Arizona Wildcats head coach Mike Stoops is in a bad situation. Arizona's new athletic director, Greg Byrne, is a motivated individual, that is clearly set on improving all aspects of University of Arizona athletics. The most public demonstration of this was the Alamo Bowl berth. There were numerous reports that A.D. Byrne mobilized former Wildcats on a P.R. campaign, and gave a detailed presentation to the Alamo Bowl committee. Locals of Tucson, Arizona have been witnessing all year long how A.D. Byrne has been implementing changes to improve game day, and the overall culture of Arizona Athletics. From the introduction of the 'Wildcat walk', to a stepped up sportsmanship campaign, to plans for improvements to the football and baseball stadiums being announced, Byrne has been anything but subtle in his desire for an immediate and significant improvement in all aspects of Arizona athletics.
So with all of that being said, it is very difficult to believe that coach Stoops will have a lot of wiggle room this coming season. Yes, coach Stoops has rebuilt the Arizona football program from the steaming pile of garbage that John Mackovic left behind after he completely failed as Arizona's head coach. But coach Stoops has allowed the Wildcats to stagnate for two years now. A third year could cost him his job. It is clear that he must demonstrate that not only is the team improving, but that it will continue to do so.
This is the cost of improving the football program. The Arizona fans will have to be able to say 'thanks, and best of luck' to coach Stoops if he is not ready to immediately improve the football team. If we want Arizona to be one of the 'big boys' of NCAA football one day, we need the coaches that have the ability to not only game plan and call plays, but recruit 4 and 5 star players immediately and on a regular basis. Unfortunately, that has been the major weakness of the Mike Stoops tenure. While coach Stoops has had some good recruiting classes, he hasn't consistently been able to recruit on par with the rest of the Pac-10. A look at the recruiting class rankings over the last five years highlights the recruiting problem. The past five classes, not including this season's incomplete class, show a disturbing trend. Out of the Pac-10, Arizona's recruiting classes were ranked 3rd, 6th, 7th, 7th, and 8th.
Arizona can't move on to the next level, if the recruiting classes are consistently ranked in the bottom half of the conference. I hate to say it, but unless coach Stoops makes an immediate and dramatic improvement to the team in the 2011-12 season, A.D. Byrne needs to find a coach that has the name value to recruit at the highest level immediately.
I am a Mike Stoops fan. I am extraordinarily grateful for what he has done for the University of Arizona, and the Tucson community. But this isn't high school football. This is Pac-10(12) football. Arizona is ready to move forward, and regularly compete for the Pac-12 title. It would be great if coach Stoops were the man to lead them there. But if not, Arizona can't wait on him forever.