TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona fired coach John Mackovic on Sunday, five games into the third season of his tumultuous tenure in Tucson.
Defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz will take over as interim
coach for the remainder of the season.
Athletic director Jim Livengood offered no specific reason for the firing when he announced it Sunday at a news conference.
"There's no one single event, no one happening, that all of a
sudden had a weight to it," he said.
Mackovic, who turns 60 on Wednesday, survived a player mutiny
last season after tearfully promising to do a better job of
communicating. But this year's team lost to LSU, Oregon and Purdue
by a combined score of 166-30.
The Wildcats (1-4) played their best game of the season in a
13-10 overtime home loss to TCU (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 Associated Press) on Saturday night, but
pressure from boosters and unrest among the players led Livengood to let the coach go.
Livengood had insisted that Mackovic's status would not be
evaluated until the end of the season but changed his mind. The
athletic director met with Arizona's players for about an hour on
Sunday morning, then spoke with Mackovic.
"I felt that at this particular point in time it warranted
making a decision right now," Livengood said. "That's going away
from what I've normally done."
Mackovic was 10-18 at Arizona. The Wildcats currently have lost
12 consecutive Pac-10 home games.
Mackovic signed a five-year, $4 million contract in December
2000, and the buyout of his deal will cost $909,000. He had been
out of coaching since 1998, serving as an ESPN commentator.
Last November, more than 40 players asked for and were granted a meeting with university president Peter Likins to air their
complaints about the coach.
For some 90 minutes, the players told Likins of what they
believed was Mackovic's unwarranted verbal abuse, and the misery that was Arizona football. The team was 0-6 in the Pac-10, and 3-7 overall at the time.
Mackovic held a lengthy team meeting, then apologized at a news
"I'm terribly sorry for my part in this turmoil and unrest,"
he said at the time. "I accept full responsibility for my actions
and pledge to work tirelessly to mend any fences."
Later, Mackovic indicated that "outside forces,"apparently
boosters and players' parents, had instigated the unrest.
Livengood stood by his side then, but the pressure got to
intense as problems between the players and coach continued this
He coached at Texas, Illinois and Wake Forest, and has a 95-82-3
collegiate record. He also coached the Kansas City Chiefs from
Mackovic hired Hankwitz just before the start of spring
practice this year. Hankwitz had been defensive coordinator at
Texas A&M for the previous six seasons and is a 33-year veteran of
"He's very well-respected by our players and our coaches,"
Livengood said. "In my opinion, Mike fits this position
probably best right now. He's very capable of doing it."
A national search will be launched for a permanent successor.
"I've not talked to anybody at all about this job," Livengood
said. "I know the rumor mill runs rampant, but every athletic
director at this level always has people you think of. That
always exists in my mind. I'd be lying if I told you
The Associated Press contributed to this report.