Grade A: Arizona comes out best in offseason football coaching hires

Relatively speaking, the Wildcats pulled off the best hire of new Pac-12 coaches by adding Kevin Sumlin from Texas A&M. UCLA was not far behind with the hire of Chip Kelly.

Let’s start with a quick assessment of Arizona’s move to hire Kevin Sumlin, which makes loads of sense on numerous levels — not the least of which, it seems, is the in-state leverage it gives the Wildcats over Arizona State.

Sumlin is the coach many Sun Devil fans wanted. He’s the anti-ASU hire, and that’s never a bad thing for Arizona.

While their archrival picked a coach who hasn’t coached in a decade, the Wildcats picked one of the four coaches to beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa this decade.

Unlike Herm Edwards, Sumlin will create a direct recruiting link into Texas, a region so vital to both programs.

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His arrival should create energy among the increasingly-dispassionate fan base at a crucial time for facility renovations.

He enables the Wildcats to retain valued defensive coordinator Marcel Yates, and to make the most of quarterback Khalil Tate’s dynamic skills.

Most of all, Sumlin’s presence gives the Arizona program instant credibility and a big-time feel throughout the college football world.

Few hires are without risk. Sumlin isn’t without risk; Chip Kelly to UCLA isn’t without risk.

But kudos to Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke and DHR International for the search. It was done in a reasonable time frame and ended with a top target acquired.

With Sumlin on board … and assuming there will be no other Pac-12 vacancies this winter … let’s take stock of the new conference landscape.

Five of 12 schools changed coaches, the most high-stakes and disruptive personnel matter an athletic department can endure.

Please note that the judgments below are not projections of future success, of conference titles or…

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