As you may know, Zona Zealots is running a Sweet 17 tournament pitting the seventeen best Arizona Wildcats basketball teams of all time. As I was thinking of coming up with another post today, I considered that we might do that for Arizona Wildcats football in light of the fact that the NCAA will finally have a four-team playoff in the 2014 season. I figured instead of doing a Sweet 17, we’d just do a Final Four.
Then I started trying to figure out which teams would be involved in such a tournament (using Pac-10/12 era teams, of course). The 1998 season is a no brainer. The 1993 season would probably be slotted in the #2 seed. But then what?
Arizona fun facts: the Wildcats have finished the season ranked in a poll only five times: 1986 (10 coaches, 11 AP), 1989 (25 AP), 1993 (9/10), 1994 (20 AP), 1998 (4/4). Arizona tied for first in the Pac-10 only once: in 1993. It finished second in 1985, 1989, 1994, 1998, and 2009.
This made me realize why basketball is my sport, not football. My favorite team ever, my Arizona Wildcats, hardly ever put together seasons where it even challenges for a spot at the top of the conference let alone country. My team has only been nationally relevant at the end of a season for a handful of times in my entire lifetime.
I made the decision not to renew my football tickets this year. Yes, I like the big video board. Yes, I think the new stadium addition will be awesome. The game day experience is much improved, and much is owed to Greg Byrne in that respect. True, it was mostly an economic decision that I didn’t renew my tickets (I am currently paying for a wedding). But I didn’t lose any sleep over it, and that really bothers me I think. I’ll still watch the games at home (assuming we don’t have too many on the Pac-12 Network as I have DirecTV). But I guess I didn’t realize just how much I didn’t care.
I don’t exactly know what to do about my apathy. I think part of it is that my Arizona Wildcats have shown so much promise throughout the years, only to squander it in one way or another. Dick Tomey gave us some of the best defenses that a college football fan could ever hope to see. We’ve had great starts to the beginnings of seasons only to watch them fade away. We’ve seen allegedly great mind after allegedly great mind take the head coaching helm and then become exposed as average at best, exposed either for a lack of head coaching ability or a lack of turning this massively average ship towards success.
I got to watch someone new blossom into a Wildcats fan this year. My fiancée did not grow up a huge Arizona Wildcats fan like me. But this year, she watched probably more Wildcats football and basketball than she ever has, and I think she really enjoyed it (either that or she put up a really good show for my sake…can you tell why I’m marrying her?). We’ve talked about getting season tickets in both sports, but even she, after just one year, knows how much more important Arizona Wildcats basketball is to me and in this community than Arizona Wildcats football.
Winning cures all ills, I suppose. But I have kind of given up on my team, which is hard to admit. I’m not saying that Arizona won’t ever be good, but I’m saying I have little hope of Arizona ever being consistently good.
There are a number of teams in all sports leagues that have this problem. The Cubbies come to mind immediately but also look at any team from Cleveland, the LA Clippers, Northwestern basketball…could Arizona really be in the same boat as these abnormally bad teams? I don’t think I’m saying that Arizona Wildcats football is as in bad of shape as some of these teams are.
What I am saying I suppose is that I understand. My team has never been to a Rose Bowl, and I don’t know if it ever will. I would hope for some catharsis for us in just talking about this issue. But I don’t get that we’ll ever feel OK with Arizona Wildcats football losing, if only because we don’t know what it is like to have ever been winning. The more I talk about it, the more disappointed I become. I want my team, my Arizona Wildcats, to be successful so badly, but they just keep failing to do so.
I can see why recruits would come here. Great campus, pretty girls, shiny stadium, new coach, awesome marketing, great national exposure. But note that among all those items, we can’t include “Pac-12 Championship”. We can’t include “BCS Bowl Game”. Maybe I’m spoiled in that a very good Arizona Wildcats basketball team is a threat for the Elite 8 and a near lock for a Pac-12 championship while a great team is a national championship threat. How many times have we seen that from Arizona football ever? It is puzzling why a player would come to a place where success is such an exercise in futility. Maybe Arizona just isn’t getting the players who can instead choose to play on BCS contenders.
Arizona Wildcats football is in a constant spiral around a level somewhere between mediocrity and slightly above average. Once in a while, momentum lifts Arizona to a higher level, though just as often Arizona finds itself amongst the dregs. Us fans, we are merely stuck waiting for some hope that we can climb out of the constant threat of a disappointing season. We yearn for the moment that our team can put together a string of good seasons, the kind where getting to a midlevel bowl is cause for concern, not cause for celebration. We pray that someday it is always fun, easy, and rewarding to root for Arizona Wildcats football.