Arizona Football Coaching Change: 7 Possible Replacements for Mike Stoops
Arizona followers are heavily versed in this whole national coaching search business.
Just about three years ago, former athletic director Jim Livengood was on the prowl to replace the most beloved hoops coach in the school's history, Hall of Famer Lute Olson.
And right around that time, the Internet went bananas with speculation.
Remember all the rumors?
Rick Pitino's wife was allegedly in Tucson checking out the real estate.
Some were saying that Tom Izzo was tiring of the misery that is the city of East Lansing and preferred a warmer weather climate with an already-established program.
John Calipari's name also was thrown into the ring, although Kentucky quickly squashed that by taking him off the market.
The other prime-time names mentioned included Gonzaga's Mark Few, Pitt's Jaime Dixon, former USC/current UTEP coach Tim Floyd, Virginia Tech's Seth Greenberg and a slew of others.
Ultimately, Arizona landed on a relatively low-profile, but highly successful, fresh, young coach out of Xavier named Sean Miller.
And while Miller name didn't have the splash of Pitino, Izzo or Calipari, he proved to be the perfect selection after taking his squad to the Elite Eight in just his second season, with the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation compiled for 2013.
Now it's time to find out who makes sense on Arizona's gridiron.
There are sure to be plenty of flashy choices bandied about, but the best choice just might come from the ranks of the relatively unknown.
Come inside to see seven realistic replacements for Mike Stoops at Arizona:
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Do you recognize that man pictured above?
Sumlin is currently the head coach at Houston, the master of one of the country's most explosive offenses that has quarterback Case Keenum on the verge of destroying all sorts of NCAA passing records.
Oh, and the Cougars are currently unbeaten at 6-0, including a win over UCLA.
Houston does not seem likely to join the Big 12, meaning this is Sumlin's shot at a BCS gig in a power conference.
Think Sumlin's ready to exit the second-rate Conference USA?
As noted by The Big Lead, his current buyout won't price him out of Arizona's budget.
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Chris Petersen is the name in this coaching search.
As noted by the Tucson Citizen's Anthony Gimino, Petersen, the wildly successful coach of small-market powerhouse Boise State, already owns ties to Greg Byrne from their days together at Oregon, putting him on everyone's radar as a potential contender for the Arizona job.
Here's the problem with Petersen: Since Boise State exploded onto the national scene as a regular contender, he's been the focal point of several prime-time positions nationally.
And he chose not to seriously pursue any of them in favor of returning to the Smurf Turf in Boise.
Considering he is 66-5 in his tenure with the Broncos, he should be the No. 1 target for just about every major job that becomes available on this side of the United States.
I'd expect that to price him out of Arizona's range.
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When Byrne was the athletic director at Mississippi State, he ripped Mullen away from his role as offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer at Florida to make him the Bulldogs' program leader.
That obviously means Byrne thinks highly of Mullen's ability to transform a college football program.
And now he owns head coaching experience, and in the SEC no less.
Not only that, but Mullen was able to come up with results almost immediately, going 9-4 including a rout of Michigan in just his second season in Starkville.
The question marks for Mullen involve his familiarity with the West Coast as his connections are all tied to the South.
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All right, so it's not the sexiest name on this list.
But Larry Fedora is certainly one of the emerging coaching talents in the nation, taking Southern Miss into postseason action in each of the three seasons he has been there.
Also stuck in the purgatory that is Conference USA, this is an opportunity for Fedora to claim a BCS conference gig without the pressure of having to produce huge results right away.
At 48, he's still relatively young, and he owns a background in one of Arizona's fertile football recruiting zones, Texas, where he both coached high school football and served as an assistant in Waco at Baylor.
While he doesn't own the level of recognition some Arizona fans are yearning for, the same can be said about Miller prior to him stepping foot into McKale Center.
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The man who laid the foundation—with a touch of help from shoe-mogul billionaire Phil Knight—for the Oregon Ducks to become a national force is back on the block and open to a new position.
He's currently serving as an analyst for ESPN, a position that's allowed him to see all of the many schemes being run across the newly expanded conference.
Bellotti owns deep roots on the West Coast, with 20 years experience coaching and recruiting in the conference. And he went 116-55 in 14 years in Eugene, including several BCS appearances.
He was also rumored to be heading to both Colorado and Stanford when those positions became available last year, but didn't end up going to either school.
Bellotti makes sense, but there are fresher options out there.
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Denard "Nard Dog" Robinson is a Rich Rodriguez product. As is Steve Slaton. As is Pat White. As was the late Chris Henry. As are a host of other college-phenoms-gone-NFL-standouts.
The man is an offensive guru.
Where he ran into trouble in the Big Ten at Michigan was with his weakling of a defense, a reputation he is likely itching to prove wrong after an ignominious exit from Ann Arbor.
Regionally, however, this is all wrong.
Rodriguez has coached almost exclusively on the East Coast or in the Midwest, with no real ties to California or Texas, Arizona's recruiting hotbeds.
And he's another coach who was in constant turmoil during his previous gigs, for violations in recruiting, shady practice measures and overall lack of likability.
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Besides that, here's a brief checklist of reasons he needs to be on the next plane for Tucson:
Leach won on the regular in that cultural mecca of Lubbock, Texas, able to compete with the elite of the conference despite his locale.
Leach owns a somewhat freakish love for pirates.
Leach allegedly put one of his players, Adam James—the son of television analyst/former college football star Craig James—in an electrical closet during practice.
Leach's offenses made stars out of nobodies, such as Graham Harrell and Kliff Klingsbury, and it made the enigmatic Michael Crabtree into a Heisman Trophy contender.
Leach owns one of the sharpest offensive minds in football.
Leach owns deep connections in Texas, which is one of Arizona's key recruiting territories, along with Southern California.
It all adds up to Mike Leach being the flashiest choice out of any of the many you'll see floated in rumor mills over the next few months.