Mike Stoops firing hits coaching community hard

The firing of Arizona coach Mike Stoops wasn’t completely

unexpected. The Wildcats had been on a slide since late last season

and didn’t appear to be on the verge of any big breakthroughs.

Still, once word spread around the coaching ranks, the news hit

hard, particularly among Stoops’ friends and famous family, but

also among coaches concerned about a lack of loyalty by

universities that no longer hesitate to fire coaches midseason.

”I think it’s ridiculous, you know, especially considering what

he did with that program, where it was when he took over and where

it is now,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. ”People criticize

coaches for their lack of loyalty or whatever, but look at what’s

happened to him. Loyalty goes both ways you know.”

To be fair to Arizona, Stoops was nine games under .500 (41-50)

in his eight seasons with the Wildcats and the team had lost 10 of

its previous 11 games after its 37-27 setback to previously winless

Oregon State on Saturday.

But part of what made the firing so tough on his fellow coaches

was the timing of it.

It used to be coaches were given leeway during a season, that no

matter how rough things got, they would likely hold on to their

jobs until after the last game.

With the revenue being generated by football programs and the

need to keep fan bases – not to mention big-money boosters – happy,

the latitude isn’t what it once was.

Fail to produce on the field or cause the slightest

embarrassment off it and coaches are quickly shown the door these

days.

”I think everything in college football has changed a great

deal,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. ”I’ve always thought the

longer it goes, the more it gets like the NFL in terms of roster

sizes and things like that, and I think it’s been like that in

coaching as well. I think all of us in coaching realize it’s

temporary parking, really.”

The 2011 coaching carousel began well before the season

started.

Pittsburgh fired coach Mike Haywood less than a month into the

job after he was arrested on a domestic abuse charge in December.

He was replaced by former Tulsa coach Todd Graham, the Panthers’

third coach in a month after Dave Wannstedt was forced to resign

following a 7-5 season in 2010.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was pushed out in the spring in the

wake of Tattoogate, replaced by Luke Fickell on an interim

basis.

North Carolina coach Butch Davis was fired by preseason camp

amid an NCAA investigation into improper benefits and academic

misconduct. Everett Withers was named interim coach.

New Mexico coach Mike Locksley became the first coach to get the

hook during the season. He was replaced by defensive coordinator

George Barlow in September after a string of controversies and not

many wins.

”In general, when you’re in the coaching profession at this

level or the professional level, it’s always out there, it’s always

a possibility,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. ”We all know

that when we get into it. That’s just life.”

Stoops, while appearing to be an emotional wreck on the

sideline, is a well-respected member of the coaching

fraternity.

Part of a famous coaching family, Stoops was an assistant at his

alma mater Iowa and at Kansas State, then went on to serve as

co-defensive coordinator on his brother Bob’s staff at Oklahoma

before being hired at Arizona in 2004.

Stoops was known for his defensive mind and he helped turn an

Arizona program that had been mired in mediocrity into a consistent

winner, leading the Wildcats to three straight bowls for the second

time in school history.

Things started to come unraveled for Arizona last season, when

it followed a 7-1 start with five straight losses, including a

blowout to Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl. The Wildcats opened

this season with a win over FCS Northern Arizona, then went through

a brutal stretch of three straight losses to three Top-10

teams.

Arizona followed that with a loss to Southern California and the

bottom came with last week’s loss to the Beavers.

Injuries, perhaps as many as any team in the Pac-12, had

something to do with it, but the Wildcats had almost no running

game to complement prolific quarterback Nick Foles and their

defense, once Stoops’ calling card, had trouble stopping

anyone.

With his team at 1-5 and 0-4 in the Pac-12 after five straight

losses, Stoops took the fall on Monday, replaced by defensive

coordinator Tim Kish for the remainder of the season.

”He just kind of hit a perfect storm,” Bob Stoops said. ”He

had a bunch of injuries early, actually before the season started,

so kind of playing short-handed. And then you play … Top-10 teams

between Oregon, Stanford and Oklahoma State, you kind of get beat

up some more or you get demoralized and it’s just kind of hard to

recover.”

His brother never did.

AP Sports Writers Mike Marot in Indianapolis and Jeff Latzke in

Oklahoma City contributed to this story.