Cat Chat: This Season Makes it Easy to Forget What Mike Stoops Brought


When a college football season goes sour–and for the Wildcats, I mean extremely sour–it is easy to point out all of the flaws of the man in charge and scream “off with his head!” It is easy to overlook the laundry list of injuries that the Cats have faced on defense this year and the lack of experience on the offensive line, instead focusing on the 10 game losing streak (NAU does not count) and Stoops’ growing reputation for failing under the spotlight, lacking in discipline and throwing temper tantrums on the sideline.

It would be an overstatement to claim that letting Mike Stoops go was premature or incorrect.  Stoops had lost control of his team and it is time for a new look–such is the brutal environment that is college football.  In letting Stoops go, however, it is easy to forget what the man brought to the University of Arizona football program.

It is easy to forget that Mike Stoops took over a program that  had previously lost 24 out of 35 games in three seasons. Under John Mackovic, the Cats actually got worse the longer they played for him (2001:5-6; 2002: 4-8; 2003: 2-10 and dead last in the Pac-10). Mike Stoops pulled the football program out of the hopeless hole that it was in and made it into a respectable threat.  He took Arizona to three consecutive bowl games, which is only the second time that the Wildcat football program has accomplished such a feat (1992-94).  In 2009, Stoops’ team was one unlucky play away from going to the Rose Bowl for the first time in school history (anyone remember the “interception” that Nick Foles threw to Washington’s 12th man, the turf?);  before that, the last time that the Wildcats ended up 2nd in the Pac-10 was in 1998.  Under Stoops, the Cats went 41-50, which is  an inaccurate reflection of his success when you consider the amount of time it took for Stoops to rebuild the disaster that Mackovic had created.

It is easy to forget that 16 of the players coached under Mike Stoops were drafted into the NFL, including the current success stories of Mike Thomas (Jacksonville), Antoine Cason (San Diego) and Brooks Reed (Houston).  At the end of the season, Nick Foles and Juron Criner will join that list.  Ask any one of those players, and they will tell you that they couldn’t have done it without Mike Stoops.  Ask any player that ever played under the helm of Mike Stoops, and they will tell you that he truly cared about their development and success.

It is easy to forget that, before the recent 10 game skid the Cats have experienced, the University of Arizona football program was notorious for handing out its fair share of upset specials at home (for reference, see 2005 upset special vs. #7 UCLA, 2006 upset special vs. #8 California, 2007 upset special vs. #2 Oregon, 2010 upset special vs. #9 Iowa).  Stoops brought fans to the stands and Arizona Stadium was louder than it had been in years. The fans knew that there would be at least one big game to look forward to every year. In fact, Stoops holds the record for having 7 consecutive seasons of averaging 50,000 fans in the stands or more.

It is easy to forget that the spit flying, foot stomping, eye popping theatrics that Mike displayed on the sideline were once a welcoming change from the unemotional, Ben-Stein-like demeanor of John Mackovic, who stood on the sidelines like he would rather be watching the game from a luxury suite. At the beginning of the Mike Stoops era, fans actually cheered when Stoops ripped the ref a new one.  Unlike the previous coach, the new coach showed that he was passionate; he showed that he cared.

During a problematic season that will soon be easy to forget, it is important to remember the ever so passionate man that brought great memories and success to a football program and town where great memories and success were far overdue.

Thank you Mike Stoops. You will be remembered.