Mike Stoops Talks About Challenge at Arizona

By Jay Beck

Mike Stoops is back as the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma after spending the past eight seasons at the head coach at Arizona where he compiled a 41-50 record.  His return to Norman has been well received by Sooner fans, as well it should be.  The guy proved during his last stop at Oklahoma that he knows a little bit about defense, a trait that obviously runs in the family.

Oklahoma is currently in the midst of spring practice with nine practices still to go following spring break which is happening this week in Norman.

Stoops return to the OU practice field didn’t stop him from making a few comments about his previous coaching stop in Tucson, however.  He wasn’t bringing a knife to a gunfight in the desert, but rather a toothpick – or something along those lines.

“When you don’t have a football facility and every Mountain West team has one and you don’t, that’s a problem. We were playing at a BCS level and I feel like I was fighting with a toothpick and they’ve got a bat,” Stoops said in an interview with Bryan Fischer from CBS sports earlier this week.

That followed his comments insinuating that the commitment from the university as a whole wasn’t necessarily at the level it needed to be to have a top-shelf program.

“We may have got it as good as it can get. You have to be realistic with what your expectations are and you should have high expectations, I certainly did. But what you’re capable of and what the circumstances that are dealt to you, it’s hard to achieve those big goals of winning a championship there,” Stoops said of his time at Arizona. “There’s a reason they haven’t won a championship at Arizona and it’s not bad coaching or bad players. You can blame it on anything you want, football and championships are about commitments made university wide. It’s a commitment made to winning, not at all costs but there is a cost.”

What do you say Arizona fans?

The Wildcat program joined the then Pac-8 Conference in 1978 along with Arizona State to create the Pac-10 Conference.  Since the conference switch from the WAC, Arizona has shared one conference title, that coming in 1993.  The school has appeared in 15 bowl games in its history and have never appeared in the Rose Bowl, settling for the Fiesta Bowl in 1993 while UCLA went to the Rose Bowl by virtue of the tiebreaker.

From the outside looking in, it certainly appears like a school that should be competing for more championships.  While Arizona isn’t necessarily a hot bed for high school recruits (41 Division 1 signees in 2011), it’s close to California which produces more Division I football recruits than any other state except Texas and Florida.  And I can think of worse places to go to college if considering nothing else but the weather.

It should be noted, however, the school is trying to help the cause.  They are in the process of building a new $72 million football facility which is expected to be completed in the summer of 2013.  The school also replaced Stoops on a permanent basis with Rich Rodriguez as their new head coach.  While he had a great run at West Virginia, his three years at Michigan produced mediocre results leading to a year as a TV analyst before moving to Arizona.

Whether or not Rodriguez is able to find the magic touch in Arizona is a story yet to be told, but hopefully he’ll have more of a fighting chance that the coaches who came before him did.  The new facility is a great start, but it is just that, a start.

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