Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Jedd Fisch explains decision to leave Arizona football for Washington

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Jedd Fisch was committed to stay at Arizona until he wasn’t.

That’s more or less the gist of what the former Wildcats football coach said Monday on the Until Saturday podcast hosted by The Athletic’s Ari Wasserman.

“I was fully committed to it. Then an opportunity came to join the Big Ten and coach for the national championship runner-up,” Fisch said. “It was an opportunity I had to say yes to. And I wanted to say yes, I want to be clear on that. I wanted to say yes when Washington called. If they didn’t call, then we would be sitting here talking about what a great spring we’d be having in Arizona.”

Fisch was hired by Washington on Jan. 14, just over two weeks after leading Arizona to a 38-24 win over Oklahoma in the Alamo Bowl to cap a 10-3 season. The Wildcats finished 11th in the final AP poll and, with as many as 16 starters returning, were considered among the frontrunners for the Big 12 title in 2024 as well as a spot in the expanded 12-team playoff.

Then Nick Saban retired from Alabama, starting a domino effect that left Washington without a head coach after Kalen DeBoer went to Tuscaloosa.

Fisch said he got a phone call from Washington on Jan. 13, a Saturday, “to gauge my interest” but that no offer was made. That came later that night, followed by documents sent over on Sunday morning and UW athletic director Troy Dannen showing up at Fisch’s house in the afternoon.

“He flew here because he wanted to secure me going up to Washington,” Fisch said “And you know, I wanted to secure me going up to Washington. So that’s why I signed the contract.”

Fisch told Wasserman the combination of him not getting an extension yet and the amount of money Washington was going to make available for his assistants–”my assistant coach pool (at Arizona) would still have been $3.5 million less than what it is now”—were the biggest factors in him choosing to leave the UA.

As for his contract, Fisch said it “didn’t get approved by the Arizona Board of Regents” because it needed to be “fully alumni-supported and alumni-backed,” an insinuation that not enough UA athletic boosters were on board.

“There was supposed to be promissory notes signed and 70 percent of them were signed, 30 percent were not,” he said. “So there wasn’t any way to get my contract passed in the Board of Regents until at least February, and we had to make a decision.”

Fisch also addressed the short team meeting he held with Arizona’s players after taking the Washington job, which lasted only three minutes. He said that wasn’t his choice

“The team meeting was not my choice,” Fisch said. “The team meeting was absolutely dictated to me from administration and really from the NCAA. If you’re going to call a player meeting and let them know you’re leaving to go to another Division I program, then you can’t talk about the why. You can’t talk about really any part other than I’m going to take the University of Washington job, because otherwise, you’d be considered recruiting and tampering and trying to get people to jump in the portal. And it puts you in a really weird spot.

“So the 3-minute team meeting, I told them that I loved them. I told them I appreciated them. I told our staff that as many of them that I could bring, I would bring. That ended up bringing 21 people in our building that we were able to help provide for their families in a way that they weren’t provided for before. And we felt as if we were doing the right thing for a lot of people. And in turn, we are excited about what the University of Washington can bring.”

Fisch has also brought over several UA players, either members of the 2023 team like running back Jonah Coleman and cornerback Ephesians Prysock or Class of 2024 signees such as quarterback Demond Williams and running back Adam Mohammed. He told Wasserman “I knew how many people I could take,” which may have been an attempt to explain why the bulk of Arizona’s returning starters opted to stay in Tucson and play for new coach Brent Brennan.

Fisch also mentioned the recent UCLA opening, which was filled Monday by ex-Bruin running back DeShaun Foster. Fisch was an assistant at UCLA in 2017 and was the team’s interim coach at the end of the season but he denied having interest in that job.

“I have absolutely zero interest in the UCLA job then or now,” he said. “I just think it’s time that everyone understands our commitment at Arizona was 100 percent truthful. And we were committed to making this program great. We made our players better than they’ve ever thought they could be and we were better than anyone thought we could. We brought national attention to the program. And we’re excited about taking that exact same model and bringing that model to Seattle.”

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