Oct. 22, 2001
On Monday, Dec. 4, 2000, before a throng of media and Wildcat supporters, University of Arizona athletics director Jim Livengood named John Mackovic the 26th head football coach in school history. The announcement signified a change in direction for UA as a new air of optimism blew into Tucson.
Livengood emphasized what the new coach meant to the University at the press conference on that day in December.
"John Mackovic is exactly what the University of Arizona needs right now in our football program, in our university, in our athletic department, in Tucson and in Arizona. All you have to do is look at his background, his record, and he's been successful and won every place he's been. And he's done it the right way, there have been no shortcuts."
The hiring returns Mackovic to the college football coaching ranks and the Old Pueblo from a stint as television college football analyst with ESPN, a position he held for three years.
His ties to Southern Arizona and Tucson are strong, having served as offensive coordinator for four seasons at Arizona under College Football Hall of Fame head coach Jim Young from 1973-76.
"John Mackovic is committed to building our program and continuing the proud tradition that we have with Wildcat football and the athletics department," said UA President Dr. Peter Likins.
In 32 years of coaching, he has held three college head coaching positions and one top NFL spot, served as offensive coordinator at three different Division I schools and worked as an assistant under legendary coach Tom Landry in Dallas.
He has worked with and helped to develop a number of prolific offensive players during his coaching career, including Arizona's Bruce Hill, Purdue's Mark Hermann, Danny White of the Dallas Cowboys, Jeff George at Illinois and Heisman Trophy-winner Ricky Williams at Texas.
His experience and expertise promise to help elevate the caliber of play at Arizona and his mastery on the offensive side of the football will bring an excitement to Wildcat fans and players alike.
The coach has indeed produced results in every program he has led in his career. With an overall collegiate record of 85-64-3 (.569) in 13 seasons, Mackovic has led nine teams to winning records, culminating in eight bowl invitations. He was named the National Coach of the Year at his alma mater Wake Forest and league coach of the year five times by four different major conferences. He took the down-trodden Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League from a 6-10 record in 1983 to 10-6 and the playoffs in just four seasons. And he is looking to move the Arizona football program into uncharted territory.
"Our goal is to get to the Rose Bowl and to win it," Mackovic emphatically stated upon his hiring.
While out of the coaching profession for the past three seasons, Mackovic has not lost the pulse of college football. His time as an analyst at ESPN allowed him an opportunity to gain an overall perspective on the game as a whole and his reputation and expertise did not go unnoticed by his peers in the television community.
"Regardless of the team he coaches or at what level, the book on John Mackovic is always the same: He wins. And he wins because his teams are meticulously prepared and thoroughly motivated to play every single game. He brought the same traits to the table when we became friends and colleagues... He prepared for a broadcast the same way he prepared for a game - with great attention to detail," explained ESPN College Game Day's Tony Barnhart.
Prior to his tenure as an analyst for ESPN, he served as the head coach for the University of Texas in Austin. At UT he improved the Longhorn's graduation rate to as high as 86 percent while also rebuilding a winning tradition on the field. In 1992, his first season as the head coach, he posted a 6-5 record, ending a skid of four losing seasons in six years for UT. He followed that up with a 5-5-1 record in 1993 and UT's 8-4 mark in 1994 earned the Horns a share of the Southwest Conference title and a berth in the Sun Bowl against 19th-ranked North Carolina. A 35-31 victory over the Tar Heels in El Paso marked Texas' first bowl victory since 1987. A 1995 10-2-1 record that culminated in a Sugar Bowl berth for Texas was highlighted by an upset over top-ranked Nebraska in the inaugural Big XII title game.
He was named the Southwest Conference Coach of the Year in 1995 and garnered Big XII Coach of the Year honors in 1996 by the Austin American-Statesman. Football Quarterly tabbed him as a National Coach of the Year finalist in 1995. The coach, who finished with an impressive overall record of 41-28-2 (.592) at Texas, is admired by friends and foes alike from his UT coaching days.
"John Mackovic is a great friend. I admire him very much as a football coach and as a person. Although we competed very hard against each other, I always admired his professionalism and his honesty," Texas A&M head coach R.C. Slocum said.
