Friends, Wildcats, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to praise Mike Stoops, not to bury him.
Or something like that.
The 7.5 years of the Stoops regime produced a rollercoaster of surprising wins and shocking losses. The former stopped while the latter continued, and so the ride came to a screeching halt.
Mike Stoops’ effect on Wildcat Football was a net positive. He clearly left the program in better shape than he found it. It also can’t be denied that Stoops engineered some incredible moments, especially at Arizona Stadium:
Mike Stoops’ Wins vs. Teams that Finished Year Ranked
For the first six years the home crowd was treated to at least one field-rushing experience every season. Overall there were more losses than wins but there was always a chance you could see something special.
That final win on the list was the absolute peak of Stoops’ tenure. Second place in the Pac-10 and he still had his best coordinators, Sonny Dykes and his brother Mark, at his side. It looked like Mike Stoops was ready to be The Guy.
But Dykes and the younger Stoops both left for bigger opportunities, the margin of defeat numbers shifted in the wrong direction and here we are.
(For my fellow fans of the uniform sciences, there is visual symmetry in the fact that the first game after the peak – the 2009 Holiday Bowl – and the final game of the Stoops era both featured the Wildcats wearing white-on-white-on-white. A ghostly coincidence?)
In addition to upset wins Stoops could also be counted on for upset losses:
Mike Stoops’ Losses to Teams that Finished with Losing Record
What left UA fans dizzy was the complete lack of logical trends. The 2005 Washington loss came immediately after the huge UCLA win. The 2006 and 2007 ASU losses came after three-game winning streaks. The 7-1 start to 2010 became the 1-10 end to Stoops’ Arizona career. You could never give up on the StoopsCats but they never let you get completely comfortable.
I was in favor of letting the embattled coach finish the season but even as I was typing those words the decision had already been made. It’s fitting that Stoops’ departure produced one last shock.
The in-game antics never bothered me. In fact, the irony is Stoops wasn’t reckless enough. His image on the sideline was that of a madman but his strategy between the lines was overly sane. Punt and play defense. Kick the field goal. Drop back into a zone. Bend but don’t break.
Last Saturday in Corvallis, Mike Stoops finally broke.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
I will always remember the Cats dropping 52 points on UCLA in Willie Tuitama’s first home start. Or Antoine Cason racing into the end zone to rip Cal’s heart out. Or standing in the middle of the falling confetti on the Las Vegas Bowl turf.
I’ll remember Mike Stoops as the guy who accepted the challenge of making a winner out of Mackovic’s mess. I’ll remember him jumping into his players’ arms on the nights when everything came together.
Stoops got Arizona back to good but he couldn’t get to great. He was sliding away from good again and so we move on.
The next step is to fill the stadium for the UCLA game. Stoops haters, Stoops supporters, or just plain Wildcats, it is now the job of We The People to help recruit the next coach by putting positive energy on ESPN a week from Thursday.
O judgment! thou art fled to Bruin beasts,
And men have lost their reason.
Bear (Down) with me.
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