Change could soon be coming for Arizona Football

Oct 29, 2016; Tucson, AZ, USA; An Arizona Wildcats helmet on the field before the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 29, 2016; Tucson, AZ, USA; An Arizona Wildcats helmet on the field before the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports /

As bizarre as it may be to hear after a 63-point drubbing by your rivals, Arizona Football may actually not all that far away from contending again.

In a season that started with what “should have been” a win against USC nearly a month ago, the Arizona Football team appeared destined to show signs of progress and likely take some of the heat off of Kevin Sumlin.

After all, playing the top team in the division so tightly gave a glimmer of hope for 2020 to not be a complete disaster. Grant Gunnell appeared to join the upper echelon of Pac-12 QB’s, Gary Brightwell had a great start to his year with 112 yards, and the Wildcats took the lead from USC with 1:35 left in the game.

Arizona Wildcats
Arizona Wildcats /

Arizona Wildcats

That is until the game and this year ultimately slipped through their fingers, as USC was able to engineer a 75-yard drive in just over a minute to win the game.

This season should have started with a signature win for Sumlin, however, the game ended in defeat and things spiraled out of control from there.

Game two was a trip up to Seattle to take on Washington fresh off a close win to Oregon State. Providing some hope, albeit a sense of false hope, with a similar game plan and conditions conducive to the Wildcats offense could turn this game in to win number one.

However, this one saw the Huskies jump out to a 37-point lead through three quarters before the Wildcats showed much of a pulse to finally get on the scoreboard. Making the final score look at least a little respectable, Arizona scored 27 points in the fourth in a 44-27 defeat.

An opening drive score and solid defensive play to open up the game against UCLA in another winnable game provided even more hope and signs that this team could be able to do, and then the wheels fell off and the Bruins ran away to win 27-10. The next week against Colorado was much of the same at the defense stood strong early before forgetting how to stop the run allowing 407 yards rushing.

And then well the Arizona State game happened, and we saw nothing good from that and it felt as though the players had completely tuned out the staff and were just ready for the season to be over. It was almost as if their hearts just weren’t in it at all, as Arizona State moved with ease and caused seven Wildcats turnovers. I don’t question the player’s effort or heart all season, but the ASU game was just so much different from the rest of the year because it was just like watching the Sun Devils playing a practice squad just to get looks.

For me, it is easy to see potentially 3 wins with a full 60-minute effort on the field, as I truly believe they could have beaten USC, UCLA, and Colorado. If they were able to finish those games strong, I believe the result against Arizona State game could have had a much different flow to it.

Coaching Options if Arizona Makes the Call

I think last night’s performance likely sealed Sumlin’s fate, and now it is just a matter of timing as to when the decision is announced. With support waning more and more by the days, and former players and fans growing more vocal by the week, you can’t help but think that President Robbins and Dave Heeke know what is necessary to do at this point to get the football program back on track.

If and when the announcement is made, if I were in charge, these are the first phone calls I would make to guy to take over the program, Steve Sarkisian at Alabama, Jay Norvell at Nevada, Jamey Chadwell at Coastal Carolina, Jason Candle at Toledo, and Lance Leipold at Buffalo.

Steve Sarkisian comes with strong knowledge of the Pac-12 and with deep recruiting ties in the area. And by all accounts, from his time spent under Nick Saban, he looks to have moved past his demons and is ready for redemption by leading a program and a lesser covered team like Arizona could be the perfect fit.

Jay Norvell provides more of a Western fit, and an ability to maximize lesser-rated talent. Plus, he seems to know a thing or two about developing Quarterback talent, especially as we could see Jordan Love get selected in the First Round of this year’s NFL Draft. With a long coaching resume dating over 30 years, this could be Norvell’s best chance to make the jump to a Power 5 program.

Jamey Chadwell is a no-brainer to at least make a phone call to, since he has guided Coastal Carolina to unprecedented heights in 2020, and he may be looking to cash in and move to a Power 5 Conference. With Vanderbilt as the only other FBS with an opening so far, Arizona has the chance to provide that step into a big-time role for Chadwell.

However, he may be the toughest to convince. Coming from the heart of SEC and ACC country, he’s bound to be a hot name for all vacancies and will likely have the most leverage of head coaching candidates that the Wildcats could look at.

Jason Candle has grown as a coach with the Toledo Rockets starting as slot receivers and tight end coach in 2009 and becoming offensive coordinator in 2012.

Candle has been the Head Coach at Toledo since 2016, and according to, Candle was the top recruiter in the MAC in 2011 and was the MAC Coach of the Year in 2017 after leading the Rockets to a conference championship. Additionally, as a player, he won 2 National Championships while at Mount Union.

That’s a good resume if you ask me and him as a candidate is a no-brainer!

Lance Leipold made the jump from D-3 Wisconsin-Whitewater to the University of Buffalo in 2016, after winning 6 D-3 National Championships for the Warhawks. After a rough first 2 seasons in Buffalo going a combined 7-17 while building up his foundation, Leipold has gone 28-15 in his last 4 seasons including a 4-0 mark in 2020.

A four-time AFCA D-3 Coach of the Year, Leipold would bring a wealth of championship-caliber experience to the Wildcats, and with it a strong culture of winning that Arizona has been starved for in recent years and especially 2020.

By no means is this an extensive list of coaches that Arizona should look at and consider, as I have left off some hot names that the Wildcats should consider, however, I found these coaches to be the best chance to bring in a culture and program building skills that would make players, students, alumni, and fans proud of representing our beloved institution.

More. On Arizona Football. light

A staff overhaul may be all it takes to get Arizona back to respectability in the Pac-12, and the school needs to do it. No matter what, at Zona Zealots we will always love and support the players and program even in its darkest days. Bear Down, Arizona!