Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 10/11/11

       Move over Mike Locksley, you’ve got company in the group of head coaches fired in 2011. Arizona announced yesterday that head coach Mike Stoops’ contract with the school had been terminated effective immediately. Stoops, who went 41-50 in 8 years as Wildcats head coach, seemed to have rebuilt the previously-dormant Arizona squad, taking them all the way to #9 last season. However, that success seems like a distant memory now, as the Wildcats lost their last five games in the 2010 season and currently sit at 1-5 this year with their only win coming against FCS Northern Arizona in the season opener. “When I took this job, I was hoping to be the first coach to lead this program to a Rose Bowl,” Stoops said in a statement issued by his agent. “Although we fell short of that goal, we made significant progress, and our organization continues to strive for excellence. I wish the entire Wildcat football program the best of luck going forward, and I thank the University of Arizona for the opportunity to be a part of the successes we have achieved over the past eight seasons.” Wildcats defensive coordinator Tim Kish will serve as the interim head coach for the rest of the season.

           Arizona’s quick descent from top of the PAC-12 to one of the worst teams in a BCS conference is very surprising to say the least, and it appears that the school felt that this decline in play was due to Stoops’ inability to get the job done. Stoops is a fine head coach despite his tendency to blowup on the sidelines, and while I believe he will be a head coach somewhere else soon, he may need to step back and use what happen with the Wildcats as a lesson for his coaching style. Now that Arizona’s head coaching position is vacant, who will the Wildcats hire to be their new leader? Here are 5 coaches I would advise the school to consider:

Mike Bellotti, former Oregon HC – Make no mistake about it: Bellotti will return to head coaching if he’s given the right opportunity. The former Ducks head coach showed that he can keep a team competitive against the best of the best in the PAC-12, going 116-55 with 2 PAC-12 titles in his fourteen years at Oregon. Arizona has shown that they are capable of posting 7-5 or 8-4 seasons, but they want to compete for both conference and national titles; Bellotti might be just the man to get them to that level.

Chris Petersen, Boise State HC – Petersen leaving Boise State for Arizona is an absolute longshot here, but he does have a history with Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne (both worked together at Oregon in the ’90s). I would be flabbergasted if Petersen were to leave the Broncos for the Wildcats job, but it is interesting to keep in mind that Boise State looks to be stuck in its non-BCS situation for quite a while, meaning that there will always be critics of Petersen’s teams and the fact that “they don’t play enough tough opponents”. If he were to head to Arizona, that statement would be thing of the past.

Mike Leach, former Texas Tech HC – It’s a matter of when, not if, Leach will return to coaching, and this situation looks good for the former Red Raiders head coach. Leach said that he wants to coach a team with a lot of potential, and with the Wildcats the sky’s the limit. Leach might be holding back to wait on the Kentucky head coaching job (he was once the Kentucky offensive coordinator), but it is entirely possible that he becomes the head coach of the Wildcats team out west.

Kevin Sumlin, Houston HC – When you’re the head coach of a non-BCS school that doesn’t lose, your name gets thrown around for nearly every job in a BCS conference. The Cougars are sitting at 6-0 and #25 in the AP Poll, and Sumlin, who spent his first three years as an assistant coach in the PAC-12 at Washington State, deserves a lot of the credit for their success. Expectations on the season for Houston were hard to gauge following their disappointing 5-7 season last year, but the team has came out of the gates firing and have never looked back. Only 47 years old, Sumlin will be coaching in a BCS conference next year, whether if it’s due to Houston moving into the Big 12 or him taking another job.

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