Stoops resume impressive, questions remain

As is the case with hiring any new coach, there's a gamble involved. One hopes that through the course of the process, enough homework has been done to swing the odds in the house's favor. In this instance, the house is Arizona, and the good gamble looks to be Mike Stoops.

If the UA hires Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, as it appears it will, it will open the door for numerous potential positives, and the inevitable uncertainties as well. But in terms of overall balance, Stoops seems to bring a lot to the table.

First the positives:

1. Stoops' credentials are hard to argue. As a member of the nation's most noteworthy up-and-coming football family, he brings instant credibility long before even walking the sidelines as the head coach. A relentless competitor, Stoops is credited with forming Oklahoma's daunting defense, no small feat. He brought that winning attitude with him from Kansas State, where he was a major influence in that program's defensive improvement. Brother Bob, at the moment one of the hottest properties in coaching, says Mike is more prepared to run his own program than the older brother was when he took over Oklahoma.

2. Assuming Stoops gets the gig, he appears prepared to assemble a coaching staff from programs familiar with winning. It seems a near certainty that younger brother Mark will leave Miami to oversee a position of prominence in Tucson. Additionally, don't be surprised to see additions from other prominent programs. The Stoops family has extensive ties around college football and Mike will certainly use them to assemble a stellar staff.

3. New blood for the Pac-10. With a few exceptions, the Pac-10 is, and has been, a conference with West Coast ties. Makes perfect sense. The philosophy states one must have recruiting success in California to favorably compete. Stoops could be poised to try a different approach. As the eastern-most member of the Pac-10, instead of spending great amounts of time in California, Stoops' recruiting base could be much more Midwest in nature. For years, Arizona has attempted to balance its recruiting with prospects from California and Texas. Problem is, it hasn't been good enough to make the upper cut in either region. In the eyes of Texans, Arizona might be an option somewhere between, say, 11-15, after they've funneled through much of the Big 12 and portions of the SEC. If Stoops can move the UA higher in that pecking order, it's natural to assume the level of talent could improve dramatically. Arizona will never be the No. 1 option for a player from the Lone Star State, but 6-10 is certainly a step in the right direction.

4. Passion. Stoops is young and filled with competitive fire, and while I personally endorsed Norm Chow, it's hard to argue the benefit of intensity, especially when attempting to rally the fan base in an apathetic town. Football is a distant No. 2 in Tucson, but if Stoops can show definitive improvement in short order, the bandwagon could land a lot more occupants.

5. There's no No. 2. For more than a decade, the Pac-10 was wide open. Since Washington's probation in 1991, seven conference teams have appeared in the Rose Bowl. For two seasons, Arizona was the best team by season's end, and Oregon State held that honor in 2000. But those days are probably gone. USC is the definitive No. 1, and it looks as though it's going to be that way for some time to come. But the rest of the conference remains a revolving door. Arizona has an opportunity to step up and fill the void.

Onto the uncertainties: 1. The last name does not guarantee success: Just because Bob can coach, it doesn't automatically mean Mike is the next great sideline general. All one needs to do is look to the Bowdens for confirmation on this one.

2. The stepping stone mentality: In basketball, Arizona has been spoiled with Lute Olson. By staying put, Olson made Arizona a destination job, as opposed to a place where one can better his career en route to greener pastures. When the UA hired John Mackovic that might have been something that worked its way into the thought process. Had Mackovic been more successful, the likelihood is he would have coached out his career in Tucson. Not the same if Arizona opted for a younger, hungrier prospect. Certainly not necessarily the same with Stoops, who if successful, will be a hot prospect, to say the least.

3. Mining the Midwest. Herein lies the great potential recruiting gamble. If hired, no other coach in this conference will have less ties to the West Coast than Stoops, yet California still remains one of the nation's greater hotbeds for talent. How Stoops handles the state of Arizona could be critical as well. Dick Tomey was very good in finding in-state talent. Since the Mackovic hire, Dirk Koetter has gotten the upper hand. A program can not be built on Arizona talent alone, but that in-state core can not be alienated either. If Stoops is unable to make the dents into the Midwest that he'd like, he could be fighting an uphill talent battle on a regular basis.

4. The JC factor. In the short term, the UA is going to need a mass influx of junior college talent, but those prospects can be tough to get into school based on Arizona's admissions standards.

5. Patience: How much does Arizona have? If the UA struggles at all, at what point does Stoops get fed up with this comment? "Well, basketball season is just around the corner." Basketball-first schools are unique, and it might not sit well with those who come from backgrounds where football is top dog.

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