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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    For Stoops this season could be it

    Pardon Arizona football head coach Mike Stoops if he doesn’t like talking about the status of his job – or thinking about it for that matter.

    After all, over the course of the past year the coach has been bombarded with fans calling for his head and the speculation of whether he would survive to coach the Wildcats this season.

    For Stoops, it almost has become routine.

    Worrying about where he stands with his job and how Arizona will stack up in 2008 could drive a man crazy, which is exactly why Stoops claims he doesn’t concern himself with non-football topics.

    “”It is what it is. At the end of the day you need to go out and perform and I am looking for the kids to go out and perform well throughout the course of the season,”” Stoops said in reference to the stress that is associated with being on the hot seat. “”I am more worried about the next day and what we need to do to make sure our team is prepared as we can be.

    “”That’s really not my job,”” Stoops added about concerning himself with his job status. “”My job is to coach and lead this team the best way I can and that’s really what I spend my time focusing on. The other stuff is irrelevant. Winning takes care of everything and our mission is to win every time we step out on the field.””

    While Stoops has seemingly done a good job of handling the pressure linked to being associated in talks concerning his job, he would be na’ve to tell you that it has no affect on his team.

    That’s why he sat down star quarterback Willie Tuitama before the season started to address the issue.

    “”(Stoops) has talked to me a little bit about it just because sometimes I go in there and that was really one of the first things he talked about with me this summer,”” Tuitama said. “”He really was just making sure that we don’t focus on anything but football.

    “”He really does a good job of preparing us and making sure we don’t focus on that,”” Tuitama added of Stoops’ job situation, “”He makes sure that we are focused on our task at hand and that we make sure that we are going to be prepared to play every snap of every game, and that is something he has definitely made a point of. He wants us to stay focused and not worry about him.””

    Arizona senior wideout Mike Thomas doesn’t think it has any impact on the team.

    “”It doesn’t affect us at all because we don’t have any control over it and its pretty much out of our jurisdiction,”” Thomas said. “”I mean, us being players, we don’t know what they go through on an everyday basis, especially the head coach. All I know is since we have been here we have grown for the better.””

    Regardless of the impact it has on the team, it seems as if Stoops has no choice but to win now. Entering his fifth year, the Wildcats have yet to achieve a winning season or a bowl berth.

    While Stoops has done some things very well during his tenure at Arizona – like increasing the attendance each season and winning big games in November – nothing will satisfy the Wildcat nation but a bowl berth season this year.

    Stoops knows it. The rest of Arizona’s staff knows it.

    “”The weird thing about coaching is that you never know and that’s the way it is every year,”” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes about speculation in Stoops’ job security. “”You have to go out and perform every year as a player and as a coach so I don’t really think it makes that much of a difference to our players or to us.

    “”We need to do well every year,”” Dykes added. “”So that is just part of the coaching business and the way it goes. “”

    With the pressure as high as it has ever been in recent memory, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel for Arizona.

    Just look at Arizona’s nonconference schedule. If the Wildcats have ever had the chance to bank away some wins early in the season en route to the seven win plateau needed for a guaranteed bowl berth, it is this year.

    Arizona opens up its season this Saturday against Idaho, a team that went 1-11 last year. The Wildcats then invite a Mid-American Conference team from Toledo to Arizona Stadium before going to New Mexico to take on the Lobos in week three.

    After the Wildcats conclude their nonconference schedule, Arizona opens Pacific 10 Conference play at UCLA, a team in disarray after losing both of their prospective starting quarterbacks to injury.

    Not good enough?

    The Wildcats then take on Washington and Stanford, both of which finished in the last two spots in the conference last year. Ivan Maisel, a columnist for ESPN.com, predicted the Wildcats would start the year off 6-0.

    Predictions mean nothing as of now, but the schedule is surely more manageable than what Arizona has had in years past under Stoops.

    “”I think the key for us is to play every game because in college football now you cant take anybody for granted. If you do, you are going to get beat,”” Dykes said. “”I know Idaho will come in here and think they can win the game, just like Toledo will and New Mexico will be a tough game when we go there up there.

    “”Those are three teams I guarantee you will be thinking they can have a chance to beat us,”” Dykes added, “”and that is the most important thing to winning and losing football games – is thinking that you can (win).””

    For Stoops, it’s not about the schedule but rather the confidence in where the team is at entering the season.

    “”I think we feel like we have a better football team when you look at the totality of what we have coming back offensively,”” Stoops said.

    Hot seat or not, Stoops has always maintained winning will take care of everything.

    “”It is ultimately about wins and losses and I certainly understand that,”” Stoops said.

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