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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Commentary: 3 reasons why Stoops should stay

Is Arizona’s football season effectively over? Most likely.

Is losing to two different Mountain West Conference opponents and Stanford embarrassing? Maybe.

Is it time for UA football head coach Mike Stoops to lose his job? Definitely not.

This season has been a disappointment up to this point – coaches and players would be the first to point that out. But the average fan has to put things into perspective before calling for Stoops’ removal. There are many reasons why this season hasn’t been a success, but there are just as many reasons why Stoops deserves – that’s right, deserves – at least one more year.

Patience is a virtue

Success is relative. A 3-8 record in Stoops’s first year could be viewed as a success. The year before the team only won two games.

When Stoops took the job in 2004, the defense was in shambles, and the offense couldn’t move the ball. Stoops is a defensive guy, and he turned the defense into a respectable unit in no time.

News flash, people: Stoops does not call the plays on offense, so don’t blame him for the abundance of screen passes. If you’re unhappy about that, talk to Arizona’s first-year offensive coordinator, Sonny Dykes – key phrase: first year.

You can’t call for the head coach’s job when he did what he was supposed to do. He was brought here to give the defense a hard-hitting mentality and bring back the “”Desert Swarm”” style defense from the early and mid 1990’s.

Last year, the defense gave up only 21.8 points per game, a very good number for a defense in the Pacific 10 Conference, which is known for high-octane offenses. That number rose this year, but the main reason for that is key turnovers by the offense have put the defense on short fields.

Heck, the past two seasons Arizona’s defense held a highly touted USC offense to two of its lowest point totals since Pete Carroll arrived in Los Angeles in 2001. If that’s not good enough, please tell me, what is?

Let Stoops’s recruits take the field

Stoops did engineer a defense that shut out a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in a national championship game as recent as eight years ago – see Oklahoma’s 13-2 win over Florida State in the 2000 Orange Bowl.

Safety Roy Williams was the only player on that defense to make an impact in the NFL, but the 2007 Arizona defense has at least three quality NFL prospects in Antoine Cason, Spencer Larson and Louis Holmes.

Stoops has been able to lure high-end talent to a downtrodden program, which isn’t easy – see Rob Gronkowski, Nicolas Grigsby, etc. More quality college prospects are waiting in the wings to be developed – Bryson Beirne, D’Aundre Reed, Kaniela Tuipulotu, etc.

Ask Lute Olson how much time it takes to build a quality program, and I’m sure he’d say it takes more than four years.

Look at Stoops’ record against top-25 opponents: 5-10. If you don’t include two losses to Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush’s No. 1-ranked USC teams, and last year’s LSU game in Baton Rouge, Stoops is 5-7 – a very respectable number considering the gap in talent he inherited.

The athletes are on their way back to the desert thanks to an increase in TV games during the Stoops era and good showings in those games – see the Homecoming miracles the past two years against Cal and a then-undefeated UCLA team.

So, again, be patient. Let the young athletes develop a bit more before deeming Stoops a failure.

Who’s a better option?

If that’s not enough to persuade you to keep Stoops around for at least another year, who should replace him?

The guy in his first year with Arizona (Dykes)? The little brother of the head coach (defensive coordinator Mark Stoops)? A new guy who doesn’t know the program or its players (fill in the blank here)?

Even if there was an attractive candidate, that person would probably go to a number of schools before coming to Tucson.

Many people believe that Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr is done after the end of this season. Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan is all but gone in Lincoln, and Texas A&M head coach Dennis Franchione might beat him out the door as a result of his insiders-only newsletter.

Tennessee head coach Phil Fulmer has done little to silence his critics this season: the Volunteers’ three losses were by an average of 25.6 points. Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt is feeling the heat on his backside after an 0-3 start in the Southeastern Conference.

All of those programs have a better history than Arizona – the only Pac-10 school that has never been to the Rose Bowl.

In the same town that was calling for men’s baskeball coach Lute Olson to step down after a “”terrible”” season – I mean, yet another 20-win season and NCAA Tournament appearance – why do we have such unrealistic expectations?

The truth of the matter is Arizona won’t win championships in basketball every year, and the football team probably won’t make a bowl game every year. So why call the season a failure, demand a new coach and start the rebuilding process all over again?

Stoops has made more strides to return the program to respectability than anybody since Larry Smith and Dick Tomey in the 1980’s. Let’s see if he can replicate some of their results before we turn Stoops into the next John Mackovic.

Brian Kimball is a journalism junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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