The Guesswork Is Over

March 22, 2004

TUCSON - Cats Put Halt to Four-month Speculation About Changeover

Commentary by UA staff

Football is the engine that drives NCAA Division I athletics -- aside from the bounty provided by a billion-dollar television contract for the NCAA Men's Basketball Championships, a gold mine that is not shared exactly equally by the participants.

Nearly all college athletics programs derive their ultimate prosperity from the gate receipts and allied income produced by their football teams.

Four months ago, Arizona made a change in its football leadership, luring noted defensive coordinator Mike Stoops from a championship program at Oklahoma. The bottom line: ensuring its ability to score a piece of the real pie. UA's 2-10 season a year ago didn't exactly whet the folks' appetites.

Tuesday, March 23, the UA starts the new era in earnest. The Cats open spring football practice and face a month of true indoctrination for coaches and players.

Hire a guy, get a new staff, sign some recruits, install some new schemes... then face the dirty work when all this stuff hits the practice field. Student-athletes want to see what the new coaches bring, coaches want to see which players have the talent and gumption to be part of the 2004 club. The evaluation starts now.

Everyone at UA with a grasp of the situation eagerly anticipates the March-April practice sessions.

Arizona athletics director Jim Livengood and the football coach search committee headed by associate AD Kathleen LaRose felt Nov. 29 that they found the best man for the job, and all quarters in UA's athletics department have championed the choice. Truly, the inner sanctum in McKale Center feel the day is dawning for UA football.

Tuesday is the day to begin putting it all in perspective.

No one expects Stoops or anyone on the entirely new coaching staff to come up with all-inclusive summations about the program for a while.

The good part is that the start of spring ball gives the new staff a real chance to begin making the decisions that will shape UA football in the next several years. Stoops brought in men from varied coaching backgrounds, but with one common denominator: they worked at places that won games.

In his own case, it's been a phenomenal ride as an assistant, first as a player and coach under Hayden Fry at Iowa, then Bill Snyder at Kansas State, and finally working with his brother, Bob Stoops, at Oklahoma. At each stop a consistent thread of hard work and football savvy were sufficient to bring success to those programs. The guy is a football coach of some repute. His hire the day after UA's season ended robbed a half-dozen other top programs seeking head coaches of the nationally popular pick.

Now, UA gets to witness what it expects as dynamic change.

A tougher team is what most insiders depend on. UA's modern football reputation -- several decades' worth -- was all about being a rugged unit. Stoops' defensive background is steeped in those goods.

Finally, no more talk about it.

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