Arizona fires Stoops halfway through season
TUCSON, Ariz. — Coach Mike Stoops has been fired halfway through his eighth season at Arizona.
Athletic director Greg Byrne announced Stoops’ dismissal at a news conference Monday evening, two days after the Wildcats lost their fifth straight game, 37-27, at previously winless Oregon State.
Dating to last season, Arizona has lost 10 of 11 games, the lone victory this season’s opener over Northern Arizona, a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) school. The Wildcats last beat a Football Bowl Subdivision team in a game against UCLA on Oct. 30, 2010.
Stoops had a 41-50 record with the Wildcats. He was co-defensive coordinator on his brother Bob’s staff at Oklahoma before he was hired at Arizona. The 49-year-old coach, known for his emotional sideline behavior, also was an assistant at his alma mater Iowa and at Kansas State.
His 2010 team started the season 7-1 but lost its last five, including a 36-10 blowout to Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl. Arizona, the only team in the old Pac-10 never to play in the Rose Bowl, had consecutive 8-5 seasons in 2008 and 2009.
“Coach Stoops had many successes as our head coach over the last eight seasons,” Byrne said in a news release. “It was a difficult decision but I feel now is the time for new leadership and direction.”
At the news conference, Byrne said the buyout for the remainder of Stoops’ contract will be about $1.4 million. His contract ran through 2013 under an extension granted in December 2008.
Defensive coordinator Tim Kish will serve as interim coach through the remainder of the season, Byrne said, while a national search for a coach is conducted.
“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.
Arizona does not play until a Thursday night home game, Oct. 20, against UCLA.
“This decision is absolutely necessary at this time,” university President Eugene Sander said. “Actually, I’d like to congratulate Greg for his decisiveness in making this decision.”
Sander said it avoids any speculation about Stoops’ future that would have dogged the team the remainder of the season had the coach stayed on.
Sander said he had consulted with the Arizona Board of Regents, and its chairman Fred DuVal “is fully in agreement with this decision.”
Kish called it “a tough day for the program.”
“I appreciate Greg’s faith in me to provide leadership to our young men during this difficult time,” Kish said in a release. “I’ve been with coach Stoops for each of his eight years here and know that we A 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 he told Stoops of his decision Monday afternoon, and told the players before the 6 p.m. PDT news conference.
The Wildcats feature one of the best quarterbacks in the country in senior Nick Foles, but they have struggled on defense and with a young offensive line. Arizona also had a brutal stretch of three consecutive games against teams that were ranked in the top 10 at the time — Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon. A loss at USC followed, then things bottomed out with the loss in Corvallis on Saturday.
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