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.”