Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tomey's successor will have to be creative, dynamic
In the wake of Dick Tomey's resignation following Arizona's 30-17 loss to Arizona State at Arizona Stadium Friday night, the UA athletic department will start pursuing a replacement for the head coach. The following people are speculated to be connected to the now-vacant Wildcats head coaching job:
* Steve Axman, assistant head coach, Washington.
Axman, UA's offensive coordinator from 1980-84, is an offensively-minded play caller whose Northern Arizona teams were among the country's top passing schools from 1990-97. His 1996 Lumberjack team tied or broke 14 national records for offensive accomplishments.
Currently one of Rick Neuheisel's top assistants, Axman, 51, may be anxious to become a head coach after three years as an assistant at both UW and Minnesota.
Axman's offensive style would quiet criticism that Arizona's play-calling has become too conservative. In his years as an assistant coach, Axman has trained quarterbacks Troy Aikman, Neil O'Donnell and Marques Tuiasosopo. Could Tennessee transfer John Rattay be next?
* Ricky Hunley, former associate head coach, Missouri.
Hunley, a two-time consensus first-team All-American as a linebacker while at Arizona, was recently fired alongside former Wildcat head coach Larry Smith at Missouri. A powderkeg on the sidelines, Hunley's fire would be a change from Tomey's mellow style.
Hunley - the Pacific 10 Conference's Defensive Player of the Year in 1983 - could be a longshot for the job and would likely entertain offers to come to UA as an assistant coach.
* Dirk Koetter, head coach, Boise State University.
Koetter, who is said to be on a short list at both UA and ASU, just won his second-straight Big West Conference Coach of the Year Award. Koetter, like Axman, is a quarterback-friendly head coach. Broncos quarterback Bart Hendricks currently is the nation's top-rated passer, first nationally in touchdown passes, and is responsible for nearly 23 points-per-game.
In the past two seasons, Koetter has led BSU to a 19-5 record and a 79.2 percent winning percentage and will likely be hired at a major university during this off-season.
* Duane Akina, associate head coach, Arizona.
Had Tomey resigned under different circumstances, Akina, 44, would have been a likely choice as successor. The coaching staff's elder statesman, Akina was promoted to associate head coach in March 1990 and has been a UA mainstay on both sides of the football.
However, Akina, a former quarterback and basketball player at Washington, may be too much of a Tomey descendant to be considered for the job. Of Tomey's assistants, Akina - popular among his players and fiery from the sidelines - may have the best chance of being hired as Tomey's successor.
An assistant with Tomey since his days at Hawaii, Akina is young, enthusiastic and impossible for UA athletic director Jim Livengood to overlook in the hiring process.
* Larry MacDuff, special teams coach, New York Giants.
MacDuff, UA's defensive coordinator from 1987-1997, would likely be a good fit for UA under different circumstances. While at Arizona, MacDuff's teams were rated in the nation's top 10 defenses four times.
In his tenure at UA, the Wildcats appeared in five bowl games behind MacDuff's double-flex eagle defense. MacDuff, 52, has been under siege this season in New York and would likely leave to pursue other options if the deal was right. However, Arizona may want to hire a coach with more offensive experience and could bristle at MacDuff's connection with Tomey.
* Mike Riley, head coach, San Diego Chargers.
Riley, a former Southern California offensive coordinator and head coach at Oregon State, would be an intriguing hire for Livengood. Assuming Riley is fired at the end of the NFL season, he would likely be courted by the Trojans. Riley amazed former Charger general manager Bobby Beathard with his easy-going mannerisms when he was hired prior to the 1999 season and has done a respectable job of keeping the Chargers together and quarterback Ryan Leaf civil. Some say Riley - who would have employed a passing offense if San Diego's quarterbacking situation were different - is a college coach at heart.