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Arizona Wildcats

Updated Oct 12, 2011 - 11:55 am

ESPN Insider: Chris Petersen is Arizona's top prospect

Boise State head coach Chris Petersen looks on against Nevada during the second half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011 in Boise, Idaho. Boise State won 30-10. (AP Photo/Matt Cilley)

Speculation about who would replace Mike Stoops as Arizona's football coach began right when director of athletics Greg Byrne announced that the job was open, and one name seems to be coming up the most as being atop the school's wish list.

Chris Petersen.

Currently the head coach at Boise State, Petersen would seem to be a fantastic hire for the school, albeit one that seems a bit unrealistic.

After all, why would he leave a place where he's experienced so much success for a school that, well, for a football program that barely knows the meaning of the word?

"This is his last year with [QB] Kellen Moore and they're probably going to end up undefeated and he's going to look at it and say, ‘You know what, I can never play for a national championship at Boise, I will get an opportunity if I go to Arizona and I run the table there' so he may seriously look at it this time and I think he's the top prospect for Arizona," ESPN College Football Insider Mark May told Arizona Sports 620's Burns and Gambo.

Of course he's the top prospect for the Wildcats, as they'd be foolish not to want a coach who has compiled a 66-5 record over parts of six seasons, never winning fewer than 10 games and finishing seasons ranked in the Top 25 all but once. However, playing in the WAC and now Mountain West does not exactly afford the opportunity to win a national championship; something May said could help lure Petersen to Tucson.

Because, as May said, that could realistically happen in the Pac-12.

"The first thing they've got to do is just one, get a schedule where they can go out and they can win their non- conference games and win the conference and win the South, you have to take it one step at a time," he said. "Once they win the South and hopefully get to the championship game you have to have a three year plan. They win the South and get to the championship game then down the road you're looking at national championship potential."

Pairing the words "Arizona" and "national championship" are generally reserved for basketball and softball, but Byrne, hired just more than two years ago, has made football a priority since taking over.

Besides building a giant scoreboard for the south end zone, there are plans to upgrade other parts of the stadium as well as improve facilities for the entire football program.

That said, there are bound to be other job openings - including possibly at UCLA - that may be viewed as a better spot than the Old Pueblo.

The idea of working for an athletic director who will devote money and resources to your program would be enticing, but when that guy is a good friend of yours? That could seal the deal.

"There will be a couple other opportunities out there for him, also, but I think with his relationship with the athletic director Greg Byrne, they go all the way back to the days at Oregon, I think that when you look at that, the closeness that they have and the respect that they have he's the top choice," May said.

Even with all that, though, Petersen could elect to stay where he's at. May said the 47-year-old is comfortable in Boise and may resist the draw of a bigger school and conference. If that's the case, though, he said Arizona will be alright.

"If not Chris Petersen I would expect that you'll see a big name down there that will probably wow you, because [Greg Byrne is] the type of guy that's not only going to get a big name, he's going to get the perfect fit."


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