Hiring Joe Salave’a, the Arizona Football Pros and Cons

EUGENE, OREGON - NOVEMBER 16: Oregon Ducks Associate Head Coach Joe Salave'a looks on prior to taking on the Arizona Wildcats during their game at Autzen Stadium on November 16, 2019 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OREGON - NOVEMBER 16: Oregon Ducks Associate Head Coach Joe Salave'a looks on prior to taking on the Arizona Wildcats during their game at Autzen Stadium on November 16, 2019 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

With the Arizona Football team in the middle of their head coaching search, we take a deeper dive into current candidate and former Wildcat, Joe Salave’a.

We’re almost a full week into the Arizona Football head coaching search, and so far we have seen a lot of names pop up as potential candidates, one of which is former Wildcat, Joe Salave’a.

A popular name among Arizona Football fans, Big Joe is the candidate that is seemingly getting pushed for the most in this coaching search.

Arizona Wildcats
Arizona Wildcats /

Arizona Wildcats

I mean, he’s a relatively young, coach that is steadily rising in the ranks. He comes from a highly visible, and high-ranking position at Oregon, which has helped him to establish more credibility in the coaching circles.

But perhaps most importantly are his ties to Arizona. Given the fans, boosters, and alumni’s push for hiring someone with Arizona connections this time around, naturally, being the former Wildcat legend that he is, of course, he is a serious candidate.

On paper, he looks solid! Joe seems to check all the right boxes, and there’s no doubt he would bring a lot of passion and commitment to the program, after all, it is his Alma Mater.

However, compared to some of the other candidates being considered, he certainly pales a bit in comparison purely from a resume standpoint.

For those that need a reminder, here’s Joe’s resume:

Joe Salave’a

Age: 45
Position: Associate Head Coach/Defensive Line Coach
School: Oregon
Alma Mater: Arizona


  • Arizona -1994-97
  • Drafted by the Tennessee Oilers/Titans in 1998
  • Oilers/Titans – 1998–01
  • Baltimore Ravens – 2003
  • San Diego Chargers – 2003
  • Washington Redskins – 2004–06
  • San Jose State (Defensive Line Coach) – 2008–09
  • Arizona (Defensive Line Coach) – 2011
  • Washington State (AHC/DL) – 2012-16
  • Oregon (AHC/DL) – 2017–Present

Not bad, and again, on paper, this looks like it would be a solid hire, but there would be some Pros & Cons to bringing Joe in.


  • He’s a young, steadily rising coach in the College Football ranks, and most likely, he is going to be hungry and ready for the opportunity to prove himself.
  • He has Arizona ties being a former player here himself, so he understands the history, culture, and tradition at Arizona. That’s a fairly important element in this hire here since that’s exactly what Arizona needs moving forward to be successful. So finding someone who is invested in the uniqueness that is Arizona Football will go a long way.
  • He is a strong recruiter. There’s no doubt the Wildcats have needed help desperately in the recruiting department, having signed classes ranked towards the bottom in the conference for about the past 10 years. If he can bring just a little bit of that success to Tucson, it’s going to raise the level of play and talent immensely.
  • He was a tough-nosed player, and that seems to translate into his coaching style. At Washington State, he seemed to put together some solid Defensive Lines, and at Oregon, it is more of the same as well. If there’s one Arizona has suffered in the past few years, it’s along the defensive line.


  • He has no head coaching experience. Granted, that is not a deal-breaker, however, what he would be learning as a head coach, would more or less be on the fly. For a program that desperately needs to turn things around, and will also likely be going through an extensive rebuild project, is hiring an unproven head coach worth the risk?
  • It has been rumored that Joe doesn’t call his own plays at Oregon, and hasn’t had the opportunity to do so in the past either. Granted, play-calling doesn’t necessarily fall completely on the head coach, there is a sort of game management that comes with being a head coach, and that is something Joe hasn’t done yet.
  • While it is widely known that Joe is a good recruiter with the Ducks, please excuse the painfully obvious here, but recruiting at Oregon is not like recruiting at Arizona. Oregon has a lot more money and resources than Arizona does, so it is hard to see him even getting close to the same level of success here. How would he be able to adjust to that at Arizona, especially when the expectations to perform in a head coaching role are even higher?

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At Zona Zealots, we’re curious to see how this coaching search pans out. What are your thoughts on the Wildcats potentially hiring Joe? As always, Bear Down, Arizona!