Mike Stoops is out at UA following 1-5 football start

The “Wildcat Movement” just took a sharp left.  Greg Byrne, the University of Arizona AD, has announced the dismissal of head football coach, Mike Stoops.

Stoops was in his eighth year at the helm of the Wildcat program and brought it back from a 2-10 season the year prior to his arrival from the University of Oklahoma, where he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator.

He took the Cats to bowl games the last three years, but suffered embarrassing blow-out losses in the last two.  The program got off to a 7-1 start last season, but lost the final five games – and then picked up this season by going 1-5, with the only win coming to Northern Arizona.

The 37-27 loss to Oregon State was the straw the broke the camel’s back.  OSU was the last-place team in the Pac-12 – until they beat Arizona, that is.

Byrne is still relatively new to the Athletics Director’s job at Arizona.  He was hired away from Mississippi State in March of 2010, where he filled a similar position for just two years.

Ironically, his resume also includes a stop at Oregon State, where he worked in that school’s athletic department.  Perhaps it was the embarrassment of losing to his former employer that helped fuel the fire.

Byrne is seen as a very likable individual, generally regarded as easy to get along with.  But he has his hard side, as does any athletic director who is good at his or her job.

While at Mississippi State, Byrne forced the resignation of the school’s head football coach, Sylvester Croom.  Croom was the Southeastern Conference’s first African-American football coach and well liked by most of the fans.

The firing of Stoops, who went 41-50 at Arizona, was probably less difficult, more black-and-white.  It was becoming obvious that the younger brother of Oklahoma’s head coach, Bob Stoops, was not going to transform the Arizona program into another Oklahoma.

Mike Stoops was apparently capable of restoring some respect to a program that was downtrodden for too many years.  But taking it to the next level appears to be “above his pay grade.”

Byrne made the announcement in his weekly newsletter to the Wildcat Nation.  The arrival of the ‘Wildcat Wednesday’ on Monday was obviously a result of the breaking news.

Under the headline, “A Change in Leadership,” Byrne said the decision to replace Stoops was “the result of an ongoing evaluation of our program since my arrival a year and a half ago.” The loss to the Beavers was evidently the trigger for the decision.

Byrne acknowledged Stoops’ achievements and said the former coach had done an “admirable job.”  He announced the defensive coordinator, Tim Kish, as the interim coach going forward and said the school will begin a search for a new head coach immediately, with expectations of making the hiring following the close of the season.

Kish, 57, has been the defensive coordinator all eight years of Stoops’ tenure.

Byrne had earlier spoken with the team and with the coaches about his decision, but said he will have little else to say publicly until he’s ready to announce a replacement.

Regarding the players, he said: “Our immediate focus is the team… we have nearly two dozen seniors on our football team and we want them to finish their Arizona career by playing in a bowl game.”

That’s going to be a tall order.  The Cats would have to run the table to even have enough wins to be bowl-eligible.  And there’s not a single game that could be considered a ‘signature win’ that would make them attractive to bowl selection committees.  They’ve already lost to those kind of teams.

The one exception could be the rivalry game with Arizona State, which moved up from No. 22 to No. 18 after last week’s win over Utah.

But, that too, would be a tall order.