Love him or hate him, Mike Stoops was a presence to be reckoned with. The former head coach of the Arizona Wildcats had a reputation for throwing sideline temper tantrums, which either amused or embarrassed local fans.
Add to that a 10-game losing streak against FBS opponents, and University of Arizona officials felt they had no other options – Stoops had to go. He was fired Oct. 10, temporarily replaced by the UA’s former defensive coordinator, Tim Kish.
Did sports fans in the Northwest area, many of whom are UA alumni, care about the switch? It appears they did, and many savored the team’s out-of-the-blue victory against UCLA in its first outing of the post-Stoops era.
Only minutes into the first quarter Thursday night, the Arizona Wildcats scored a touchdown.
“Ol’ Stoops is sitting somewhere wondering, why didn’t they do that with him?” Luis Ochoa told his buddies while watching the game at the Fox and Hound in the Foothills Mall.
The Wildcats scored whenever they touched the ball during the first half of the game, ending the half with six touchdowns for a 42-7 lead over UCLA, a school record in PAC 10/12 conference play. The Wildcats then extended their lead to 45-7 in the third quarter and to 48-7 with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, in front of a hometown crowd.
It was the team’s first victory in 355 days against an FBS opponent.
A highlight for Northwest residents was an 18-yard touchdown drive - the team’s second drive of the game - by former Canyon Del Oro High School standout Ka’Deem Carey. The freshman running back took the score to 14-0.
Before the start of the game, UA fans in the Northwest varied somewhat in what they expected from the Wildcats under Kish’s reign. Most, however, were happy to see Stoops gone.
“Tim Kish will do great,” said Eric Mansur after the first touchdown. “Mike Stoops couldn’t produce, even with a field of quality players. His time was coming. It’s a new dawn.”
“When you have a coach that’s always (angry), that’s a concern,” said Josh Beach. “The tantrums could be entertaining to watch, but they don’t do the team any good.”
One of the few fans at the Fox and Hound who was sad about Stoops’ firing was Susan Rico. The Marana woman had seen the softer side of Stoops’ personality when he visited the hospital where her daughter was a patient.
“They should have waited until the season was over to let him go,” said Rico, who has been following UA football for more than two decades.
The fans couldn’t hold back their excitement at how well the Wildcats played that night.
“Their running game is working tonight,” Mansur said.
“The change in coaching at the very least gives the team a fresh outlook. That’s shown by the energy being shown in the first quarter,” said Greg Sherman, of Oro Valley.