You gotta at least ask. Then ask the other one.
Photo by Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic

A major benefit of a coaching vacancy is when the games don’t go well you have something else to talk about.

The Arizona Wildcats got off to a good start in Seattle and held a 4th quarter lead but couldn’t seal the deal against the Washington Huskies. Tim Kish’s dream of a half-perfect season is over.

Who’s up for some head coach candidates?

After reading and listening and talking to people much smarter than me, the full list of potential coaches is right here.

(Go ahead and open it in a new window so you can toggle back and forth. I’ll wait.)

((Ready? Alt-tab it up!))

Now for my opinions. I don’t pretend to know what Greg Byrne is thinking. He doesn’t want anyone to know. These are just the thoughts of one guy in the bleachers at Arizona Stadium.

I’m already on record saying I want an active college head coach. The thing with both assistants and former coaches from high level programs is they’re used to the recruiting advantages that come with high level programs. Can they recreate their success with a program trying to get from average to great?

The thought behind targeting a successful head coach from a non-BCS conference is he’s already winning with less-regarded recruits. The hope is the upgrade in access to players outweighs the step up in competition.

Among the “mid-major” coaches I like the talk around Larry Fedora at Southern Mississippi and Kevin Sumlim at Houston. Both are in their fourth season as a head coach but I give the edge to Fedora for having been the offensive coordinator at three different places including Florida and Oklahoma State. It’s interesting that the two are on track to meet in the Conference USA championship game on December 3. Does Byrne show up with a contract and offer it to the winner? (Or maybe to the loser, like Ced Dempsey did at the 1983 Sweet Sixteen.)

It made sense for Arizona to go with an assistant last time but the status of the program has been elevated in the past eight years. The football facilities are about to get a major overhaul with the north end zone project and the Pac-12 is financially stronger than it’s ever been. If there’s ever going to be a time when a hot up-and-coming head coach seriously considers coming to Tucson it’s right now.

I know people are going to look at the biggest names on the list and say there’s no way they come here. I say if a guy isn’t at a traditional football power you have to at least ask. TCU’s Gary Patterson and Boise State’s Chris Petersen certainly fall into that category. There is a rumor from Phoenix sports radio that Petersen has already said no. If true, so be it. At least you took a shot at the biggest fish.

The most polarizing name on the list is former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. Some think he’s the ideal candidate while others wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pirate’s sword. Leach has said he wants to be coaching next year and it sure sounds like he’s interested in the Arizona job.

The way I look at Leach is this: If he were still at Texas Tech would he be a candidate? No, he’d be in the “tremendous hire but no chance he comes to Arizona” group. Did the Son of Craig James incident and the aftermath change Leach’s ability to lead a winning football program? I say no.

So here’s my list:

1. Gary Patterson (tiebreaker is having already won the Rose Bowl)
2. Chris Petersen
3. Larry Fedora
4. Kevin Sumlin
5. Mike Leach

Every Wildcat fan should have his or her own list. If you’re not playing along you’re missing out on all the fun of a coaching search. And you’re not allowed to complain about the hire if you don’t state your case beforehand.

Only four weeks left until shopping season.

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Scott Terrell isn’t afraid to make them say no. Send any additional candidates via Twitter and Facebook.