The first axe of the college football season fell on Mike Stoops of Arizona last night at the midway point of the season. Stoops had been at Arizona for eight season and he had inherited one of the biggest messes in college football when he took over for Jon Mackovick.
Stoops did a credible job rebuilding this program. Despite the 1-5 record to start this season his last three squads have qualified for bowl games. You would think would have bought him enough time to finish out the season. That didn't happen and now the Wildcats are in the market for a new head coach.
So why did Greg Byrne pull the trigger early on this one? Honestly I think he got tired of watching Stoops antics on the sidelines each week. The feeling after the Oregon State loss is that Stoops was losing or had lost his team so I guess it was best of everyone concerned.
I don't think Stoops fit the image that AD Greg Byrne was looking for in a head coach. Every AD gets he chance to make their signature hires in football and basketball. This is Byrnes chance to put his personal stamp on the program and define his legacy as an AD at Arizona.
So who is Byrne going to go after?
The media speculates that the first two phone calls will be to Chris Petersen (Boise State) and Mike Leach (Texas Tech). Byrne is good friends with Petersen and I think it is a foregone conclusion that he will gauge the interest of Petersen before looking elsewhere.
Leach is a much tougher call. He has been out of the game a couple of years after being involved in a player treatment scandal at Texas Tech which resulted in him getting fired and suing the school. He is the father of the offense that the Wildcats currently run so that is why many think he would be an excellent fit.
He has also been described as eccentric, quirky, strange, and unconventional. Leach isn't easy to manage. He isn't accessible to the media. He likes doing things his way and that probably doesn't mesh with what a young AD out to make his own mark is looking for.
I think Petersen will choose to remain in Boise even though he reportedly had interest in the Tennessee opening. Tucson can never be described as being on a par with Knoxville. I think Leach gets an interview but Byrne like UW AD Scott Woodward will end up hiring someone who can be clearly defined as his man.
Switching over to UCLA...Is a 6-6 record enough to save Rick Neuheisel's job?
The Bruins evened their record at 3-3 last week in a come from behind victory over Washington State. With games against Arizona, California, Arizona State, Utah, Colorado, and USC it isn't difficult to see at least three more wins on the schedule for Neu and the Bruins.
The Pac 12 is blessed with some terrible football teams this year and UCLA just happens to be one of them. This is year four for Rick at UCLA so 90% of the kids on the roster are guys he has recruited. The QB guru has failed to find the right apprentice during his last two coaching stops.
Dan Guerrero needs to ask himself this simple question. Will the Bruins improve under Rick Neuheisel or are they just going to keep treading water? Bruin fans have already made up their mind and the majority of them would love to see Guerrero hire Leach (see above) or Mike Bellotti to replace Neuheisel even if he does go 6-6.
What about Washington State...will anything less than 6-6 save Paul Wulff?
The Cougars are 3-2 so far but those two losses could end up haunting Paul Wulff at the end of the season. WSU was in a position to win both games in the fourth quarter and they blew it. The second half of the schedule is a lot tougher so finding three more wins isn't going to be easy.
The Cougs finish with Stanford, Oregon State, Oregon, Cal, ASU, Utah and Washington. Sure they could win two or three but based on how they have played the last three weeks they could easily lose all six which would guarantee the firing of Wulff.
So who would Bill Moos turn to? I am thinking he will go with a blend of experience and second chances.
John L. Smith formerly of Michigan State and Louisville would fit the mold since he has experience in the Palouse. He also will be 63 years old next season so maybe the timing isn't right. Robb Akey at Idaho is a fan favorite with deep Cougar ties and there is always Mike Belotti who is a good friend of Moos.
Over at Arizona State a 5-1 start has thrown cold water all over the hot seat of Sun Devil head coach Dennis Erickson. The season is at its midway point and the Devils have all but wrapped up the South division title. A quick look ahead reveals that 9-2 is pretty achievable and 10-1 isn't out of the question.
ASU skips Washington and Stanford on this years schedule. Up next is Oregon, Colorado, UCLA, WSU, Arizona, and Cal. The Devils should be able to coast all the way to the inaugural league championship game. If they win this Saturday they just may be hosting it.