A 1965 graduate of Wake Forest, Mackovic was quarterback for the Demon Deacons from 1962-64. While at Wake Forest, he won the prestigious Atlantic Coast Conference Gold Medal Award for excellence in athletics and academics in 1964 and was an Academic All-American in his senior season. He was inducted into the Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.
He went on to earn his graduate degree from the University of Miami (Ohio) in 1967. During his studies in Oxford he served one season as a graduate assistant under soon-to-be legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler.
Upon receiving his master's degree in educational administration, he returned home to Barberton, Ohio, where he coached high school football for one season. After a stint as the U.S. Army's basketball coach at Fort Knox, Mackovic began his long and distinguished career as a football coach. Spending one season as coach of the freshman team at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point in 1968, Mackovic found himself on the opposite coast in 1969 when he was hired as the offensive coordinator at San Jose State. After a two-year stay in San Jose with the Spartans, Mackovic traveled back to West Point where he was assigned to the offensive backs as an assistant coach for two seasons.
When the University of Arizona hired Jim Young to replace Robert Weber as its football coach in 1973, the former Schembechler assistant tabbed Mackovic to be his offensive coordinator. In four seasons at UA, Mackovic's Wildcat offense finished no lower than third in total yards and the 1975 team led the Western Athletic Conference in total yards and scoring. When Young left Arizona for Purdue University after the 1976 season, he took Mackovic to West Lafayette, Ind., with him.
Mackovic spent one season with the Boilermakers where he helped develop Mark Hermann into one of the top quarterbacks in school history.
Wake Forest, Mackovic's alma mater, gave him his first opportunity at a top spot when they named him head coach in 1978. His first season with the Demon Deacons resulted in a 1-10 record, but the miraculous turnaround of the 1979 team elevated the second-year coach to The Sporting News' National Coach of the Year and Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year honors. The Demon Deacons, who finished the '79 season 8-4, earned what was then just its third postseason invitation in school history with a bid to the Tangerine Bowl.
A six-year stint in the National Football League followed his three-year stay in Winston-Salem. In 1981 Dallas Cowboys head coach Tom Landry chose Mackovic to mentor a young Danny White for two seasons as quarterbacks coach. His development of White into a Pro Bowl player and one of the top QBs in the NFL caught the eye of the 6-10 Kansas City Chiefs. In 1983 Mackovic took over the reigns of the Chiefs, and in four short seasons, he led them to the playoffs for the first time in 15 seasons, establishing them as one of the most potent offensive teams on the professional gridiron at the time.
After a year away from coaching in 1987, in which he established Yes, Inc., a service-related organization which focused on motivational speaking, the University of Illinois came calling. With a program facing hard times, the Illini had won a total of seven games in the previous two seasons, Mackovic began the rebuilding of the third team in his career.
His four-year stay at Illinois proved him to be a master in bringing about winners. Inheriting a team that finished 3-7-1 in the season previous to his arrival, Mackovic turned the program around immediately, leading the Fighting Illini to a 6-5-1 record and a berth in the All-American Bowl in his first season at the helm. The turnaround garnered Mackovic the first of two consecutive Big Ten Coach of the Year awards.
His leadership and attention to detail guided UI to a 30-16-1 record (.649) and four consecutive bowl games as its head coach. His teams finished no lower than second in passing in the Big Ten every season under his guide. He also helped develop Jeff George into one of the nation's top collegiate quarterbacks.
Mackovic also served as the director of athletics for the Illini during his stay in Champaign, erasing a $2.7 million deficit and guiding the program to financial success in less than three years.
Mackovic's new job with the Wildcats presents him with many of the same challenges that his previous posts put up. The Cats are coming off of back-to-back 6-6 and 5-6 seasons and are still looking for the year-by-year consistency of a football power. The Wildcats remain the only Pac-10 or Big Ten school to have never made a Rose Bowl appearance. The southern Arizona fans are looking for someone to boost the UA offense to equal the intensity and tradition of the "Desert Swarm" defense.
By all accounts and a proven track record, John Mackovic is just the man to do it. With a wealth of offensive knowledge and a knack for developing quarterback talent, Arizona's football fate rests securely on the new head coach and his staff.
