Arizona coach Mike Stoops fired after 1-5 start

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Arizona coach Mike Stoops had been given some leeway for last season’s collapse. He had, after all, led the Wildcats to three straight bowls for just the second time in school history.

But when the losses continued to pile up this season, including one to a previously winless team, the latitude was gone.

Arizona fired Stoops midway through his eighth season on Monday, ending a run that started off well before ending with a thud in the desert.

“Coach Stoops did a lot of great things for the program, took over a very challenging situation and made us better,” Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne said. “I think we certainly want to thank him for all his efforts and staff efforts and appreciate everything he’s done for us, (but) I was concerned about the direction of the program and where we were going, and felt that needed to be addressed.”

Defensive coordinator Tim Kish will take over on an interim basis for the rest of the season while the school searches for a new coach.

Stoops joins New Mexico’s Mike Locksley as the only coaches of major college football programs to be fired since this season started.

Known for his emotional sideline behavior, Stoops was the co-defensive coordinator on his brother Bob’s staff at Oklahoma when he was hired as Arizona’s head coach in 2004.

After five seasons of building the program, Stoops seemed to have the Wildcats back among the top teams in the Pac-10, leading them to a pair of eight-win seasons and trips to the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl and the Holiday Bowl the next year.

Arizona seemed poised to become one of the nation’s elite teams by cracking the top 10 and opening 7-1 last season, igniting hope that the Wildcats could end their run as the only Pac-10 school to not play in the Rose Bowl.

Then things started to fall apart.

The Wildcats lost their last five games, including a 36-10 blowout by Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl that came on the heels of a 35-0 rout by Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl the year before.

Arizona opened up this season, the first as the reconfigured Pac-12, with a win over FCS Northern Arizona, then went into a slide, losing five straight.

The latest was the big blow for Stoops. Unable to stop Oregon State’s offense, the Wildcats (1-5, 0-4 Pac-12) lost to the previously winless Beavers 37-27 for their 10th straight loss to an FBS school.

Stoops, 49, had 41-50 record at Arizona, including 27-38 in conference games.

“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, Neil Cornrich. “Although we fell short of that goal, we made significant progress, and our organization continues to strive for excellence.”

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