Arizona Wildcats football coach Mike Stoops was fired this afternoon, and will be replaced on an interim basis by defensive coordinator Tim Kish for the rest of the season.

The Wildcats will pay about $1.4 million to buy out Stoops, UA athletic director Greg Byrne said.

In a press conference held tonight, Byrne said he had been evaluating the UA football program since he arrived at the UA in May 2010.

“The last week was the timeframe where I thought, ‘OK, I’m concerned about the rest of the season,’” Byrne said. “It was in the last week that I decided it was time to go in a different direction.”

Stoops was 1-5 this season — including a loss Saturday to Oregon State — after reaching three consecutive bowl games. He went 41-50 in seven and a half years at the UA.

“The last 11 games have been a rough road,” Byrne said. Dr. Eugene Sander, the UA president, said he hoped the move would get the Wildcats “beyond the situation where we are continually speculating about coach Stoops.”

Byrne told Stoops late in the afternoon after calling him in the morning and having him return to Tucson from a recruiting trip. He said Stoops took the news like a professional.

The athletic director told football players around 5:30 p.m.

“They did a lot of listening, and that was the extent of it today,” Byrne said of the players.

Byrne said Kish would be considered long-term, but that “coach Kish is aware that he’s the interim coach” this year.

“Today is a tough day for the program,” Kish said in a release. “It’s an important moment for sure. I appreciate Greg’s faith in me, to provide leadership for our young men during this difficult time.”

The UA search committee will consist of Byrne and his top deputies — Kathleen “Rocky” Larose, John Perrin and James Francis. The UA has not hired a search firm.

There’s a lot of information we’re going to have that the general public just won’t have access to,” Byrne said.

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