Confession: I’ve been to 143 college football games in my 34 years on this planet. 118 of them have involved the University of Arizona. I’ve missed a total of four home games in Tucson since 2001 and have attended every ASU-UofA game since that same season. I drive roughly two hours from my home in Scottsdale to Arizona’s campus for each game despite many of the drives home being in the wee hours of the morning.
It’s safe to say that I’m a diehard fan.
But enough is enough.
I really liked the Rich Rodriguez hire in 2011. He’s a nice guy, great at fan functions, and was a splashy hire for a program who needed one six years ago.
His first three seasons were great all things considered, including a Pac-12 South Championship in 2014.
Two years ago THIS WEEK, ESPN’s College Gameday was on the mall with Old Main in the background! Arizona vs. UCLA was the PRIMETIME game for the entire country to see on ABC. Final score: Bruins 56, Wildcats 30.
Since then it’s been downhill and it culminated with this on Friday night:
Arizona’s attendance of 36,651 is lowest since UAB game 36,309 in 1997 and second smallest since 1982. Not good.
— Greg Hansen (@ghansen711) September 23, 2017
Arizona lost its 2017 Pac-12 opener to a ranked Utah squad on Friday night, 30-24. And the game was SO winnable!
As I told two friends who came with me who had never previously been to a UA game in Tucson, it was everything Arizona Football has been since the Dick Tomey days all rolled into one game.
Among the things we saw from UofA on Friday night:
-A fumble on the Utah 2 yard line
-2 field goals blocked
-3 interceptions including one on its own 14 yard line which was run back for a score
-A missed catch by running back Nick Wilson who could’ve walked into the end zone.
-A 4th down misread by QB Brandon Dawkins who missed a WIDE OPEN Trevor Wood for a score.
-A successful onside kick immediately followed by a Dawkins fumble in the red zone.
-Five total turnovers!
Rodriguez got one thing right before the 2016 season. Bringing in new defensive coordinator Marcel Yates from Boise State has proven to be a success. Case and point:
Arizona has given up three points in the fourth quarter over the last three games and has lost two of them.
— Michael Lev (@MichaelJLev) September 23, 2017
Yates appears to be a keeper.
But the offense, RichRod’s specialty, is clearly flawed…most notably at the quarterback position. I commend QB Brandon Dawkins for his effort and performances against ASU the last two seasons. But it’s now evident that Arizona will not be a winning football team with him under center.
RichRod: “We still feel like we can compete in the Pac-12 for a championship….a lot of football still left.”
— Zack Rosenblatt (@ZackBlatt) September 23, 2017
Seriously folks – RR can’t actually believe this, right?
My first year as a student at UofA was in 2001…the same year John Mackovic took over the head coaching job for Arizona’s football team. Things got so bad over the next several years that in 2003, the players essentially revolted and Mackovic, a no-personality, lackluster former NFL coach was unceremoniously fired in-season.
Though team morale isn’t near those 2003 lows apparently, fan support clearly has reached those lows and something must be done.
So new Arizona Athletic Director, Dave Heeke, I have a challenge for you.
Find a coach who could be a lifer at UofA. A coach who won’t flirt with schools like South Carolina. I know Arizona football isn’t a destination job to most…but to others, it sure is one. Get creative…find someone who is willing to recruit their butt off…get the players uber motivated…encourage fan support…be active in the community!
A successful football team equals a successful athletic department. Simple math can tell you that (or just ask former UofA AD Greg Byrne, now at Alabama).
For those of us diehards, please do something…and soon. We love Arizona football and want it to succeed. Unfortunately it’s evident to all, the program at this juncture, is headed down a dark path.