University of Arizona head coach Mike Stoops waves to the crowd during the Wildcat Walk before the game against the University of Iowa at Arizona Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Tucson, Ariz. Photo by Dean Knuth/Arizona Daily Star

Dean Knuth/Arizona Daily Star

You may think that Arizona's greatest acquisition of the football offseason is its $7 million scoreboard upgrade, or maybe even a new place-kicker from Texas.

But it's likely that the most profound addition is that of Preston Wages, a law school grad who became the fifth full-time employee of Arizona's athletics compliance staff.

These are times that try men's souls in college football, especially those who coach at Ohio State, LSU, Miami, North Carolina, Auburn, Oregon, USC and Boise State. Did we leave anyone out?

Oops, forgot Georgia Tech, which recently began serving four years of hard time in the NCAA jail.

The compliance industry is booming. USC, for example, has a full-time staff of 11. Sooner or later, the greaseballs who embarrass college football might be outnumbered.

Arizona (exhale here) got through another offseason without any investigations, allegations or depositions, which makes Mike Stoops seven-for-seven in the all-important running-a-clean-program category.

It cannot be easy to run a scandal-free BCS football program. Stoops has 85 scholarship players and 20 walk-ons under his watch. All it takes is one knucklehead, player or assistant coach, to bring down the whole lot.

Much of this is that Stoops has considerable presence as a locker room authority and as a don't-even-think-about-it sheriff.

"I sleep a little better at night knowing that Mike doesn't budge on discipline," UA director of athletics Greg Byrne says. "He and I have not butted heads once from an academic or discipline standpoint."

In the summer of 2010, one of Stoops' guys displayed a gun in public. He was off the team in a matter of hours.

Earlier, another of his players was accused of inappropriately touching a woman. He never played with the team again.

Several more UA football players who had behind-the-scenes disciplinary issues, including the recently departed Bug Wright, found themselves playing in Conference USA and in the Big Sky Conference, or not at all.

"I think a lot of it is peer pressure; in our system, the majority rules," says Stoops. "When the majority tries to do the right thing, day in and day out, it helps to change some personalities and habits.

"If you are someone who thinks about taking a risk, you find out that your teammates won't put up with it. You'll be left behind. That's when you know you've recruited well."

When Stoops dismissed senior receiver Delashaun Dean from the team 14 months ago - Dean had caught 132 passes for 1,407 yards in three seasons - it sent a profound message to his teammates: No reputation is bigger than the Law By Stoops.

Dean transferred to Texas A&M-Kingsville, blew out his knee, and has been back on the UA campus during training camp. His was a sad lesson to learn, and you've got to believe Dean's ex-teammates think about it every time they see him.

"I'm not against giving a guy a second chance," says Stoops. "But there are certain things that cross the line, and our players know that."

Stoops is 40-45 entering his eighth Arizona season, and although he has produced three consecutive winning seasons, it didn't get him a contract extension last winter. You get new contracts based on wins and losses, not on compliance issues.

But you can get fired more quickly for fracturing rules, or running a disorderly program, than you can for losing to Arizona State.

Stoops might not be a showman or a media pitchman, but in the locker room and on the field, he is Boss.

"Don't cross him," quarterback Nick Foles said. "Don't let down your teammates."

Byrne's assessment: "Mike's fair. I haven't had a player or a coach come to me with a problem in that regard. If my son were being recruited to play football here, I'd be fine with him playing for Mike."

If Arizona has been tempted to take shortcuts in recruiting, or if it has permitted big-money boosters to get too close to star players, it hasn't been manifest.

The next innuendo that suggests Arizona cheats, or aligns itself with the type of suspicious characters who have smudged reputations at Miami, Auburn and Oregon, will be the first.

"If you do those things, sooner or later it will catch up to you," says Stoops. "Nothing is worth your job and your reputation. Winning is not worth that. I'd rather lose and do it the right way than win and do it the wrong way.

"The pressure to win has never been greater. The money, the prestige, the exposure have never been greater, either. But is it worth risking your job? Not to me."

Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or