Three words can describe why Mike Stoops was brought to Arizona, what happened when he was here, and why he was let go.
His rebuilding peaked.
He was brought to the Arizona Wildcats to bring a two-win team from 2003 out of the basement following the ugly departure of John Mackovic. He did that.
Then, you know the rest of the story. Incremental growth in his first four seasons finally led to a bowl berth in his fourth, the first in nine seasons for the Wildcats. Arizona won the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl against BYU and followed it up with shellackings against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl of 2009 and Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl of 2010.
The latter season ended with the first half of UA's current 10-game losing skid to FBS teams.
Mike Stoops Year-by-Year at Arizona: 2004 (3-8) 2005 (3-8) 2006 (6-6) 2007 (5-7) 2008 (8-5) Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl 2009 (8-5) Pacific Life Holiday Bowl 2010 (7-6) Valero Alamo Bowl 2011 (1-5)
It was clear that Stoops, after average success, had peaked.
He finished his career with a 41-50 record for the Wildcats through 7.5 seasons in Tucson after Arizona AD Greg Byrne announced Monday night that he had relieved Stoops of his duties. Stoops was on a recruiting trip and was asked to return to Tucson this morning, where Byrne told him of the news.
From Stoops statement released to the media late Monday night:
"When I took this job, I was hoping to be the first coach to lead this program to a Rose Bowl. Although we fell short of that goal, we made significant progress, and our organization continues to strive for excellence. I wish the entire Wildcat football program the best of luck going forward, and I thank the University of Arizona for the opportunity to be a part of the successes we have achieved over the past eight seasons."
It was not a surprise, and the firing won't come with much criticism. Stoops didn't get it done. But what's odd about Stoops' eight-year tenure was how long he had enduring the chatter amongst fans year-in, year-out. He was always under the microscope, when losses to doormat teams like New Mexico would then be forgotten by upset wins against top-25 squads.
The vice versa occurred as well. For a basketball school, however, the head football coach was scrutinized, often unfairly, for the littlest things. Turning the ship around from a coach who had questionable tactics in interacting with his players, Stoops' was often under the hot seat more for his hot head than for his on-field performances.
It was only the second time that Arizona had gone bowling three years in a row. And it was just more than a year ago, Sept. 18, 2010, to be exact, that Stoops had the team ranked No. 9 in the country. Yes, that was a bit misguided considering who Arizona had played, but for the first time this team had beaten the teams it was supposed to beat.
Oh how things change.
It was time to go, for sure. But let's not forget that Stoops' role is still essential for Arizona to reach elitehood. He sent the Antoine Casons, Spencer Larsens, Brooks Reeds and Earl Mitchells to the NFL. He made it possible for more like them to follow -- Nick Foles and Juron Criner will no doubt be NFL players, as might a guy like Ka'Deem Carey or Adam Hall.
Stoops did the rebuilding, and now it's time for someone to use the soon-to-be upgraded facilities and take it a step further.
With defensive coordinator Tim Kish taking over as interim coach, the Wildcats will ride out this season, one that Byrne says needed a fresh start.
The two reasons for making the decision, according to Byrne:
"One for team, we feel like we needed a fresh start htis season. We wanted them to have fun playing football. We felt like this would give them a fresh start."
"And then the second thing is it gives us a head start on the process of finding a new football coach."