Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 10/10/11
TUCSON, Ariz. -- It was a move that had to be made. At some point, Greg Byrne had to make the call to say it wasnt working. Not just the winning or in Mike Stoops case, the losing but Byrne had to think of Arizonas athletic department and the future of the football program with fan dissention and possible defection after UAs 1-5 start. Where Byrne goes now, in trying to find Arizona's 29th football coach, is anyones guess. The last time he had to go out and find a coach was 2008, when he was at Mississippi State and hired Dan Mullen away from Florida. The process will start immediately, and it will start with a small group of three or four UA athletic administrators. It will be exhaustive in all our research to find the best fit and the best person, Bryne said Monday. After today, I wont speak about our search until we have a new coach. He followed by saying he understands the world of instant information and said the only accurate information will come from him. Byrne said he expects, or at least hopes, to have a new head coach in place by mid-December. The question: Who? We know who is available, but who is the right fit? And we know who are the usual suspects in coaching searches when major programs fire a coach, but are they realistic? Former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, who was let go after the 2010 season by Michigan. But do you want a coach who went through a contentious buyout-related lawsuit when he went to Michigan from his alma mater, West Virginia? Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, a passing-game mastermind who was let go by Texas Tech following a disputed incident with player Adam James and is involved in an ongoing lawsuit with ESPN over the coverage of his firing (James' father, Craig James, works for ESPN). Former Florida coach Urban Meyer, who is now an analyst for ESPN after resigning from the Gators in 2010. His price may be too high, and he might be holding out for opportunities at bigger-name programs such as Ohio State and Penn State. Boise State coach Chris Peterson, who has been widely successful at Boise State. Last winter, however, Peterson turned down interest from Stanford (and possible interest from others) to stay with the Broncos. Bryne and Peterson have a past relationship from their time at the University of Oregon. Texas Christians Gary Patterson, who is in his 11th season with the Horned Frogs. Maybe you make a call to any or all just to test the waters? How much will Byrne have to pay for his desired candidate? Theres no specific number, but Byrne said we need to be competitive. That is critical. It is the marketplace if you like it or not. You have to be competitive. In having recently hired Mullen at Mississippi State, Bryne said he knows he must keep the process close to the vest. I know this is shocking, Byrne said, tongue in cheek, but on occasion, an agent may try to spread a rumor of a coach (may) try to get their name out there. Maybe they are trying to use one against the other. If they want to do that, that is fine. We dont want them to do that at the expense of the University of Arizona. Keeping the information confidential is pivotal. When asked if interim coach Tim Kish could be considered if he does well, Byrne said Kish knows hes the interim coach. We are going to be wide open for candidates, Byrne said. The race to find one starts now, as Bryne had seen enough over the last year. On Sunday, following the Wildcats' 37-27 loss to previously winless Oregon State on Saturday, he called interim UA president Eugene Sander to talk about his decision. I congratulated him for making a decisive decision, Sander said. Dragging something like this out is just painful, particularly for the players. Thats who I had the most concern about. And so the Stoops era ends seven and a half seasons after it started under former UA athletic director Jim Livengood. Arizona is 1-5 this season and was 41-50 during Stoops' tenure. Byrne said it will take somewhere around 1.4 million to buy out the remaining two years on Stoops contract. I always worry about that kind of money, but if you want to play in the big leagues, you have to do what you got to do, Sander said. And if paying the fair market value is the only way to get the right coach, Arizona must do that, too.
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