Mike Stoops was fired as head coach of the University of Arizona football team today. There seems to be a lot of joy over this decision and a lot of hate towards Mike Stoops. Personally, I don't understand why. Now, I don't think Stoops was the greatest coach in the world, but I do think he did a lot for the UA program. Let's have a look at where we were when he arrived in 2004.
We were coming off of a 2-10 season. Players were ready to mutiny against Coach Mackovic. We struggled to fill half the stadium. Games weren't even being broadcast on local TV. We hadn't made a bowl game in six seasons. In other words, the program was in shambles. Then Stoops came and restored some order. After a couple rocky seasons he got things rolling in the right direction. People started coming to games, the team was competitive, and there was some excitement surrounding the program. In 2008 we made a bowl game for the first time in ten years. Then we made two more in the years following. That was only the second time in program history we made three straight bowl games. Games were selling out. The tailgates were packed. Games were being shown on ESPN. Heck, even College Game Day showed up in 2009! The program was relevant again. Then the 2011 season came along and the expectations were high. Maybe too high.
That seems to be the biggest problems with UA fans. They expect things that likely can't be delivered. How can you expect your team to go to the Rose Bowl every year when they have never been? It's fair to expect our women's softball team to go to the College World Series every year, and our men's basketball team to go to the NCAA tournament. But Stoops was never able to deliver a Rose Bowl so he must be a failure. Right? Well, I don't believe that. He did a good job for a program that is not a national powerhouse. And I think we should recognize Stoops for what he did do for the program instead of focusing on what he didn't do. It's only fair to him, his players, and his coaches.
Will the next coach have any more success than Stoops did? I don't know, but I do think we should temper our expectations. Let's focus on making bowl games every year, and, hopefully, a Rose Bowl will come one day. For now, Coach Kish takes over and I couldn't be happier for him. I've been lucky enough to get to know Coach Kish over the last eight years and I can honestly say he is one of the nicest people I have ever met. His family is absolutely wonderful and I know this is an exciting time for all of them. I know that he will be successful and represent the program with class and dignity. And it is important to know that his first game as coach is a Thursday night ESPN game that ultimately would not have existed without the work that Coach Stoops put in.
Bear Down! Go Cats!