Byrne begins process

Greg Byrne spoke with the media on Monday about his decision to fire Mike Stoops. Read on for the thought process, criteria in the next coach, and more.

As word began to trickle down Monday afternoon of a head coaching change for the football program, Arizona Athletic Director Greg Byrne took the podium and quickly made it official.

"We have relieved Coach Stoops' duties as head football coach at the University of Arizona," Byrne said. "We have named Tim Kish as the interim coach for the rest of the season."

And with that, it was over.

While the 10 straight losses to FBS opponents may have made it a bit easier to fire Stoops, UA President Eugene Sander says it was anything but an easy decision.

"Decisions like this are never easy to make," he said. "There is always a great deal of heartache that goes along with these things," Sander said. "But I do believe, on behalf of the University of Arizona football, this decision was absolutely necessary at this time."

If one thing was clear, it was that Byrne had the full blessing of Sander and others involved in the decision-making process.

"I would like to congratulate Greg for his decisiveness in making this decision," Sander said. "I think it will benefit our student athletes and give them an opportunity to prepare for the rest of the season under Coach Kish and hopefully this will get beyond the situation of where are continually speculating about the future of Coach Stoops. Again, while I regret that we have had to take this action, I think it was absolutely the necessary thing to do."

Byrne says that the decision process started nearly a week ago, as he continually looked at all the possible outcomes for the football program.

"Since I have been here we have been evaluating the football program as a whole, just like we have our entire athletics program," he said. "As I evaluated the program I looked to see where we were and sought council from our executive team and our staff. It was in the last week that I decided it was time to go in a different direction."

Before talking about the next step in the process, Byrne made sure that he complimented Stoops on how he has done at Arizona.

"Coach Stoops did a lot of great things for this program and took over a very challenging situation and made us better," he said. "I think as an Arizona football fan or fan of our University athletics program I think we certainly want to thank him for all of his efforts and staff efforts and appreciate everything that he has done for us."

Now, however, the search for a new coach has started and the decision was made at this point in the season due in large part to the current seniors.

"I was concerned with the direction of the program and where we were going," Byrne said. "I felt it needed to be addressed. It needed to be addressed in the short term for our 22 seniors and we believe they can play in a bowl game this year. We have a lot of work to do to make that happen and we want to give them every opportunity to do that and at the same time too this will give us a full chance to begin a process for our next football coach at the University of Arizona.

"We will begin that process immediately and there will be a very small group of us, three or four of us, and it will be something that we will be exhausted in all of our research to find the best fit and best person."

In addition, Byrne feels that there are two major advantages gained by starting the search process this early in the season.

"I think there were two main advantages," he said. "One is for our team. We felt we needed a fresh start at this point of the season. We wanted them to have some fun playing football and we wanted our coaches to have some fun coaching. We felt this would give everybody a fresh start to the remainder of the season and these are all games we feel we have a chance to go out and compete in.

"The second thing is that it gives us a head start on the process of finding our new football coach. I believe strongly that when you have an existing head coach you need to be committed to that coach until he is not the coach anymore, so at this point we decided this was an opportunity to start moving toward the future."

The first step towards the immediate future was hiring defensive coordinator Tim Kish as the interim coach, which was done due to his tenure and what he has given to the program.

"He had the longest tenure of the staff and coach Stoops believed in him every step of the way," Byrne said. "That made sense from a lot of aspects. Obviously you look at coach Kish he is a good man, he cares about the kids, he has strong integrity, he very much is involved in everything we are doing from a recruiting standpoint, everything we are doing from a coaching standpoint, terminology, across the board and we felt he would give us the best stability for the remainder of the season."

Byrne would not specify if there are certain characteristics he is looking for in a head coach as far as on the field does, but did say he will be looking at numerous things.

"What we want to have for our next head coach is a passion for college football, passion for the student athlete and caring about them academically, athletically, socially, for them to have a great experience," he said. "We need somebody that is very sound fundamentally from a coaching standpoint.

"We are going to hire the best football coach that we possibly can, that wants to be at Arizona, and is going to fit the model of what we want going forward and that is to make sure we are paying attention to those foundation items."

In addition, Byrne admits that it is possible that location and regional coaching background will play a role in his decision as well.

"That they are very good from a coaching standpoint and they make sense for our region of the country," Byrne said of what he will be looking at. "I don't think the head coach necessarily has to be from the region, but if they are not, what staff are they putting together that can make sure they can go out and recruit and stay active and engaged in our area? I want the best players in Arizona to go to Arizona, so maybe having a connection there is a good thing."

Money will undoubtedly be an issue and while Byrne would not put a number out, he did say he knows Arizona will have to be aggressive.

"We need to be competitive," he said. "That is critical. It is the marketplace and whether you like it or not, you have to be competitive. I am not a big believer in raising dollars for coaching salaries. I am a big believer in raising dollars for capital improvements that will have a many, many year impact on the program. We are not out actively engaged in it in that manner."

As each Arizona loss occurred, public opinion of Stoops got worse and Byrne believes that public opinion play a minor role in his decision making.

"I think you obviously have to get people in your stadium, you have to pay for everything," he said. "You have to have fan support for your teams and at the same time too there is a lot of times where you say, you know what, we are going to be okay and we need to stay patient through this time and I think you need to evaluate each case individually and decide where you are and then make the best decision that you can."

While the timeframe, criteria, and more may not be exact, one thing is clear. Byrne is going to make every attempt to hire the best coach for Arizona.

"I think you need to find the best coach, period," he said. "I think the model where schools have hired sitting head coaches has worked great at times, other times have not worked very well. I think the model of hiring assistant coaches has worked great times and hasn't worked great.

"I don't think you can box yourself in on that whatsoever. You need to understand where you are in the marketplace. Each year is different, so we just need to pay attention to those details and make the best decision on what is available out there."

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