Arizona Wildcats Football: 8 Candidates to Replace Mike Stoops

Kevin GermanyAnalyst IIIOctober 11, 2011

Arizona Wildcats Football: 8 Candidates to Replace Mike Stoops

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    After a disastrous 1-5 start, the University of Arizona has decided to fire Head Coach Mike Stoops.

    Stoops managed to improve the Arizona football program significantly in his tenure as coach. I am fairly surprised Stoops would be fired this soon.

    Arizona played three Top 10 teams in Stanford, Oklahoma State and Oregon in their losing streak. Their other two losses were against USC and lowly Oregon State.

    Their only win was against FCS team Northern Arizona.

    Statistically, they are 117th in rushing yards and points allowed. Their only positive was their passing game, ranked No. 3 in total passing yards. QB Nick Foles is the only bright spot in a dismal season so far.

    There will be speculation over who becomes the next Arizona coach. Athletic Director Greg Byrne must determine what kind of coach he wants to run the program.

    Here are eight coaches Byrne should strongly consider, in honor of the eight seasons Mike Stoops was the coach.

Honorable Mention

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    Chris Petersen: Not a realistic choice.

    Chip Kelly: See Chris Petersen.

    Gus Malzahn: He will first seek an SEC job. I don't expect him to even consider Arizona. Expect him to coach either Ole Miss or Georgia if those jobs open.

    Pat Hill: He has had success at Fresno State, but this hire would scream mediocre.

    Mark Hudspeth: He is the current Louisiana-Lafayette coach. If he were to beat Arizona, Greg Byrne should hire him on the spot. Then again, he might be the only guy who would want the job.

    Kirby Smart: I would do a "See Gus Malzahn" comment, but I want to only do that once.

    Tim Kish: Because hiring the current Defensive Coordinator of one of the worst defenses in the country makes perfect sense.

    Jim Tressel: Just kidding.

Mike Leach

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    This list starts off with some controversy.

    I am a big fan of Mike Leach. He was screwed over at Texas Tech by Craig James and his son. He never had a fair chance against the machine known as ESPN.

    Arizona's offense is presently constructed for Leach's "Air Raid" offense. However, Nick Foles just happens to be graduating at the end of the season.

    Nevertheless, Mike Leach is the man to hire if Arizona wants a winning program.

    There are three potential snags for hiring Mike Leach.

    1. Will Mike Leach be a politically acceptable candidate for the Arizona boosters—namely local car magnate Jim Click? 

    2. Can Arizona afford to pay Leach the money he commands?

    3. Is Leach willing to drop the lawsuit on ESPN and Craig James?

    If those issues can be resolved, then Arizona should strongly consider hiring the outspoken Leach as their next coach.

    Level of Risk: 10

    Level of Reward: 10

Skip Holtz

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    Skip Holtz is an another excellent choice for Arizona to hire. Holtz has been a winner everywhere he has gone.

    He has done a tremendous job at South Florida in his brief tenure there. He can even take the Bulls to the Orange Bowl if they can win the Big East.

    Holtz might be reluctant to leave Florida for Arizona.

    The defense and running game will improve under his tutelage (not that it can get any worse).

    Skip Holtz isn't as risky of a hire as Leach. Greg Byrne should consider hiring him if Leach is not available.

    Level of Risk: 5

    Level of Reward: 8

Ricky Hunley

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    If Arizona wants a familiar hire, then Arizona alum Ricky Hunley might be a good choice. He was considered in the previous coaching search eight years ago.

    He is currently the assistant linebackers coach for the Oakland Raiders. He has extensive playing and coaching experience in the NFL and in the NCAA.

    This should translate into better recruiting classes. Arizona sorely needs that.

    Hunley brings a defensive background to a team in need of improved defense. Hunley can be that guy to solidify the defense.

    The offense will likely change to a pro-style offense. However, Hunley has never been a head coach at any football level.

    His lack of head-coaching experience might deter Greg Byrne from hiring him.

    Level of Risk: 6

    Level of Reward: 6

Houston Nutt

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    Athletic Director Greg Byrne was the previous AD at Mississippi State. Could Byrne use his SEC background to hire Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt if he were to become available?

    Nutt has had success with Boise State and Arkansas. He had two good years with Ole Miss, leading them to consecutive Cotton Bowl victories.

    Ole Miss had a hard time beating Fresno State this year. That is unacceptable for a prestigious SEC program.

    I would be shocked if Nutt isn't fired after this season.

    Nutt can use a change of scenery from the South to the West. It would be nutty to suggest immediate success for Houston Nutt.

    Enough of my corny and pathetic jokes.

    Level of Risk: 3

    Level of Reward: 5

Rich Rodriguez

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    Rich Rodriguez is a bit of a stretch for Arizona to hire. He had consistent success with West Virginia, but Michigan was a very poor fit for him.

    His spread-option offense will suit next year's likely starting QB, Matt Scott. But it will take a few seasons until Rodriguez integrates his personnel into the program.

    He is going to command top dollar for his services. Arizona must figure out whether he is worth the risk, but the payoff can be huge if Arizona hires Rich Rod.

    Level of Risk: 8

    Level of Reward: 8

Mark Richt

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    Mark Richt is the second SEC coach on the hot seat. Georgia is at a crossroads right now as a program; Richt has been there for ten years.

    It might be time for Richt to move on from Georgia.

    Richt has achieved a modicum of success in Athens. Arizona would greatly benefit from hiring a man who has succeeded in the SEC.

    With that said, Richt may stay in Georgia. He may not want to take less money or move to the desert.

    Level of Risk: 5

    Level of Reward: 6

Chuck Cecil

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    Chuck Cecil is another Arizona alumnus who may be interested in coaching Arizona.

    He enjoyed an Pro Bowl career as a safety for three teams. He was notorious for vicious hits in the NFL and NCAA.

    He was the Defensive Coordinator for the Tennessee Titans until he was fired in 2010. 

    Cecil coming to Tucson makes a lot of sense if Arizona wants to hire a defensive-minded coach.

    He can bring back a defensive mentality that Arizona desperately needs.

    Just don't let him flip off referees if things don't go his way.

    Level of Risk: 6

    Level of Reward: 7

Conclusion

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    There are many of candidates Arizona can select to replace Mike Stoops. Stoops ultimately got fired because of his inability to win this season.

    Each coach on my list has strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, Arizona needs to be willing to pay the necessary money and take some calculated risks to hire the coach who will turn around the Arizona program.

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