DAN BICKLEY

Jedd Fisch’s departure continues same story of college football in Arizona

Jan 14, 2024, 5:43 PM | Updated: 5:51 pm

Head coach Jedd Fisch of the Arizona Wildcats reacts after a touchdown call during the second quart...

Head coach Jedd Fisch of the Arizona Wildcats reacts after a touchdown call during the second quarter against the USC Trojans at United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

Sucker punches hit hard because you never see them coming. 

The departure of Arizona football coach Jedd Fisch was anything but unexpected. It was the shadow of fear lurking behind a glorious season of revival. His decision to leave for the University of Washington is both understandable and unassailable.   

And yet it was eviscerating all the same. 

Arizona fans were flush with pride and emotional highs after a seven-game winning streak to end the season. Most of the victories were impact statements, including a grudge-bludgeoning of Arizona State in the Territorial Cup followed by a raucous win over Oklahoma in the Alamo Bowl. The Wildcats were so hot they might have won the College Football Playoff if invited.

But each success contributed to a greater loss, transforming Fisch into one of the country’s most alluring coaching prospects. And in the end, it once again illuminates one of the worst traits of college football: 

As soon as a coach gets where he’s going, he’s going somewhere else. 

Alas, cheering for a really good football team shouldn’t come with a case of whiplash.   

This isn’t necessarily a death knell for the Wildcats. College football is a cash-grab industry full of ruthless ambition, populated by young climbers who understand the currency of the realm. Thread the needle again, and Arizona might find the right hire to inherit the current trajectory and improve on what Fisch so adroitly built in the past three years. 

But who’s betting on that? Not me.  

The sudden pall over Tucson is further proof of the head-banging futility that comes with cheering for a longshot football program in college football, a sport full of oligarchies and currently run by dollar signs and television networks. It gives a better understanding of why Arizona State chose an alternative business plan, opting for an ESPN personality/coaching retread instead of a ladder-climbing upstart guaranteed to break your heart. 

For a minute, Arizona seemed tantalizingly close to fielding a basketball team capable of winning a backyard NCAA championship at State Farm Stadium in Glendale; along with a football team favored to win the Big 12 in 2024, gaining entry to an expanded College Football Playoff. The Wildcats seemed to possess everything Sun Devils craved and could never attain in the two major revenue-generating sports.   

Now? 

We’re going to find out if there are truly plenty of Fisch in the sea. Or if the Wildcats lost their bragging rights, momentum and their window of opportunity just when things were getting good around here. 

Unfortunately, that is the story of college football in Arizona. 

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