Stoops Prepares To Coach Last Game at Arizona

Alan RubensteinAnalyst IIIDecember 28, 2009

Mark Stoops joined his brother Mike at Arizona in 2004. They embarked on a journey to turn around a program that had not had a winning season in six years, had suffered through four consecutive losing seasons, and was coming off a 2-10 season in 2003. Throw in consecutive 3-8 seasons to begin the Stoops era and Arizona football had become an afterthought in Tucson.

The Stoops brothers expertize is defense. Mark Stoops was hired by his brother to come to Arizona and clean things up as their defensive coordinator. He was leaving after a successful three-year stint as the secondary coach at Miami .

Mark Stoops announced earlier in December that he was leaving Arizona after six seasons to accept the defensive coordinator position at Florida State. Mark had been a big part of the turnaround at Arizona, as Mike Stoops tried to return Arizona to the upper division of the Pac-Ten.

The Stoops brothers' partnership paid immediate dividends on both sides of the ball. In his first year in the Old Pueblo, Mark Stoops defense gave up 154 less points than Arizona's defense did in 2003. After two abysmal seasons to begin the Stoops era, Mark Stoops' defense was the catalyst for an Arizona Football renaissance.

Arizona's fortunes began to turnaround in 2006. The Wildcats gave up less than 20 points per game that season. After starting at 2-4, Arizona finished 4-2 to avoid their seventh straight losing season.

The Wildcats pulled three straight upsets late in the season before losing against Arizona State in the finale to deny the Wildcats their first bowl bid in eight years. Stoops defense played a huge part. Those upsets were a part of seven wins over ranked teams during his six years in Tucson.

The following season, the defense took a step back allowing 90 more points. Stoops was still able to add to his resume, though. Arizona defensive back Antoine Cason capped a brilliant four-year career by winning the Thorpe award honoring the best defensive back in college football. Cason was the Pac-Ten's top freshman in 2004 and almost single handily won games for the Wildcats during his career. 

In 2008, despite losing Cason, the Wildcats defense allowed 50 less points despite playing one more game. In 2009, the Arizona defense has been a major reason the Wildcats have had their best record in 11 years and had their second best finish ever in the Pac-Ten.

The Wildcats finished 21st in the country in total defense and 42nd in scoring defense in 2009. 

Under Stoops tutelage, five Arizona defensive players have been drafted. He coached over 10 players to all Pac-Ten honors in his six years. In 2009, Brooks Reed led the Pac-Ten with 10.5 Sacks. 

After getting off to a rough start, in tandem with his brother, Stoops has made Arizona football exciting again. The Wildcats qualified for a bowl game for the second consecutive year. That is the first time since the 1997 and '98 seasons Arizona has gone bowling back-to-back. 

Stoops improved the defense immeasurably since arriving in Tucson in 2004. The biggest task for Arizona in the Holiday Bowl against Nebraska will be scoring points. Stoops can leave one lasting legacy before moving on to Florida State following the game against the Cornhuskers. By taking the job at FSU, Stoops will look to make a name for himself away from his famous family's coaching tree. 

Greg Brown arrives from Colorado to become the secondary coach and to share the coordinator duties with linebackers coach Tim Kish.