Ex-Lobos coach Gonzales reportedly hired as Arizona assistant

Jan. 24—The newest member of the University of Arizona football coaching staff is a familiar face around these parts.

According to multiple reports Wednesday morning, new Wildcats head coach Brent Brennan is bringing former New Mexico coach Danny Gonzales on board as his special teams coordinator and linebackers coach.

Gonzales was fired in November after four largely unsuccessful seasons at UNM. He went 11-32 in his time with the Lobos and was replaced in December by Bronco Mendenhall.

The Lobos play their second game of the 2024 season at Arizona. The game is scheduled for Aug. 31 in Tucson and will be the Wildcats' season opener.

Gonzales joins an Arizona staff headed by former San Jose State coach Brent Brennan. The two developed a friendship during their time as rivals in the Mountain West Conference.

ESPN's Pete Thamel was the first to report the news with a tweet Wednesday morning. The Arizona Daily Star soon followed.

Gonzales has not responded to messages seeking comment. He has kept a low profile since he was fired the day after the season finale Nov. 24 against visiting Utah State, a 44-41 double-overtime loss before an announced crowd of 12,094. By game's end, only a few thousand people remained on a bitterly cold night at University Stadium.

Gonzales has dodged the media since then, only making a brief appearance on KNML's The Opening Drive radio talk show two days after he was fired. He told hosts Jeff Siembieda and J.J. Buck that he understood the reasons for his dismissal and expressed his love for his alma mater.

He also said UNM will linger in the bottom half of the MWC if the fans and school can't come together to boost funding and elevate the athletic department's NIL collective.

"If people want to be special and they want to have great basketball programs and great other sports, then support football," he said on the show. "And now that you have NIL, the people in the community better step up and support NIL if they want to keep the [freshman quarterback] Devon Dampier and if they want to keep those guys. Because if they don't, you're going to stay where we're at."

A former walk-on who suited up as a punter and safety for the Lobos in the 1990s, Gonzales started his coaching career as a UNM assistant before moving up the coaching ranks as the defensive coordinator at San Diego State and Arizona State. He was on the Sun Devils' staff under Herm Edwards for two years in 2018 and 2019.

He left that post to take UNM's top job, navigating a troubling time in which he inherited a program in shambles after the dismissal of former coach Bob Davie. Gonzales's first season was during the abbreviated COVID-19 campaign during which the entire team relocated to Henderson, Nev., for the seven-game 2020 season.

The Lobos' most successful season came last year when they finished 4-8. The team was just 5-26 in MWC games under Gonzales.

Gonzales also dealt with the introduction of NIL, the explosion of the transfer portal and massive conference realignment, all while UNM faced cratering attendance at home games and a lack of funding needed to keep pace with Mountain West rivals.

Fans never took to Gonzales, particularly after losing two straight games to rival New Mexico State and watching the Aggies, with considerably less funding, go to two straight bowl games.

The Arizona job opened when Jedd Fisch left Tucson to take over at Washington earlier this month. The Wildcats went 10-3 last season, finishing third behind Washington and Oregon in the final season of the Pac-12.

Their seven-game winning streak entering 2024 is the nation's second longest active run behind Michigan's 15 straight. They were No. 14 in the final College Football Playoff rankings and No. 11 in the final Associated Press and USA Today Coaches' top 25 polls.

Arizona will be one of four new members of the Big 12 in the fall.