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Arizona defensive coordinator Don Brown ‘top candidate’ for UMass job, per report

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Where would the Arizona Wildcats be without Don Brown turning around their long-struggling defense? There’s a chance we may find out quite soon.

Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports is reporting that Brown “has emerged as the top candidate for the head coaching job at UMass,” which fired Walt Bell earlier this month after going 2-23 in 2-plus seasons.

Brown, 66, is in his first season at Arizona after spending the previous five years as Michigan’s defensive coordinator. Before that he’d spent his entire coaching career in the Northeast, including a 5-year stint as Massachusetts’ head coach from 2004-08. He went 43-19 with the Minutemen, leading them to two FCS playoff appearances, and including stints at Northeastern and Division III Plymouth (N.H.) State he is 95-45 as a head coach.

Arizona ranks 54th nationally in total defense, their highest ranking since 2010, allowing 364 yards per game. The Wildcats were 116th in 2020, 120th in 2019 and 92nd in 2018, having only finished in the top 100 three times since 2011.

Brown is earning $1.7 million this season, though $1.2 million of that comes from the remaining year of his contract at Michigan. Arizona is paying the remaining $500,000 and that salary goes up to $800,000 in 2022.

Bell was paid $625,000 this season by UMass, among the lowest head-coaching salaries in FBS.

The Minutemen, who are 1-9 this season, are an independent program that is scheduled to play the majority of its games on the road in 2022, including four of the first five.