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10 Coaching Candidates to Replace Rich Rodriguez at Arizona

Rich Rodriguez, Arizona Wildcats Football

Rich Rodriguez, Arizona Wildcats Football

Arizona fired coach Rich Rodriguez on Tuesday night, ending a six-year run in Tuscon. Defensive coordinator Marcel Yates will serve as the program’s interim coach until a full-time replacement is found. Rodriguez guided the Wildcats to a Pac-12 South title in 2014 and went to bowl games in five out of his six years at Arizona. However, he went just 9-18 in Pac-12 games over the final three years. According to media reports, Rodriguez was fired due to football reasons. But on Tuesday, reports indicated a notice of claim was filed against Rodriguez. The claim alleges a hostile work environment and an investigation into Rodriguez was completed at the university in December.

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Arizona is in a tough spot due to the timing of this move, but this is an attractive opening for head coaches. The Wildcats have a favorable schedule next year and return dynamic quarterback Khalil Tate. The defense also features several young players poised to take a step forward with an offseason to develop.

Who might replace Rodriguez at Arizona? Here are 10 names to watch:

10 Coaching Candidates to Replace Rich Rodriguez at Arizona

Beau Baldwin, offensive coordinator, California

Baldwin finished his first season as California’s offensive coordinator in 2017, joining Justin Wilcox’s staff in Berkeley after a successful stint as Eastern Washington's head coach from 2008-16. In his stint with the Eagles, Baldwin went 85-32 as a head coach, claimed the 2010 FCS title and led the program to six playoff appearances. Prior to the job at Eastern Washington, Baldwin worked as Central Washington’s head coach for one year (2007).

Chuck Cecil, former NFL assistant

Cecil played his college ball at Arizona and worked as the program’s director of player personnel in 2017. The California native spent time as an NFL assistant with the Titans and Rams, which included a stint as Tennessee’s defensive coordinator from 2009-10. Cecil has never been a head coach at the collegiate or NFL level.

Jedd Fisch, former UCLA offensive coordinator

Fisch worked as UCLA’s interim head coach after Jim Mora was dismissed prior to the regular season finale against California. Fisch guided the Bruins to a win in that game and coached the team in the bowl defeat to Kansas State. The New Jersey native has worked for a handful of programs as an assistant, including Michigan, UCLA, Minnesota, Miami and in the NFL with the Jaguars, Seahawks and Broncos. The Bruins were clearly better on offense with Fisch calling the plays in 2017, averaging 32.5 points a game (up from 24.9 in 2016). Fisch has never been a head coach at the collegiate level.

Mark Helfrich, former Oregon head coach

Helfrich is another former head coach expected to be on Arizona’s radar in this search. After he was dismissed at Oregon following the 2016 season, Helfrich worked in the television booth in 2017. In his four years with the Ducks, Helfrich went 37-16 and guided the program to an appearance in the national championship in the 2014 season. However, Helfrich was just 13-12 over his last two years and won only two Pac-12 games in 2016. 

Butch Jones, former Tennessee head coach

Jones has an obvious tie to this job after working under current Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke at Central Michigan. Jones went 27-13 during his stint at Central Michigan (2007-09) and recorded a 23-14 mark at Cincinnati from 2010-12. Jones was fired at Tennessee after a 4-6 record in 2017 but still finished his tenure on Rocky Top with a winning record (34-27). While Jones recorded back-to-back nine-win seasons from 2015-16, he was never able to guide Tennessee to a SEC East title.

Seth Littrell, head coach, North Texas

Littrell is one of college football’s top coaches on the rise. The Oklahoma native worked as an offensive assistant at Texas Tech, Arizona, Indiana and North Carolina before taking over as North Texas’ head coach prior to the 2016 season. Littrell is known for his roots in the Air Raid offense and has worked under Larry Fedora and Mike Leach. The Mean Green won just one game in the year prior to Littrell’s arrival but improved to 5-8 last fall. North Texas finished 9-5 and claimed Conference USA’s West Division title in 2017.

Tee Martin, offensive coordinator, USC

Martin popped up in the Tennessee search, but it doesn’t seem the former Volunteer quarterback gained too much traction for the job. The Alabama native has worked at USC since 2012, including the last two seasons as the offensive coordinator. Under Martin’s direction, the Trojans averaged 34.4 points a game in 2016 and 32.6 this fall. He also has stops on his resume from stints at New Mexico and Kentucky. Martin has never been a head coach at the collegiate level, but he’s regarded as an outstanding recruiter. 

Kevin Sumlin, former Texas A&M head coach

Sumlin’s tenure at Texas A&M ended after the 2017 regular season finale against LSU. However, his name was mentioned for openings at Arizona State, Oregon and UCF, and it’s only a matter of time before he returns to the sidelines. While Sumlin didn’t quite meet expectations in College Station, he went 51-26 during his tenure with the Aggies and won 11 games with Johnny Manziel leading the way in 2012. Prior to Texas A&M, Sumlin went 35-17 at Houston. Sumlin is known for producing high-powered offenses and is a good recruiter. He has previous Pac-12 coaching experience, working from 1989-90 as a graduate assistant at Washington State. Considering his experience and background on offense, Sumlin would be a good fit to help mold and develop quarterback Khalil Tate.

Jeff Tedford, head coach, Fresno State

Tedford is probably a longshot to take this job, but Arizona would be wise to at least inquire about his interest level. The California native got his start in the coaching ranks at his alma mater (Fresno State), before taking over as Oregon’s offensive coordinator in 1998. He remained with the Ducks for four seasons and took over as California’s head coach in 2002. Tedford went 82-57, guided the program to eight bowl games and finished No. 9 nationally in 2004. Tedford was dismissed at the end of the 2012 season and had short stints as an assistant with the Buccaneers and in an off-field role with Washington last year. Tedford returned to the sidelines at Fresno State in 2017 and guided the Bulldogs to a 10-4 record – a nine-game improvement from 2016.

Frank Wilson, head coach, UTSA

Wilson is another rising star to watch in the Group of 5 head coaching ranks. The New Orleans native worked his way through the ranks as an assistant coach at Ole Miss (2005-07), Southern Miss (2008), Tennessee (2009) and LSU (2010-15) before landing at UTSA prior to the 2016 season. Wilson is regarded as one of college football’s top recruiters and is 12-12 through two years with the Roadrunners. Wilson guided UTSA to the program’s first bowl appearance in 2016 and just missed on another postseason trip despite reaching six victories in 2017.