Ten things I believe about the Arizona Wildcats’ search to replace football coach Mike Stoops:
1. I believe ESPN analyst Mark May is right.
He was on KTAR 620-AM in Phoenix on Wednesday, saying, “Chris Petersen is at the top of the list. I can tell that you that for sure.”
Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne is going to go all out to get Petersen, the Boise State head coach. He should. Petersen is the biggest, best, most established, most “available” coach in the West.
Who wouldn’t want their athletic director to knock on that door and, if needed, try to kick down that door?
Yes, yes … Petersen has turned down Byrne before — at Mississippi State after the 2008 season. Petersen didn’t jump at the Stanford job after last season. If Petersen didn’t want to be in Boise, didn’t love his situation in Boise, he’d be somewhere else today.
But things change. Times change.
Conference realignment keeps spinning Boise from one conference to the next. WAC last season, Mountain West this season. Big East next? Big 12?
As of Friday, Boise State is slated to be in a new (for now) 22-team mega-conference, with the Mountain West merging with Conference USA. Maybe Petersen would like to jump off the carousel for the safety of the Pac-12.
Arizona is going to have reasonable-enough money for salaries. Construction after the season on the north end zone project is a long-awaited sign of the athletic department’s commitment to football. The roster isn’t barren.
While the Arizona Republic came up with 10 reasons why Petersen should not return Arizona’s interest, there actually are a few reasons why a good coach would want to come to Tucson.
I believe Byrne isn’t moving on to the second name on his list unless he hears a definitive “No” from Petersen.
2. I believe Arizona could comfortably pay its new coach around $2.5 million per year for somebody like Petersen.
3. I believe it’s not worth caring that former Boise State coaches Dirk Koetter (at Arizona State) and Dan Hawkins (Colorado) failed to come close to replicating the success they had with the Broncos.
I see where people can make the connection to Petersen, but why hold that against him?
His predecessors’ failings are a trifle compared to Petersen’s 66-5 overall record, including a 7-1 mark against BCS-conference teams and a 2-0 record in BCS bowl games.
4. I believe it will be hard to avoid the phrases “handshake deal” and “winning the press conference” in the next couple of months.
5. I believe we should all stop talking about an Arizona alum getting the job. Everybody loves Ricky Hunley, Chuck Cecil and Tedy Bruschi (who doesn’t even have any coaching experience), but they are not going to get this job. None has the resume to justify it.
6. I believe it would be great to have any of that trio on the coaching staff, however.
7. I believe former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is a brilliant offensive coach who could win at Arizona.
8. I believe Leach does not fit Byrne’s profile of an ideal coach. He’s a loose cannon, profane, and not the antidote to the sideline tantrums that Byrne found objectionable in Stoops. I would be shocked if Leach gets the job.
9. I believe part of the reason Stoops was let go at midseason was that Byrne couldn’t afford for Arizona to get hot in the second half of the season.
It would have been awkward, more controversial, for Byrne to fire a coach who finished strong. As it is, with the team having lost 10 in a row to BCS teams, Byrne doesn’t look like a bad guy and he gets the coaching change he wanted.
Regardless of the second-half record, I believe Byrne didn’t see Stoops as the future of the program.
10. I believe the football program is more in need of new energy and new leadership than a multi-year plan of overhauling the roster. Put it this way, I don’t believe Arizona is a “rebuild” situation and could quickly turn things around.