Hours after USA Today's Dan Wolken reported on Tuesday evening that Arizona was considering a change, the Wildcats — who supposedly made the decision before their Dec. 27 bowl loss to Purdue — pulled the trigger on Rodriguez who went 43-35 in six seasons.
"After conducting a thorough evaluation of our football program and its leadership, both on and off the field, President [Robert] Robbins and I feel it is in the best interest of the University of Arizona and our athletics department to go in a new direction," athletic director Dave Heeke said.
The late change puts Arizona in a unique spot of being the only FBS program currently searching for a head coach. Immediately attention focused on one of the few men who coached in 2017 but does not yet have job for 2018: Kevin Sumlin. The 53-year-old former Texas A&M coach was rumored to be a favorite for the Arizona State job before the Sun Devils hired Herm Edwards.
If the Wildcats don't hire Sumlin or he's not interested, who might they target?
Current Position: Head Coach – North Texas
Seth Littrell is a rising star in college football. The 39-year-old is just 14-13 in two seasons at North Texas but he has dramatically transformed the Mean Green from a middling, little-known program into a nine-win division champion.
Littrell, a former Oklahoma running back, was offensive coordinator under Mike Stoops at Arizona in 2010 and 2011. He's still really young but is getting a Power Five job very soon.
Current Position: Head Coach – Boise State
Bryan Harsin is a Boise native, played for the Broncos and has spent 14 years of his 18-year coaching career at the school. And from all indications, he's happy and has no interest in leaving.
Nonetheless, he's still a young (41) and revered offensive mind with a contract that makes it very easy for him to leave. And get this: As of Jan. 10, he does not have a buyout.
Current Position: Assistant Head Coach & Defensive Line Coach – Oregon
Joe Salave'a wouldn't turn heads nationally but he'd be an extremely popular hire in Tucson.
A former player (1994-97), Salave'a played in the NFL for nearly a decade before jumping into coaching at San Jose State in 2008. He was Arizona defensive line coach under Stoops in 2011 and not retained by Rodriguez, which led to a successful five-year stint at Washington State.
Now at Oregon, the 42-year-old might still be a few years away from a head coaching job but the Wildcats could jump early with a friendly contract and PR win.
Current Position: Head Coach – UTSA
Like Seth Littrell, Frank Wilson is getting a Power Five job soon.
The 44-year-old master talent evaluator and developer was a Louisiana high school coach before taking an Ole Miss assistant job in 2005. After stops at Southern Miss, Tennessee and LSU, he took over the Roadrunners in 2016. If you look past the pedestrian record (12-12) and how he runs an energetic, methodical program, it's easy to see why he's too a rising star.