Arizona football: Search for new coach begins

Stoops to get $1.4M; AD Byrne, president Sander defend firing
2011-10-11T00:03:00Z 2014-09-15T10:20:30Z Arizona football: Search for new coach beginsRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 11, 2011 12:03 am  • 

The Arizona Wildcats' 2011 season is finished, done in by a conspiracy of losses, injuries, inconsistent play and a brutal schedule.

Now their head coach is, too.

Mike Stoops was fired Monday, two days after a 37-27 loss to Oregon State extended Arizona's Division I-A losing streak to 10 games.

Defensive coordinator Tim Kish will coach the team for the rest of the season, athletic director Greg Byrne announced Monday at a hastily scheduled news conference in McKale Center. Byrne hopes to hire Stoops' replacement within the next two months. The UA will pay Stoops $1.4 million, about half of what the coach was due in a contract that ran through 2013. The university has yet to set a timetable for the payments.

Stoops, 49, declined comment when reached by phone Monday night.

"I really don't have anything to say," he said.

A statement issued through Stoops' agent, Neil Cornrich, touted the Wildcats' three consecutive bowl appearances, academic strides and the players' conduct.

On the field, however, Arizona (1-5 overall, 0-4 Pac-12) has been in a tailspin for the last 11 months. The Wildcats haven't defeated a Division I-A opponent since Oct. 30, 2010; since then, they're 1-10, the only win coming against Northern Arizona.

Arizona is off this week and will face UCLA Oct. 20 at Arizona Stadium.

Despite Arizona's struggles, Monday's announcement came as a surprise. Junior wide receiver Dan Buckner tweeted that he was shocked.

"I didn't know it was gonna happen like this," he wrote, "but Stoops doesn't play, we do, so we have to fix things."

Byrne defended his decision to replace the coach after six games, explaining that the season "had gotten to the point where I was concerned about the long-term impact of what we were doing, and where we were going."

Saturday's loss at Oregon State seemed to be the final straw. The Beavers blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown, faked a punt to extend a drive and took advantage of four UA turnovers on the way to a 37-27 win.

Byrne contacted UA interim president Eugene Sander Sunday to discuss making a change. Stoops was summoned back from a San Diego recruiting trip Monday morning, and fired in the afternoon.

Sander, who took over for Robert Shelton this summer, commended Byrne for making "a decisive decision."

"Dragging something like this out is just painful for everybody concerned, particularly the players," he said.

Stoops went 41-50 in 7 1/2 seasons as head coach, with a 27-38 mark in conference games. A decade-old bowl drought ended when Stoops took the Wildcats to the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl, a game the team won. The UA followed the stretch with a pair of bowl appearances - and blowout losses. Nebraska trounced the Wildcats 33-0 in the 2009 Holiday Bowl; Oklahoma State won last year's Alamo Bowl 36-10.

Stoops, in the statement, acknowledged falling short of his first goal: making the program's first-ever Rose Bowl.

"Although we fell short of that goal, we made significant progress, and our organization continues to strive for excellence," he said. "I wish the entire Wildcat football program the best of luck going forward, and I thank the University of Arizona for the opportunity to be a part of the successes we have achieved over the past eight seasons."

Kish, 57, did not reply to messages left Monday. Byrne said the Cats' interim head coach will "create a culture of calmness, which is probably a good thing for us."

Stoops' sideline demeanor proved to be polarizing during his time as the Wildcats' coach; while some fans, boosters and administrators appreciated the fire, others found it embarrassing.

Byrne talked with Stoops repeatedly over the last two years about toning down his sideline behavior, but said Monday that the coach's act had little to do with his dismissal.

Stoops "made us better" during his time here, Byrne said. But not good enough.

"If you're going to keep score, you might as well try to win," he said. "That's a factor as a coach."

By the numbers

$2.7 million

Amount Mike Stoops was due to make through 2013

$1.4 million

Cost of Stoops' buyout

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Pac-12 South football standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Arizona 7 2 0 0.778 10 3 0 0.769
USC 6 3 0 0.667 8 4 0 0.667
UCLA 6 3 0 0.667 9 3 0 0.750
Arizona State 6 3 0 0.667 9 3 0 0.750
Utah 5 4 0 0.556 9 4 0 0.692
Colorado 0 9 0 0.000 2 10 0 0.167

Pac-12 North football standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Oregon 8 1 0 0.889 12 1 0 0.923
Stanford 5 4 0 0.556 7 5 0 0.583
Washington 4 5 0 0.444 8 5 0 0.615
Cal 3 6 0 0.333 5 7 0 0.417
Washington State 2 7 0 0.222 3 9 0 0.250
Oregon State 2 7 0 0.222 5 7 0 0.417
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