"John Mackovic has been a leader in our profession, both on and off the field, for many years. His leadership in the American Football Coaches Association as chairman of our Ethics Committee had a positive influence on the association and our profession. I had the privilege of coaching against John and found him to be a complete coach. His offense could move the ball against anyone. Arizona is fortunate," Grant Teaff, AFCA executive director and 2001 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, stated in April.
Mackovic's work assembling a new staff, completing last-minute recruiting details and in the organization and execution of spring practice showed he's a capable leader and strategist. Installing his offense took literally all of spring ball, but by the final week it was clear to many observers that key players were beginning to cease thinking about the instruction and reacting to the new style of play. Mackovic's innovation and imaginative play calling began to emerge.
"John has coached at small (Wake Forest), medium (Illinois) and large (Texas) football traditions. And he has won at all three, which is no small feat. His offensive concepts have remained potent for more than 20 years, which in this age of rapid defensive change, is truly remarkable," Sports Illustrated's Ivan Maisel says.
In addition to his coaching duties, Mackovic has also played an instrumental role with the game of football off of the field. He has been a vice president of the American Football Coaches Association, a member of the AFCA Board of Trustees (1993-98), chairman of the AFCA's Ethics Committee (1993-99), a member of the NCAA Special Committee on Amateurism and Agents (1995-96), a member of the NCAA Committee of Football Activities (1992-98), a member of the AFCA Legislative Committee (1993-98) and a member of the NCAA Professional Liaison Committee (1990-98). He also served as an adviser to National Uniform Code of Laws committee relating to player agents from 1994-99.
He has served on numerous community agencies throughout his career including March of Dimes, the Kidney Foundation, Rotary Club, Golden Key National Honor Society, Lutheran Social Services, American Heart Association, National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete programs, various children's hospitals and also created the Mackovic Endowment to New Life Children's Treatment Center at Canyon Lake, Texas. He currently is a member of the Heart of Texas Speakers Association. He lived in Austin from 1992 until December 2000.
Mackovic has endowed a scholarship in his name at the University of Texas and has begun an athletics scholarship in his daughter's name at the University of Arizona.
Mackovic married the former Phyllis Feilke in April 2001. He has two children, Aimee, 26, and John III, 24. Phyliss' two children are Jennifer, 27, and Chad, 26.
The Mackovic FileFull Name: John Mackovic Jr.
Date of Birth: Oct. 1, 1943, Barberton, Ohio
Hometown: Barberton, Ohio
High School: Barberton High School
Game Day: Sideline
Bowl Experience: 1979 Tangerine (Wake Forest), 1988 All-American, 1989 Florida Citrus, 1990 Hall of Fame, 1991 John Hancock (all at Illinois), 1994 Sun, 1996 Sugar, 1997 Fiesta (all at Texas).
Mackovic's UT Players' Highlights
Big XII Offensive Player of the Year - Ricky Williams, 1997, 1998
Doak Walker Award - Ricky Williams, 1997
NCAA Rushing Champion - Ricky Williams, 1997
Unanimous All-America - Ricky Williams, 1997
GTE Academic All-America - Dusty Renfro, 1997
Big XII Freshman of the Year - Aaron Humphrey, 1996
NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship - Pat Fitzgerald, 1996
First-team Academic All-Big XII - Nine honors, 1996-97
Consensus All-America - Dan Neil, 1996
Anson Mount Scholar Athlete - Pat Fitzgerald, 1996
