The Mike Stoops era was certainly not a conventional one. UA fans were in for a wild ride from the very first game to the final straw this past weekend.
There were many highs and lows throughout Mike Stoops' tenure in Tucson. Here were a few of the games that defined his legacy at the University of Arizona:
September 4, 2004: Arizona 21 - Northern Arizona 3
The first game with our new coach at the helm was certainly not a pretty one. Relying on two late touchdowns drives in order to secure a victory against a Division-II opponent is never good for the sanity of those in the stands, but it was still a victory for UA and those were hard to come by at the time.
November 26, 2004: Arizona 34 - Arizona State 27
This game was probably my personal favorite of any game played in the last eight seasons. Arizona was a bad football team with two wins on the season, Arizona State was a good football team looking to secure their place in an elite bowl game. With seemingly nothing to play for other than pride, the Wildcats pulled off the huge upset victory in Tucson and knocked off the ranked Sun Devils.
To this day, I'm not sure I have ever heard a louder Arizona Stadium than I did that sunny afternoon in November. The weather was perfect, the atmosphere was perfect, and, most importantly, the game was perfect. Arizona Football was fun again for the first time in a long time.
November 5, 2005: Arizona 52 - UCLA 14
The UCLA Bruins were likely headed to a BCS bowl game that season if it was not for Willie Tuitama and the Arizona Wildcats. The 'Cats entered the game with a record of 2-6, the Bruins with a perfect eight wins and no losses. For a team that entered the game nearly 20-point underdogs, UA absolutely demolished UCLA and an 18-year old Tuitama announced himself to the entire nation.
November 25, 2005: Arizona 20 - Arizona State 23
This was the first 'bad loss' Stoops and his program suffered. Even though the team entered as heavy underdogs on the road, Arizona led their hated in-state rivals by a score of 20-5 late in the third quarter. ASU came back to score 18 points in the final quarter of the game and denied UA their fourth victory, which would have been the most for the program since 2002.
November 11, 2006: Arizona 24 - California 20
This game was memorable in so many ways. For one, California was a really good football team with their eyes set on a Pac-10 championship. Arizona was simply trying to go over .500 for the first time in a long time. Despite being dominated through nearly three quarters of play, the 'Cats fought all the way back and capped off an incredible rally with an interception from Antoine Cason that the cornerback took all the way to the house.
November 15, 2007: Arizona 34 - Oregon 24
Oregon entered the game with a Heisman frontrunner at quarterback and as the No. 2 team in the nation. They left with neither of those in hand. On a chilly Thursday night in Tucson, the Wildcats knocked off the undefeated Ducks in a primetime matchup. Was this the game that would finally get Arizona back on the national map? Many thought so until...
December 1, 2007: Arizona 17 - Arizona State 20
This game happened. With UA hoping for their first season of bowl eligibility in years, the team played flat in Tempe and allowed the Sun Devils to walk away with a victory. This was one of the more deflating losses for the team under Stoops and put a damper on all of the excitement that a potential bowl game appearance brought.
December 20, 2008: Arizona 31 - BYU 21
After going nearly a decade without a bowl game appearance, Arizona showed up big time for the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl of 2008. Mike Stoops had brought this program back from the dead and momentum was at an all-time high in Tucson.
November 21, 2009: Arizona 41 - Oregon 44
I had never felt as cold and empty as I did after that game back in 2009.
OK -- maybe that was because the temperatures at game time were in the high-30s and I had not eaten since before partaking in the College Gameday festivities early that morning, but I was still cold and empty inside from the worst loss I have ever witnessed in-person.
With an incredible sellout crowd on hand and ESPN in town, Arizona had their best chance at a Rose Bowl in school history. A win would give them a tiebreaker over the Ducks and all they had to do was win their final two games and a flight to Pasadena would be on the docket.
What a terrible, terrible game this was. The sorrow and despair that overtook Tucson that evening was unbearable.
September 18, 2010: Arizona 34 - Iowa 27
All things considered, the victory over Iowa was the pinnacle of Mike Stoops' career in Tucson. Everything was seemingly coming together at the right time for the program.
The win propelled the team into the rankings, where they would climb as high as No. 9 in the polls. Roses could be smelt in the distance and the city could not wait for the next time the 'Cats took the field.
From November 6, 2010 until Present Day:
This was essentially the end of the Stoops era in Tucson. The team has not defeated a Division-I opponent since the sixth of last November and a loss to winless Oregon State this past weekend was the final straw for the athletic department.
Mike Stoops did a respectable job with the hand he was dealt. He restored a program after experiencing some of its roughest times in history and gave Arizona fans hope for the future. That is all we could have realistically hoped for, all things considered.
It wasn't always pretty to watch and there was certainly some love lost along the way, but Wildcat fans should always hold a place in their hearts for coach Stoops and his wild sideline antics. He may be remembered for his outbursts on referees and failure to take this program to the top, but his impact on the program was so much more than that.
Best of luck wherever your coaching career takes you, coach. Thanks again for the wild ride these last eight seasons. Bear Down.
Arizona Desert Swarm has a theory that sums up why Stoops was fired:
Analysis of a midseason firing and Mike Stoops' Arizona tenure in a nutshell -
Three words can describe why Mike Stoops was brought to Arizona, what happened when he was here, and why he was let go.
His rebuilding peaked.