Arizona Football: Time to Say Bu-Bye!

September 11, 2017

Arizona Football: Time to Say Bu-Bye!

I will celebrate 21,915 days on this Earth on Thursday. That’s 60 years, for those who don’t focus on each and every day! During those many days, the University of Arizona Wildcats have played 681 or 682 football games. (The 1957 Ed Doherty team went 1-8-1, and I suspect one or two games were played before September 14.*) And from 1957 through last Saturday’s Houston fiasco, the Wildcats have won 52% of their games.

More stats? In 60 full seasons Arizona has been ranked nationally at the end of the season 8X. Our teams were Western Athletic Conference champions twice, and PAC-10 champions once. (The U of A has been in the PAC-10 / PAC-12 for 39 seasons.) There have been 18 bowl games, mostly minor ones, and the won / loss record is 9-8-1.

We’ve had 11 coaches. One, Dick Tomey, coached for 14 years. Of the remaining 10, the average tenure has been less than five years.

Last statistic. The University of Arizona pays Richard Rodriguez $2,375,000 to coach the football team. He’s the highest paid employee on the U of A payroll. Next highest? Basketball coach Sean Miller, who makes $2,100,000. No one else makes even $1,000,000. (Figures are here.)

I totally get college football. I grew up in Tucson, and I went to football games when Tucson’s population was around 300,000. When 15% of the community was in Wildcat Stadium, and the PA announcer called out doctor pager numbers. Etc.

I despise football today, but I still end up in social settings—the Super Bowl, mostly—and watch. I’m amazed, every year, that I still see clips, holds, pass interference, and the like. I get the strategy and the flow, still. I just can’t stand the violence and, at the college level, the money.

The money! The Arizona Athletic Department had revenue of $85,356,236 in 2016. Expenses exceeded revenue by almost $2MM. (Data comes from this story.) Yah, yah, I know lots of money comes from shoe companies, television, etc. I also know football and—at Arizona, especially—basketball pay for many intercollegiate athletics teams. And I don’t like looking at gross numbers in the abstract. So, for 2017 the total university budget is $1.1BB. Acknowledging that I’m comparing 2016 and 2017 numbers, the U of A spends almost 8.8% of its annual budget on college athletics. (2017 budget figures come in this piece.) That percentage leaves me colder than cold!

I get the case for college football. History. Alumni support. Community spirit. (I live two blocks from the Mall, and if it ever cools down Max and I will walk through the tailgating and, yes, enjoy by osmosis, just as we did last year.) But, can we find no other way to get from here to there? Does college football circa 2017 reflect the values of a Top 20 research university? We’re now a city of 1,000,000 people, and we struggle to fill that stadium.

Now, for a dirty little secret. Why does U of A football annoy me, deep down? Enough to offer up this blog post, which will surely generate less than positive feedback. Because we lose!!! I despise football. (Oh, I said that already.) But I understand the attraction. Still, in Tucson we rev it up every year, only to be a 6-5 team, over the decades. Football should go away, at every level. Boxing too, but football plays a much bigger role in our society. That said, if we’re going to engage, we should do so successfully. If we can’t win, we need to declare victory and walk away.

Alas, success in college football challenges many schools. Reality? There are 120+ Division I-A football programs, and there aren’t enough top tier young men to make all of the teams competitive. And, frankly, history tells us the young men the University of Arizona needs to develop a sustainable, top tier football program choose other schools.

The University of Arizona should end its college football program, for all of the reasons I have offered. I figure my observation will receive the same reception some nitwits in Florida got after they decided to shoot guns at Irma. I can live with that. With 21,912 days on this Third Rock from the Sun, I can live with damn near anything. (Uh, no Donald, you’re not part of Damn Near Anything.)

*Ed Doherty was the only man who coached at both Arizona State University and the University of Arizona. He ended his coaching career at Salpointe Catholic High School in Tucson, and its stadium bears his name.

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