PULLMAN – It doesn’t happen often, but it did on Monday. The University of Arizona made a coaching change in the middle of the season.
Out was veteran Mike Stoops, shown the door after 10 consecutive losses vs. FBS schools and a 41-50 overall record. In, on an interim basis, is defensive coordinator Tim Kish, who came to Tucson with Stoops eight years ago.
“We had some good things happen here in those eight years,” Kish said Tuesday on his first Pac-12 coaches conference call. “It’s unfortunate, but as of late we haven’t responded to it the way we needed to.”
And that hasn’t been all Stoops’ fault, according to Kish.
“The head coach always gets too much credit and gets too much blame,” he said. “We’re in the situation we’re in right now because of us. And it will take all of us to get ourselves out of it.”
The Wildcats’ problems are of a recent nature. On Oct. 30 last season they were 7-1 and ranked 13th in the nation. Since then, their only win came earlier this season against the Big Sky’s Northern Arizona.
They are 1-5 this year and lost 37-27 at previously winless Oregon State last Saturday.
“(The season) had gotten to the point where I was concerned about the long-term impact of what we were doing and where we were going,” UA athletic director Greg Bryne said Monday.
Where Kish was going that day was to a recruit’s house in Los Angeles. But a call from Bryne sent him scrambling back to Tucson.
“I had to take a couple flights back home and got here about midnight last night,” said Kish, who has never been a head coach before. “There were a lot of things running though my mind. … I’m just trying to get things organized here the best I can.”
The news of Stoops firing wasn’t taken well by his colleagues, but it’s something they understand.
“I was surprised by it,” Stanford’s David Shaw said. “Being a coach’s kid, I never like to see coaching changes, especially during the year.”
“Anytime we lose one of our guys in our fraternity it’s sad, because I have great respect for Mike and I think he worked his tail off at the University of Arizona,” UCLA’s Rick Neuheisel said.
But it was Oregon State’s Mike Riley who summed it up, putting a Godfather-like “this is the business we’ve chosen” spin on it.
“That’s kind of the life we live,” the veteran coach, and son of another coach, said. “We can’t dwell on that or think about that all the time. It’s just always out there.”
Four from the Pac-12
1. When Arizona State hosted then-No. 5 Oregon last year, the Sun Devils outgained the potent Ducks’ offense, 597 yards to 385. But Oregon won 42-31. The difference? Seven ASU turnovers. No wonder, when asked the key to this week’s rematch in Eugene, Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said, “It still boils down, like every game, to who’s going to turn it over and who isn’t going to turn it over.”
2. Speaking of turnovers, Washington is second in the Pac-12 behind ASU’s 18 in forcing turnovers, causing 12. But the Huskies have also turned the ball over seven times, something that hasn’t made coach Steve Sarkisian happy. “Our quarterback has been loose with the ball at times when he’s been scrambling around in the pocket,” Sarkisian said. “And that’s been when we’ve had a few fumbles that way. Then we’ve also thrown a few interceptions in the red zone.”
3. Despite the miscues, Washington has jumped out to a 4-1 start and is right up with Stanford and Oregon atop the Pac-12 North Division. This week the Huskies host Colorado, a 1-5 team struggling under first-year coach Jon Embree. Asked what’s different about this year’s UW team and the past groups, Embree said he’s the wrong guy to ask. “I didn’t watch (last year’s team) a bunch,” Embree said. “I just news-reeled it some last year as I came in.”
4. Not only is the Pac-12 awash in top-quality receivers, the conference also has a handful of 6-foot-4 and above guys who are included among the top of the receiving statistics. One of those is UCLA’s Nelson Rosario, who made two big catches last week vs. Washington State. Such size is all the rage, Neuheisel said. “It’s a huge deal in offensive football today,” he said. “Everybody’s looking for that Randy Moss. … The big, physical receiver that has range, that is open when he’s covered is an unbelievable weapon.”