Arizona is back in the coaching market as Jedd Fisch has left the Wildcats after three years to take the job at Washington. The Wildcats are the latest victim of the domino effect created by Nick Saban's retirement; Fisch was hired to replace Kalen DeBoer, who left to replace the legend at Alabama. Now, Arizona has a chance to speed up the market once more. 

Fisch was working as quarterbacks coach for the New England Patriots prior to his hiring at Arizona, making him a surprising pick at the time. He quickly proved himself in three seasons, however. This past season, Fisch led the Wildcats to a 10-3 record and the best AP Top 25 finish since 1998. It was just the fourth 10-win season in school history. 

Now, Arizona faces a crossroads. The Wildcats have finished below .500 in conference play in 20 of the past 25 seasons. Arizona is also moving to the Big 12, bringing further urgency to replicating recent success. The Wildcats were set to return 18 of 22 starters from the historic team, including quarterback Noah Fifita and wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan

Adding complication, the University of Arizona is facing an eye-popping $240 million budget shortfall after a slew of miscalculations by the school. In response, the university has issued a hiring freeze with restrictions on travel and purchasing. Unquestionably, the athletic department and a new football coaching staff will have flexibility to fill essential roles, but it's unclear how it may affect the department heading forward. 

Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke went off board by hiring NFL assistant Fisch in the last cycle. With that complicated backdrop, here are some of the top candidates for Arizona's opening in 2024. 

Arizona coaching candidates

Brent Brennan, San Jose State coach: Brennan has quietly strung together success at a difficult job, leading the Spartans to as many bowl games over the past four years as the preceding 25 years combined. After two rebuilding years to start his tenure, Brennan has gone 31-26 at San Jose State, including 23-16 in Mountain West play with two division titles. He has deep ties to the West Coast, including a stint as a graduate assistant at Arizona in 2000. With Chevan Cordeiro, Nick Starkel and Josh Love among them, Brennan has a strong track record of maximizing quarterbacks. 

Brennan Carroll, Arizona offensive coordinator: The son of Pete Carroll coached under his father at USC and with the Seattle Seahawks but starred when given the reins to his own offense at Arizona. The Wildcats ranked top 20 in total offense and cleared 30 points eight times. Carroll has background in nearly every aspect of offense. Perhaps most importantly, Arizona might feel Carroll is best suited to try and keep the roster together. 

Jason Candle, Toledo coach: Candle took over a consistent machine at Toledo and has kept it running over his nine-year tenure. The Rockets posted a 65-35 record, including 43-19 in conference play. Most encouraging, the Rockets have reached another level over the past two years, winning 20 games with one MAC title and a runner-up finish. Candle is a respected offensive mind, and it might be time for him to make a change. 

Johnny Nansen, Texas co-defensive coordinator: Nansen was defensive coordinator under Fisch in 2023 before leaving to join Steve Sarkisian at Texas. He has quickly become a popular candidate among players, who have taken to social media to support him. The Wildcats jumped from No. 124 to No. 48 in total defense in his second season, including holding Washington State's high-powered offense to six points. In addition to his stint at Arizona, Nansen has served as associate head coach at both USC and Washington. 

Troy Calhoun, Air Force coach: To reassure Khalil Tate, Calhoun would not come to Tucson to run the option. But at a certain point, Calhoun's success in the Mountain West is impossible to ignore. The Falcons are 130-82 under Calhoun's watch, including three straight bowl wins. Calhoun has won 10 games five times over the past decade. Ironically, Calhoun also worked as a quarterbacks coach in the NFL before he took over at Air Force. He is more than capable of bringing an offense to Tucson, Arizona, that maximizes the talent on campus. 

Will Stein, Oregon offensive coordinator: It might be too early for Stein, who only just finished his first season as a full-time FBS coach. However, his success at least deserves mention. Stein coordinated the No. 2 offense in college football and helped turn quarterback Bo Nix into a Heisman Trophy finalist. The Ducks actually led the nation in passing yards per game and worked out of multiple concepts and formations. Hiring Stein would be an attempt to reassure Fifita and his talented teammates that Arizona is still the best place to run great offense.