“Feels like this is the coaching equivalent of being thrashed 70-7.”
That’s how one University of Arizona football fan used facebook to express his opinion on the hire of Jedd Fisch as the new Wildcats’ head coach. The 70-7 score was in reference to the humiliating outcome of the Dec. 11 rivalry game with Arizona State that put the final nail in the coffin of former head coach Kevin Sumlin.
And that was one of the milder comments emanating from the fan base since Director of Athletics Dave Heeke announced yesterday the result of the school’s 10-day search for a new coach.
Based on the social media storm that followed the announcement, Wildcat Nation appears to be on the verge of an uprising. It appears the sentiment was with San Jose coach, Brent Brennan, the other finalist for the job.
Perhaps they were expecting a bombshell hire, something like luring Urban Meyer out of retirement. If they were, they’re not in touch with reality. Heeke would have had to find a big-name coach willing to take over a program wandering around in the Sonoran desert, coming off three straight losing seasons and a 12-game losing streak that stretches back to the 2019 season.
This is a program that has lost much of its recognition as a contender on the national stage. Since 1998, the Wildcats have finished just one season as a ranked team. This isn’t a program that just needs rebuilding. It’s a reclamation project.
And Fisch, although he has a lengthy resume of NFL and college coaching experience, has never been a head coach. In fact, he didn’t learn the game by playing it; he didn’t play in high school or college. He got into the game by convincing Steve Spurrier to hire him as a graduate assistant on Spurrier’s coaching staff at University of Florida, Fisch’s alma mater.
Since that job as grad assistant, the 44-year-old New Jersey native has built a resume that includes a multitude of stops at various programs, at various levels. He has been on college coaching staffs at University of Minnesota, Miami, Michigan, and UCLA. His NFL stops have included the Jacksonville Jaguars, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, and Los Angeles Rams. He spent last season as quarterbacks coach for the New England Patriots.
The Arizona job will be his 10th stopover in 14 seasons, never more than two years at one place.
And that well-traveled career path may be another cause for concern for the Arizona faithful. If he does have success with their program, how long will it be before he moves on again?
Fisch does have his supporters, including prominent names like NFL coaches Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll, who shared a sideline with him. But displeasure from those closer to the program was extensive; former UA player Scooby Wright was upset enough to threaten to transfer his alumni allegiance.
These fans aren’t likely to give Fisch the usual honeymoon period. They were patient through three seasons with Sumlin, during which he won just nine games overall and six in conference play. But their patience has run out. If Fisch doesn’t make big improvements early, the drumbeat will begin. And ticket sales will fall even further.
This isn’t the kind of job you normally hand over to a first-time head coach.
Should be interesting.