When we took a look at the Coaching Carousel this year Mark Stoops was actually not on the list of guys that Jay thought would be on the hot-seat this year. Stoops was coming off of three straight winning seasons (although they were just 8-5, 8-5 and 7-6) and had played in three straight bowl games (going 1-2). Then the season started. Arizona started out with a 41-10 win over Northern Arizona and from there it was all down hill. The Wildcats dropped games to three straight Top 10 teams (Oklahoma State 37-14, Stanford 37-10, and Oregon 56-31). It's one thing to lose to top ten teams and it's another to not be competitive. After starting 1-3, Jay took another look at the Coaching Carousel and in the Mike Locksley Memorial Edition he put Mike Stoops firmly on the hot seat with a 60% chance of survival. After starting 1-3, the Wildcats then dropped a game to Lane Kiffin and USC by the score of 48-41 but the straw that broke the camel's back was a loss to fellow hot-seater Mike Riley and Oregon State (who on his 9/29 update Jay listed with a 70% chance of survival). That was Oregon State's first win of the season.
When you combine the fact that the Wildcats were Oregon State's first win of the season and the success that Dennis Erickson and the "other" in-state team have had early this season, Stoops was shown the door. A couple of quotes from the administration:
“We very much tried to support Coach Stoops,’’ Arizona AD Greg Byrne said. “I don’t think you’ve ever heard me say anything negative publicly about him. I had seen the positives he had done, but it got to the point this season where I was very concerned about the long-term impact.’’
“I always worry about that kind of money, but if you want to play in the big leagues you have to do what you got to do,’’ interim Arizona President Eugene Sander said.
Personally, I'm not a huge fan of terminating a coach during the season because most of the replacements are currently employed and you are going to have to wait until after the season to get a new coach unless you are targeting Bobby Petrino or an unemployed coached. So who do you go after if you are Arizona? Do you go for Mike Leach? He is a guy who has some baggage but he's ready to coach and he's a guy who is going to win and would probably fit in perfectly in the Pac-12. Do you reach down into a lower conference and take a guy who has been successful like Houston's Kevin Sumlin. Maybe you take a shot at a first year guy from a smaller school who is really making noise like Mark Hudspeth of Louisiana. Or do you go for a young up-and-coming assistant coach like a Manny Diaz or try to go East and pluck someone off the Nick Saban coaching tree like a Jim McElwain. There are a ton of choices and a lot of time for the Wildcats to make sure that they get the right guy to turn their program around.