AFCA 'Good Works' Team - Tyson King, 1996
GTE Academic All-America - Pat Fitzgerald, 1995, 1996
Two-time All-America - Pat Fitzgerald, 1995, 1996
Southwest Conference Offensive Newcomer of the Year - Shon Mitchell, 1995
SWC Freshman of the Year - Ricky Williams, 1995
AFCA 'Good Works' Team - Tony Brackens, 1995
Consensus All-America - Tony Brackens, 1995
SWC Defensive Newcomer of the Year - Chris Akins, 1994
Sun Bowl MVP - Priest Holmes, 1994
AFCA 'Good Works' Team - Robert Reed, 1994
Consensus All-America - Blake Brockermeyer, 1994
SWC Defensive Newcomer of the Year - Tony Brackens, 1993
Consensus All-America - Johnny Treadwell, 1992
USA Today Fabulous Freshmen - Mike Adams, Priest Holmes, Curtis Jackson, Lovell Pinkney, 1992
NFL Draft Picks, 1993-98: Fourteen, six in First Round
Mackovic's Coaching Honors
|1996||Big XII Coach of the Year (Austin American-Statesman)|
|1995||Southwest Conference Coach of the Year|
|Dallas All-Sports Association "Coach of the Year"|
|College Football Coach of the Year finalist (Football Quarterly)|
|1989||Big Ten Coach of the Year|
|1988||Big Ten Coach of the Year|
|1979||College Football Coach of the Year (The Sporting News)|
|Walter Camp Foundation National Coach of the Year|
|AFCA District Coach of the Year|
|Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year|
Before and After MackovicTexas, 1992-97
Under Mackovic: 41-28-2, three bowls
Under Mackovic: 30-16-1, four bowls
Wake Forest, 1978-80
Under Mackovic: 14-20, first bowl in 30 years
John Mackovic Year-By-Year
|1965||Miami (Ohio) - Graduate assistant|
|1966||Barberton (Ohio) High School - Assistant coach|
|1967||U.S. Army - Basketball coach, Fort Knox, Ky.|
|1968||U.S. Military Academy - Freshman coach|
|1969||San Jose State - Offensive coordinator|
|1970||San Jose State - Offensive coordinator|
|1971||U.S. Military Academy - Assistant coach, offensive backs|
|1972||U.S. Military Academy - Assistant coach, offensive backs|
|1973||Arizona - Offensive coordinator|
|1974||Arizona - Offensive coordinator|
|1975||Arizona - Offensive coordinator|
|1976||Arizona - Offensive coordinator|
|1977||Purdue - Assistant head coach/offensive coordinator|
|1978||Wake Forest - Head coach, 1-10|
|1979||Wake Forest - Head coach, 8-4, Tangerine Bowl|
|1980||Wake Forest - Head coach, 5-6|
|Record: 14-20-0 (.412)|
|1981||Dallas Cowboys - Assistant coach, quarterbacks|
|1982||Dallas Cowboys - Assistant coach, quarterbacks|
|1983||Kansas City Chiefs - Head coach, 6-10|
|1984||Kansas City Chiefs - Head coach, 8-8|
|1985||Kansas City Chiefs - Head coach, 6-10|
|1986||Kansas City Chiefs - Head coach, 10-6, NFL Playoffs|
|Record: 30-34-0 (.469)|
|1988||Illinois - Head coach, 6-5-1, All-American Bowl|
|1989||Illinois - Head coach, 10-2, Florida Citrus Bowl|
|1990||Illinois - Head coach, 8-4, Hall of Fame|
|1991||Illinois - Head coach, 6-5, John Hancock Bowl|
|Record: 30-16-1 (.649)|
|1992||Texas - Head coach, 6-5|
|1993||Texas - Head coach, 5-5-1|
|1994||Texas - Head coach, 8-4, Sun Bowl|
|1995||Texas - Head coach, 10-2-1, Sugar Bowl|
|1996||Tesas - Head coach, 8-5, Fiesta Bowl|
|1997||Texas - Head coach, 4-7|
|Record: 41-28-2 (.592)|
|Collegiate Record: 85-64-3 (.569)|
|1998||ESPN college football analyst, to Jan. 2001|
|2000||Arizona - Named the Wildcats' 26th Head Coach, Dec. 4|
|Born||October 1, 1943, Barberton, Ohio|
|College||Wake Forest, 1965|
|Graduate Degree||Miami (Ohio), 1967|
|Playing Experience||Wake Forest, quarterback (1962-64)|
|Collegiate Record||85-64-3, 13 years|
|Professional Record||30-34-0, four years|
Mackovic's All-Time Record vs. Collegiate OpponentsTeams in Bold on Arizona's 2001 Schedule
|School||Overall||At UT||At UI||At WF|
|New Mexico State||1-0||1-0||--||--|
|North Carolina State||1-2||--||--||1-2|
|San Diego State||0-0||--||--||--|
|William & Mary||1-0||--||--||1-0|