GOAZCATS - Arizona AD Dave Heeke says Kevin Sumlin will return as head coach in 2020
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Arizona AD Dave Heeke says Kevin Sumlin will return as head coach in 2020

TEMPE, Arizona — Kevin Sumlin will be returning as head coach of Arizona's football team, athletic director Dave Heeke announced after the Wildcats' 24-14 loss to rival Arizona State late Saturday night.

Sumlin wrapped up a 4-8 season with the loss and the Wildcats are going to miss a bowl game for the second straight year.

However, after Saturday's game there was talk of a "process" from both Sumlin and Heeke as the program works to get on track with the UA athletic director confirming his support for the second-year year head coach.

"Coach Sumlin is our head football coach," Heeke told reporters gathered inside a hallway outside Arizona State's media center. "... I'm looking forward to Year 3 as we continue to rebuild the program. Right now we're focused on moving forward. We're getting out tomorrow recruiting, moving the program forward and taking the steps necessary to build the program and do the things that need to be done to get Arizona football on a winning track."

Sumlin has gone 9-15 during his first two season as Arizona's head coach and this season the Wildcats ended the year by losing seven straight games including Saturday's defeat at the hands of UA's rival, Arizona State. The Wildcats have lost both Territorial Cup matchups under Sumlin.

"People, including myself, care very, very deeply about this program," Sumlin said after Saturday's loss. "There's a lot of things that go into it and and a lot of work that's involved. The way that you get better is through recruiting and player development and that's where we are. ... I know fans are frustrated but we've gotta trust the process, and we have a process in place that I believe in and a lot of our players believe in."

Both Sumlin and Heeke mentioned the importance of recruiting in their postgame comments and what remains of UA's coaching staff will hit the road starting Sunday to finish putting together the 2020 recruiting class with the start of the early signing period just a few weeks away.

The Wildcats also have to hire three more coaches after Sumlin decided to fire defensive coordinator Marcel Yates, linebackers coach John Rushing and defensive line coach Iona Uiagalelei in recent weeks.

Sumlin said Saturday that while he wants to make his new staff additions sooner rather than later he also wants to make sure UA's new coaches are the right fit for what the program is looking for moving forward and that is his priority over finding replacements quickly.

For Heeke, the focus will not be on the season that just took place but what is ahead for the football program and Sumlin will remain at the center of it heading into the offseason.

"It's not where we wanted to be," he said. "You've heard Kevin say that, you've heard players say that. This isn't what we planned to do, but it is what it is. It is part of the process and sometimes it's real difficult to be in the pipe and be stuck in there. We've gotta keep pushing through and getting to that next spot."