myself in that (coaching) position again," he said.
Tomey, who coached to a 95-64-4 mark in 14 years in Tucson and earned a 24-year head coaching record of 158-110-7, resigned Nov. 24 after Arizona's 30-17 loss to Arizona State ended the Wildcats' season at 5-6. It was only Tomey's fourth losing season in 24 years and he's No. 9 among active coaches in Division 1-A career victories. He had taken Arizona to seven bowl games in his 14 years in Tucson.
Arizona held its annual football banquet Sunday night and the event concluded with an emotional farewell to Tomey by the assistants on his staff. The group presented him with an Arizona helmet and a framed Wildcat jersey with his name and years of service to UA embroidered as the number on the garment. Additionally, team captains Joe Tafoya, Ortege Jenkins and Adrian Koch, in behalf of the team, presented Tomey with a piece of statuary engraved with a quotation the coach has enjoyed.
Mackovic will spend the next day or so in Tucson before resuming duties for ESPN which will involve his participation through the bowl season. He said he would be making some back-and-forth trips to Arizona and is expected to be on campus full time shortly after the holidays.