Arizona Athletic Director Greg Byrne announced this evening that he has fired head football coach Mike Stoops.
Byrne discussed the possibility of making a change with interim school president Eugene Sander on Sunday. Sander said he replied: “Fine.”
“Decisions like this are never easy to make. There is always a great deal of heartache that goes along with these things,” Sander said. “But I do believe, on behalf of the University of Arizona football, this decision was absolutely necessary at this time.”
Sander also praised Byrne’s decisiveness: “Dragging something like this out is just painful, particularly for the players.”
Byrne pulled Stoops off a recruiting trip Monday and informed the coach of his decision on Monday afternoon.
“He handled himself with class and dignity,” Byrne said. (STATEMENT FROM STOOPS.)
Stoops was 41-50 in seven-and-a-half seasons at Arizona. The Wildcats have lost 10 consecutive games to FBS opponents.
“I was concerned with the direction of the program and where we were going,” Byrne said of the timing of the move.
“I felt that it needed to be addressed in the short term for our 22 seniors. At the same time, too, it will give us a full chance to begin a process of (hiring) our new football coach.”
Defensive coordinator Tim Kish will lead the team for the remaining six games on the schedule. Kish has been with Stoops at Arizona since Stoops was hired in 2004. Stoops named him co-coordinator in 2010 and became sole coordinator this year.
Kish was chosen not only for his experience, but for his personality, Byrne said, as Kish succeeds the fiery Stoops.
“I think he’ll create a culture of calmness, which is probably a good thing for us,” Byrne said.
Stoops, who is under contract through the 2013 season, will be due about $1.4 million in the buyout, Byrne said, although the number hasn’t been finalized.
“Always worried about that kind of money,” Sander said. “But if you’re going to play in the big leagues, you have to do what you have to do.”
Byrne said a search for a new coach begins immediately and said he would like to have someone in place soon after the end of regular season. He will lead a search committee of four or five from the athletic department. He has not, at this time at least, hired an outside firm to help the search.
Arizona started the season beating NAU 41-10, but then lost to four straight ranked opponents, three of them Top 10 teams. The apparent icing was an ugly loss Saturday in Corvalis, Ore., to a winless Oregon State team, although Byrne said he had come to the conclusion last week that he would make a change.
A win at Oregon State might have postponed the decision but likely would not have changed it in the long run.
“We have very much tried to support Coach Stoops,” Byrne said. “I don’t think you have eve heard me say publicly anything bad about him. You don’t do that to your head coaches.
“There were many positives he has done, but this season has gotten to the point I was very concerned about where we were going.”
The losses this season:
• 37-14 to Oklahoma State;
• 37-10 to Stanford;
• 56-31 to Oregon;
• 48-41 to USC;
• 37-27 to Oregon State.
Related links on TucsonCitizen.com:
Here is the official release that the athletic department sent right at 6 p.m. (Below that is an email that Byrne has sent to Arizona fans):
University of Arizona director of athletics Greg Byrne announced that Mike Stoops has been relieved of his duties and no longer will be head coach of the Arizona Football program. Byrne said that defensive coordinator Tim Kish will serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
Stoops was introduced as the 28th head coach in Arizona’s 108-year football history in November 2004. He was able to re-establish respectability to a program that had slid to the bottom of the Pac-10 Conference before his arrival with a program-low 2-10 record in 2003.
Stoops’ record in eight seasons at Arizona was 41-50, with a 27-38 mark in league games. Arizona currently is 1-5 in 2011 and 0-4 for last place in the Pac-12 South division. The Cats lost, 37-27, at Oregon State last Saturday, their eighth consecutive league loss. The Wildcats have lost 10 consecutive games against FBS opponents, winning their season opener against Northern Arizona this year and last beating a FBS team (UCLA) on Oct. 30, 2010.
Arizona has a bye this week before returning to play at home Thursday, Oct. 20, in an ESPN national cablecast against UCLA.
“We’re appreciative of Mike’s dedicated work for the Arizona Wildcats,” Byrne said. “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.”
Kish, 57, defensive coordinator throughout Stoops’ tenure in Tucson said, “Today is tough day for the program. It’s an important moment, for sure. I appreciate Greg’s faith in me to provide leadership to our young men during this difficult time. I’ve been with Coach Stoops for each of his eight years here and know that we have a strong foundation for not only the future but for our immediate tasks. I know this coaching staff will work hard and support our players as we compete for the remainder of the season. We’re here to help these players succeed.”
Byrne said a search for Stoops’ successor would begin immediately. “I expect the search to end sometime after the regular season is over,” he 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,” he said.
Stoops, 49, guided the Wildcats to three straight bowl victories (2008-2010), which matches a school record for most consecutive postseason appearances (1992-94). In 2009, the Wildcats returned to the national rankings and remained in the polls for much of the 2010 season after a 7-1 start. Arizona peaked at No. 9 in the Associated Press poll following a 34-27 victory over then-No. 9 Iowa on Sept. 18, 2010.
The victory over the ranked Hawkeyes was the ninth such win over a nationally-ranked team by one of Stoops’ teams. He defeated a ranked team in each of his first seven years at Arizona, and went 9-24 overall against ranks foes.
Prior to Stoops’ arrival in Tucson, he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator at Oklahoma, including during the 2000 season when the Sooners won the national championship. His coaching career began as a graduate assistant and assistant coach at Iowa where he spent six seasons. He then went on to coach seven seasons at Kansas State before moving on to Oklahoma and later Arizona for his first head coaching job.
Mike Stoops’ coaching marks at Arizona:
Email sent to fans: “Wildcat Wednesday with Greg Byrne”
A CHANGE IN LEADERSHIP
Today I write to you to announce that Mike Stoops has been relieved of his duties and will no longer be the head coach of the Arizona football program. Coach Stoops did many things to improve our program and we are appreciative of his efforts.
This decision is the result of an ongoing evaluation of our program since my arrival a year and a half ago. While Coach Stoops did an admirable job and was able to re-establish Arizona as a football contender, it is a critical time for our football program, and I feel we need a change in leadership. Defensive coordinator Tim Kish will serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of this season.
I recently met with the team to notify the players of my decision. I also have spoken with the football staff. Our immediate focus is the team. The support service areas that take care of our team – such as academics and medical services – will continue to provide our student-athletes with first-rate support.
We have nearly two dozen seniors on our football team and we want them to finish their Arizona career by playing in a bowl game. We need you to continue to show the seniors and the entire team your support. I look forward to seeing you next Thursday against UCLA.
WHAT’S NEXT (please read and share this with your friends and family)
We will begin a search immediately for our next head football coach. I expect the search to end sometime after the regular season is over, so please be patient as we go through this process. Something I will work at diligently is to keep public information to a minimum during the process. This is important to an effective search process. During this time please be patient and cautious not to get caught up in unofficial news and/or speculation from media, message boards, or other reports from people claiming to have heard this or that rumor. I may send out an occasional note via Twitter, but other than that the next time you will hear anything from me about this search is when we introduce our new coach.
I’m sure I’ll receive a lot of emails, calls and letters suggesting that we need to hire a certain candidate. I am always pleased to hear your input and glad that you care. We will make the best decision for Arizona Football, which means being open to a variety of candidates. Please know that we will have access to information on candidates that the general public may not have. There are reasons that a certain candidate would or would not be considered based in part on that information. So whomever we hire I want you to know we will go to great lengths to ensure we have as much information as possible before we make a decision.