ESPN Insider: Chris Petersen is Arizona’s top prospect

Oct 12, 2011, 5:50 PM | Updated: 6:55 pm

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

“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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ESPN Insider: Chris Petersen is Arizona’s top prospect