Arizona should never be this bad. Unfortunately, it has been. Friday's 70-7 loss to Arizona State in the Territorial Cup made it imperative for Wildcats athletic director David Heeke make a move now. Kevin Sumlin was fired Saturday after sputtering to a 9-20 record with Arizona, including 12 straight losses.
Again, Arizona should never be this bad. It is a place where Dick Tomey positioned the program for a national championship run in Pac-10 relevance in the 1990s. It is a place where Rich Rodriguez once won 10 games.
The Wildcats had to make a move, even in the middle of a pandemic. Fortunately, the opening comes along at a good time. There are plenty of qualified candidates with either a connection to Tomey and/or West Coast roots that would help them success at Arizona.
Let's take a look at the top names to replace Sumlin.
Steve Sarkisian, Alabama offensive coordinator: The only decision Arizona has to make after hiring Sark -- now! -- is whether to wait for him until mid-January when he is done with Alabama's latest championship run. And that's not even a decision. You hire Sarkisian now, let him recruit for a day or two then allow him to finish with Alabama. I have written that the time is now for a proven coach who has outrun his demons and has the stamp of approval from Nick Saban. If Heeke hasn't already called Saban seeking permission to speak with Sarkisian, shame on him.
Brent Brennan, San Jose State coach: Another obvious candidate. Brennan was a graduate assistant for Tomey 20 years ago. That's a good place to start because Tomey's coaching tree is going to get scrutiny. This is the perfect time for Brennan to leave. In Year 4 at San Jose State, the 47-year-old has the Spartans off to their best start since 1939 (5-0). The Spartans will be playing for their first Mountain West title next week. San Jose State resembles Arizona's old defense-first Wildcat squads. Two Spartans are in the 10 nationally in sacks. Statistically, the defense is the best San Jose State has had in 30 years. Before coming to San Jose, Brennan spent six years at Oregon State as receivers coach.
Graham Harrell, USC offensive coordinator: At age 35, Harrell is already a Super Bowl champion who has worked for Mike Leach. He has taken the Air Raid to USC where the Trojans are undefeated and on top of the Pac-12. Harrell has taught two of the best quarterbacks in the game – Georgia's JT Daniels and USC's Kedon Slovis. If Arizona wants to stay up to date offensively, Harrell would be the guy -- and one of the youngest coaches in FBS.
Jeff Grimes, BYU offensive coordinator: Grimes is bound for a promotion after leading the offense for the best BYU team in the last quarter century. Quarterback Zach Wilson, left tackle Brady Christensen and receivers Dax Milne and Gunner Romney are considered future pros. Grimes has the distinction of being Les Miles' last offensive line coach at LSU. The Cougars are averaging 16 more points per game than 2019. (28.5 to 44.5).
Jay Norvell, Nevada coach: For seven years, Norvell was one of Bob Stoops' most valued assistants at Oklahoma as a co-offensive coordinator. Before that, he was OC at UCLA and Nebraska. Norvell also has six years' experience in the NFL. At age 57, he is guiding Nevada (6-2) to its best season in 11 years. Sophomore quarterback Carson Strong currently leads the Mountain West's second-best passing attack.
Bryan Harsin, Boise State coach: A long shot because this accomplished coach is leaving for Texas (when the time comes) before he takes Arizona now. Maybe the best head coach in the West will be playing for another Mountain West title next week.