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ESPN: Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin among Pac-12 coaches on the hot seat

Head coach Kevin Sumlin of the Arizona Wildcats watches from the sidelines during the second half of the NCAAF game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on November 30, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Arizona football made a splash hire when it picked up former Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin back in January of 2018.

Multiple outlets touted it as a “home run hire” — and in the context of that period of time, it was. A couple years later, though, and hindsight doesn’t back that up.

Sumlin coached A&M to a 51-26 record in his six seasons there, with a 3-2 record in bowl games. In Arizona, though, he’s gone 9-15 through two seasons despite having Khalil Tate, a quarterback once praised as a Heisman Trophy candidate. This contrasts especially poorly with the Wildcats’ rival school, Arizona State, whose initially-criticized hire of Herm Edwards has turned out to be a great boon to the program.

All of this is good context to understand why after just two seasons, ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg named Sumlin in a story outlining which college football coaches ought to be on the hot seat.

Sumlin is just 9-15 at Arizona and reshaped his defensive coaching staff after the season. Things seem very unsettled around the UA program, and Sumlin likely must deliver a bowl appearance in Year 3 to stick around.

USC’s Clay Helton was the other one on the hot seat, according to Rittenberg, and UCLA’s Chip Kelly is one to “keep an eye on.”

Arizona went 4-8 in 2019 and finished the season on a seven-game losing streak. Tate is now gone, although freshman Grant Gunnell performed well as the Wildcats’ quarterback last year when Tate wasn’t on the field. He completed 65.2% of his passes for 1,239 yards in eight appearances, throwing nine touchdowns and just one interception.

It doesn’t help, though, that Arizona has the 64th-ranked recruiting class for 2020, according to 247Sports, which is the worst ranking in the Pac-12.