Desert dismissal: Arizona fires Mike Stoops

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For the second time already this season, the head coach of a Div. 1-A football program has found himself suddenly and abruptly without a job.

Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne not-so-unexpectedly announced Monday evening that Mike Stoops has been dismissed as the Wildcats’ head coach.  Defensive coordinator Tim Kish will serve as the interim head coach until a permanent replacement is found.

“We’re appreciative of Mike’s dedicated work for the Arizona Wildcats,” Byrne said in a statement. “Coach Stoops had many successes as our head coach over the last eight seasons. It was a difficult decision but I feel now is the time for new leadership and direction.”

Coming off a disappointing 7-6 record in 2010, Stoops was one of a handful of coaches on the hot seat entering this year; a 1-5 start to the 2011 season sealed his fate.  The fact that UA played one of the toughest early-season schedules, however, didn’t help said fate.

Stoops’ only win in the past 11 games was against Div. 1-AA Northern Arizona in the season opener, with that downward spiral coming after UA began the 2010 season at 7-1.  The Wildcats have also lost eight straight Pac-10/12 games, yet another reason that led to the school pulling the trigger on a change.

In seven-plus seasons at UA, Stoops has compiled a 41-50 overall record and a 27-38 mark in conference play.  Stoops led the Wildcats to bowl appearances the past three years, just the second time in school history that’s been accomplished.  Until Stoops’ arrival in 2004, the Wildcats had not been to a bowl game since after the 1998 season.

The search for a successor will begin immediately.  One of the first names you will likely hear connected to the opening is Boise State’s Chris Petersen; besides the fact that he’s one of the top coaches in the country, he’s also very good friends with Byrne.  Another name that will be mentioned in connection with this opening — and nearly every job that comes open for that matter — is former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach.

“I expect the search to end sometime after the regular season is over,” Byrne said. “We will make the best decision for Arizona Football, and we are open to a variety of candidates, but the next time you will hear anything from me about this search will be when we introduce our new coach.”

UPDATED 10:18 p.m. ET: Stoops has released a statement addressing his dismissal.

“I am very proud of the Wildcat football program and the many accomplishments we have enjoyed. Topping that list is our qualifying for consecutive bowl games the past three seasons for only the second time in school history. I am also proud of the success our players demonstrated off the field. Not only has our team Academic Progress Rate (APR) improved significantly each of the past five years, but also our players have made great strides in conducting themselves in a manner that reflects the ideals of this University.

“When I took this job, I was hoping to be the first coach to lead this program to a Rose Bowl. Although we fell short of that goal, we made significant progress, and our organization continues to strive for excellence. 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.”

Arizona State, Mississippi State ink home-and-home

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Arizona State and Mississippi State on Tuesday announced a home-and-home series to be played in 2024-25. Arizona State will host the first game in Tempe on Sept. 7, 2024, and the clubs will meet in Starkville on Sept. 6, 2025.

The Sun Devils and Bulldogs have never met previously.

The Arizona State trip is not Mississippi State’s only upcoming trek from the Deep South to the Southwest. The Bulldogs also lined up a visit to Arizona in 2020 and Texas Tech in 2029. Mississippi State will open the 2024 season against Eastern Kentucky and visit Southern Miss the week after its Arizona State visit, on Sept. 14. The Bulldogs have no other games lined up in 2025 as of yet, according to FBSchedules.

Likewise, Mississippi State is not the Sun Devils’ lone upcoming SEC opponent. Arizona State has a home-and-home with LSU on the docket for 2026-28, per FBSchedules. The Mississippi State games complete both of the Sun Devils’ non-conference schedules for these respective seasons. Arizona State opens with Wyoming and visits Texas State in 2024, and hosts Northern Arizona and Texas State in 2025.

UCLA lands Texas Tech graduate transfer OL Justin Murphy

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Help is on the way for Chip Kelly‘s offensive line. One graduate transfer offensive lineman has the Bruins on his list, but another has already pulled the trigger for UCLA.

Texas Tech graduate transfer Justin Murphy on Tuesday committed to UCLA in a post on his Twitter account.

A native of Belton, Texas, Murphy signed with Texas Tech in 2014 and made four starts at right guard as a redshirt freshman. He again started four games at right guard in ’15 before moving out to tackle, where he started another four games. But after battling a series of knee injuries, Murphy announced in the middle of the 2016 season he had medically retired from the game.

After sitting out 2017, Murphy announced in March he planned to make a comeback.

UCLA remarkably started the same offensive linemen in all 13 games last season, but tackle Kolton Miller entered the NFL draft, guard Najoee Toran and center Scott Quessenberry graduated.

Toledo posts, then deletes, tweet offering to change mascot to Shrek

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There are plenty of annoying trends on Twitter, but perhaps the worst is the “I’ll do X if this gets retweeted X-thousand amount of times.” I blame Wendy’s.

But blanket policies are never a good way to go through life, and an exception was made on Tuesday when Toledo offered to change its mascot from a rocket to Shrek with 500,000 retweets.

Sadly, some dreams are simply too beautiful to live in this fallen world, and the tweet was outed to be a hoax. “We are definitely not changing the school mascot to Shrek,” Toledo media relations specialist Christine Billau told USA Today. “The tweet was meant to be fun, but it caused too much of a distraction.”

Meanwhile, Bowling Green gleefully hopped on the dog pile with both elbows pointed out.

UMass grad transfer lineman narrows choices to Auburn, UCLA, USC

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It’s not yet known to where Jack Driscoll will transfer, but the field has been significantly narrowed.

Earlier this offseason, Driscoll decided to transfer from UMass.  Tuesday, the offensive tackle confirmed to Rivals.com that he’s down to three schools as a potential landing spot — Auburn, UCLA and USC.

Neither football program will have to wait long for a decision as Driscoll expects to make an announcement Wednesday.  Driscoll had taken an official visit to all three of the campuses prior to whittling down his transfer to-do list.

“It will come down to one of those three schools,” the lineman told AuburnSports.com. “I feel like all three of the schools would be a good fit.”

Driscoll will graduate from UMass early next month, and will be eligible to play immediately in 2018 at whichever program he selects.  The upcoming season will be the first of two years of eligibility the 6-5, 294-pound lineman has remaining.

After starting eight games as a redshirt freshman in 2016, with most of those starts coming at left guard, he started all 12 games in 2017.  All of those starts this past season came at right tackle for the football-independent Minutemen. He was named to Phil Steele’s All-Independent first team while he earned second-team All-Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) honors for good measure.