University of Arizona president Robert Shelton said Monday that both athletic director Jim Livengood and football coach Mike Stoops will return next year.
Shelton said he informed both men their jobs were safe in the week leading up to the Wildcats' Oct. 27 victory over Washington. At the time, Stoops' team was 2-6 and Livengood — the man who hired him — was under criticism.
Shelton said he wanted to reassure both men they were coming back.
"I conveyed that very quickly in a person-to-person conversation with each of them," Shelton told the Star on Monday night.
"I didn't call any special meeting. When we were together, I said, 'I think you're running this program well. Don't believe what anybody says I'm saying" in the media.
Livengood and Stoops are both under contract through 2010, according to public documents obtained by the Star. Stoops is paid $650,000 a year plus incentives. Livengood makes $346,000.
Shelton said he trusts Livengood to make decisions within the athletic department.
The UA's president speaks to coaches at the beginning of each school year but said he otherwise tries to delegate authority.
"I have a great AD, and I need to rely on him," Shelton said. "If I can't rely on him, then I've made a mistake."
Livengood said Monday that Stoops will stay even though the Wildcats are likely to post their ninth consecutive non-winning season. Arizona has not been to a bowl game since 1998.
"I don't know how many ways I have to say the same thing: Mike Stoops is our football coach, period," Livengood said. "He has my support and our president's support. I was never not clear about that."
Livengood said Stoops has evolved from defensive coordinator to head coach since being hired to revamp the program in December 2003. He said Stoops has become more comfortable as the program's leader.
"I think every game, every week and every practice, he's much more comfortable in that role," Livengood said. "I think growth is understanding that that is his role."
Although Livengood insisted recent speculation about Stoops' future was more of a "media question" than an internal one, he spent some of last weekend assuring recruits the coach will return.
That support from Livengood helped sway high school star Ryan Bass to verbally commit to the UA on Sunday.
Both Shelton and Livengood stressed improving Arizona's graduation rate, which has consistently been rated last in the Pac-10 Conference.
The UA football program lost four scholarships in May because of poor performance in the NCAA's Academic Progress Report, a system that penalizes teams that struggle to graduate players. No other football team from a Bowl Championship Series conference lost a single scholarship.
"I want those graduation rates up," Shelton said. "I do think the NCAA has it right when they look at APR and who's in good standing. I'm convinced that APR is going to improve for us. It's something we're working on."
• Who: Oregon at Arizona
• When: 7 p.m. Nov. 15
• TV: ESPN
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Sp.)