Warranted or not, Mike Stoops' criticism of Arizona football is no lie

Hindsight is 20/20, timing is everything and you won't win if you're "fighting with a toothpick and they've got a bat."

The last of those three cliches comes from former Arizona Wildcats head football coach Mike Stoops.

He told Bryan Fischer of CBS Sports that he felt Arizona's facilities and general commitment to the football program were lacking, a reason for the Wildcats' struggle to even sniff conference championships throughout their history in what's now the Pac-12. Coming from football-cultured Oklahoma and then returned to become his brother Bob's defensive coordinator, it's hard to blame him for the criticism.

The first two of those cliches are also true, however.

Hindsight is 20/20 because had Stoops known the former before jumping ship at Oklahoma to take on his own head coaching position, maybe he would've thought twice about heading off to Tucson.

"When you don't have a football facility and every Mountain West team has one and you don't, that's a problem," Stoops told CBS. "We were playing at a BCS level and I feel like I was fighting with a toothpick and they've got a bat."

The opportunity to lead his own program, of course, is a tempting opportunity that likely couldn't have been passed up.

And to the point of timing being a key player in his departure, Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne's commitment to building the football program comes too late. Byrne's $72 million football stadium additions were the right move coming at the wrong time for Stoops.

Because of that, I don't believe Stoops is placing blame on Byrne with his comments. Had the new AD arrived even a few years earlier in Stoops' tenure, the booster backing wouldn't have been as fed up with a struggling football team.

Former athletic director Jim Livengood ultimately was known for keeping the Arizona Athletic Department in sound financial position, but it's hopeless to wonder about how much more could have been done to find enough donors for improvements to an ancient-looking football stadium.

Byrne surely hasn't been slow about finding wealthy Arizona alumni willing to put the stadium on their tab.

"We may have got it as good as it can get," Stoops said of his situation at Arizona. "You have to be realistic with what your expectations are and you should have high expectations, I certainly did. But what you're capable of and what the circumstances that are dealt to you, it's hard to achieve those big goals of winning a championship there."

In the end, timing was the reason that Byrne had no other choice but to fire Stoops this past season, and that's despite them having what appeared to be a decent relationship with one another (then again, that opinion comes from someone who doesn't buy the talk of "Coach X wasn't his boss' quote-on-quote 'guy'").

The CBS interview with Stoops only proves a point that we've seen time and time again.

"There's a reason they haven't won a championship at Arizona and it's not bad coaching or bad players. You can blame it on anything you want, football and championships are about commitments made university wide. It's a commitment made to winning, not at all costs but there is a cost."

Could he have fought for more funding from Livengood? Perhaps. Could he have invested more time within the Tucson community? Probably. But in a world of materialism and millions of dollars shelled out because of kids playing collegiate sports, money makes a program, whether it comes down to the arena they're playing in or the jerseys they're wearing.

Ka'Deem Carey's quip earlier this year about almost committing to Arizona State because of their Nike jerseys holds a lot of weight.

So does the luxurious renovation of the basketball team's locker room a year ago.

"That's what us kids like," Momo Jones told the media last January. "We like the glamour and the flashy stuff. We like to call our friends all around the country and say, ‘our locker room is better than yours' or ‘we got this amount of things in our locker room.'"

Next year, when the football team has at least a good chuck of its upgraded facilities finished for first-year coach Rich Rodriguez, we'll see the difference of how well Arizona football is received by its own players, recruits and the outside media.

And Stoops will probably be proved correct.

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