Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel rated the coaching hires across the country this week, and he's clearly split on how the Pac-12 did.
He likes Mike Leach to Washington State — a lot — and Rich Rodriguez to Arizona. He's not so impressed with Todd Graham to Arizona State and Jim Mora to UCLA.
Here are his Pac-12 grades and takes.
Washington State (Mike Leach, former Texas Tech head coach): A+
AD Bill Moos looked past the controversy surrounding Leach's bizarre 2009 ouster in Lubbock and focused more on his 84-43 record and 10 straight bowl trips. The quirky offensive mind is a perfect fit in remote Pullman and already has the quarterbacks (rising senior Jeff Tuel and sophomore Connor Halliday) he needs to lead the dormant Cougars to their first postseason berth in nine years.
Arizona (Rich Rodriguez, former Michigan head coach): A-
AD Greg Byrne knew exactly who he wanted, pouncing early (Nov. 21) in naming Mike Stoops' replacement. While Rodriguez's three-year tenure in Ann Arbor did not end well, the pressure is much lower in tradition-starved Tucson. He's reunited the majority of his staff from West Virginia, where he led the Mountaineers to two BCS bowls. Arizona is still waiting on its first.
UCLA (Jim L. Mora, former Seattle Seahawks head coach): D
After striking out with Chris Petersen, Al Golden and Sumlin, AD Dan Guerrero turned to an unemployed NFL lifer. Mora has assembled a nice staff and will likely make initial waves in recruiting, but history does not bode well for NFL-bred coaches. UCLA hopes Mora will become its Pete Carroll, but odds are much higher he emulates Bill Callahan, Charlie Weis, Chan Gailey, Mike Sherman ...
Arizona State (Todd Graham, Pittsburgh head coach): D
Forget the unseemly way he exited Pitt. Why exactly Graham is a hot commodity to begin with? It's certainly not due to his one 6-6 Big East season. He had three 10-win seasons at Tulsa, but much of the credit belongs to respected offensive coordinators Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris. His one season without either, he went 5-7. But perhaps his fourth dream job in six years will be the one.
These divergent grades shouldn't be surprising. Just about everyone — yes, there is always some contrarian wackiness — believes Washington State and Arizona made great hires. And both Mora and Graham have baggage.
A lot of rating a coaching hire is about process: Did the AD get his or her first choice? Washington State and Arizona appeared to do just that and UCLA and Arizona State didn't. The lesson, taught over and over and over again, is that ADs always need to have a solid list of coaching candidates and Plan Bs in their desk drawer, and they need to move proactively and aggressively from the moment they decide to fire their coach — even taking steps in advance of the pending termination.
And, most important, the fewer people involved in the process, the better. The best search committees are made up of one person — see ADs Greg Byrne at Arizona and Bill Moos at Washington State.
Mandel also looks at "Ten impact coordinators/assistants," and two from the Pac-12 make the list, as well as a former conference head coach and QB.
Jeff Casteel, Arizona (defense): Defense was the bane of Rodriguez's existence at Michigan. It was critical he reunite with his highly effective former West Virginia coordinator.
Mike Stoops, Oklahoma (defense): Bob's brother returns to Norman, where he produced some of the nation's most dominant units from 1999-2003. The Sooners needed him.
Tosh Lupoi, Washington (defensive line): Steve Sarkisian sent shock waves through the Pac-12 by luring away Cal's ace recruiter, considered the best on the West Coast.
Jonathan Smith, Boise State (quarterbacks): Petersen tabbed the former Oregon State standout and Montana offensive coordinator to help mold Kellen Moore's successor.