Ex-Wildcats head coach Jedd Fisch speaks on sudden Arizona departure

Feb 13, 2024, 12:55 PM

Jedd Fisch, Arizona...

Head coach Jedd Fisch of the Arizona Wildcats walks off the field following a victory over the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on September 23, 2023 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Loren Elliott/Getty Images)

(Photo by Loren Elliott/Getty Images)

Former Arizona football head coach Jedd Fisch provided an explanation for his abrupt move to Washington on The Athletic’s Until Saturday podcast released on Tuesday.

The majority of Fisch’s sentiment was that his leaving had far less to do with the Wildcats and more to do with the Huskies. He said he did not have any interest in leaving for another job like UCLA, which was rumored in the past week.

“I just think it’s time that everyone understands our commitment at Arizona was 100% truthful,” he said. “And we were committed to making this program great. We made our players better than they’ve ever thought they could be and we were better than anyone thought we could. We brought national attention to the program.”

It came down to the allure of Washington.

“Then an opportunity came to join the Big Ten and coach for the national championship runner-up,” Fisch said. “It was an opportunity I had to say yes to. And I wanted to say yes, I want to be clear on that. I wanted to say yes when Washington called. If they didn’t call, then we would be sitting here talking about what a great spring we’d be having in Arizona.”

Fisch revealed the timeline of events that led to his departure. Washington reached out almost immediately, as ex-head coach Kalen DeBoer was hired by Alabama on a Friday after Nick Saban’s surprising retirement. The Huskies reached out to Fisch the next morning.

“It was an intriguing job. That’s for sure,” he said. “Talking about their plans entering into the Big Ten, coming off of a national championship game (appearance), the resources they were referring to regarding assistant coaches and player welfare and what they wanted to do with the players was all pretty intriguing. Obviously, their commitment to the head coach was very intriguing as well. Altogether, it just seemed like one of those opportunities you had to listen to.”

Among the biggest sticking points for Fisch was the ability to give more back to his assistant coaches, understanding “the amount of people (he) could help.” Although Fisch believed his contract extension would have been signed between February and May — even with the university’s financial situation — he would have had $3.5 million less to work with in Arizona as opposed to Washington.

By the afternoon, Fisch was back to business as usual, figuring out how to replace some vacated positions on his own staff with Arizona, including defensive coordinator Johnny Nansen. By the night, Washington had offered him the job.

“Sunday morning, they sent over the documents, and it was one of those situations that it was one of those opportunities it was impossible to say no to,” Fisch said.

The head coach had presumed he was done with any discussions with other schools, having also done a brief interview with Texas A&M.

“There was really no thought in my mind about going anywhere. There was nowhere to go, there was nowhere that was interesting to me that was available,” he said. “We loved Arizona. We felt we were going to have a great team coming back although I was concerned about some of the missing pieces from the year before.

“It really didn’t cross my mind. … I kind of thought there was no job that was nearly going to be intriguing enough to leave what I thought was an incredible deal at Arizona.”

As for the reported three-minute meeting he had with players, Fisch had to say goodbye to his team. He said that it was “not his choice” and the brevity was to make sure he didn’t violate any tampering rules, where he could be accused of recruiting them to Washington.

“I told them that I loved them. I told them I appreciated them,” Fisch said. “I told our staff that as many of them that I could bring, I would bring. That ended up (being) 21 people in our building that we were able to help provide for their families in a way that they weren’t provided for before.”

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