It was the improvement in Arizona’s defense that helped catapult the Wildcats to just their fourth 10-win season in program history.

Defensive Coordinator Johnny Nansen’s group went from giving up 36.5 points per game to 21.1 points per game this past season. And, the Wildcats forced six turnovers in the Valero Alamo Bowl win over Oklahoma.

“Coach Nansen, he’s that guy,” said safety Gunner Maldonado after the Arizona defeated ASU in the Territorial Cup game. “Just being in the meeting room with him in a normal Monday or Tuesday, everybody just loves being around him.”

Now, Nansen has left for the University of Texas. While the Longhorns are leaving for the SEC, Nansen is not leaving to be the defensive coordinator. He’ll be the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. It’s a rare departure from Jedd Fisch’s staff.

“We understand it’s a very competitive atmosphere out there in the profession,” said Fisch before Nansen departed. “Before I get my contract done, I’m going to make sure my assistants are taken care of. We are going to make sure they are compensated accordingly.”

As it turns out, according to USA Today, Nansen was making $750,000 at Arizona, and he’s giving up an additional $50,000 by leaving by the end of before the end of January. It’s more money than was Jeff Choate, the coach he’s replacing, was making. Choate left for a head coaching position with the Longhorns.

While it’s unlikely Nansen is leaving for a pay cut, it suggests money may not have been the main issue. At Texas, Nansen will be reunited with Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian, who he worked for at both USC and Washington.

“When Coach Sark called it was an easy decision,” said Nansen in a statement. “It’s like a dream come true to work at a place like Texas – with all its rich history and tradition – and reuniting with Sark is a big part of it too.”

The Wildcats will miss Nansen’s enthusiasm on the sidelines.

“We love him,” said Maldonado. “He’s just a great person and a great coach.”

After Fisch’s first season, 2021 defensive coordinator Don Brown left to be head coach at UMass. Career advancement is understandable, and other than the role of defensive coordinator, most of Fisch’s staff has remained.

“It’s been very, very, important, the consistency in our staff, that has enabled us to win,” said Fisch.