Arizona Athletic Director Greg Byrne has been a mover and a shaker since Day 1 on campus.
By Steve Buchanan
Give all the kudos to Arizona baseball coach Andy Lopez for getting his Arizona Wildcats into the 2012 NCAA tourney. With a veteran coach like Lopez, and a number of players who have been drafted professionally from this year’s team, the Wildcat have earned their right to play in the College World Series. Still, I’m thinking that what may have punched the ticket to Omaha this year was the administrative decision to leave mundane Sancet Field and move all home games to historic Hi Corbett Field. Arizona had a decided home field advantage during the Pac-12 season, and to silence the critics, the increased attendance had as much to do with location, location, location as the liquor sales.
This was a bold, almost controversial decision when it was first floated, with the sale of beer at a college event being the sticking point. But the results have been so positive and the choice seems so obvious that everyone wonders why it wasn’t ever thought of before. Credit, Arizona’s Athletic Director Greg Bryne. Clearly, Arizona has one of the best, if not the best young AD’s in Division I. Best wishes to the Batcats as they continue their quest for another NCAA championship in Omaha. If they do bring back the CWS trophy, I hope Coach Lopez will credit Bryne for revitalizing Arizona baseball with the change of venue because the enthusiasm brought to the program because of the move has clearly carried over to what’s going down in Omaha right now.
If you’re a student of history, the unlikely finish of the U.S. Open this past Sunday may have come as no surprise. But, come on, Webb Simpson? The 26 year old is even more unknown than Scott Simpson was when he won the 1987 Open at Olympics’ Lake Club. No doubt about it, Webb played the last two rounds at 68-68, so he is very deserving, yet also a very un-climatic winner. Former U of A golfer, Jim Furyk, my pick earlier in the week as someone who could emerge as the winner had a puzzling comment regarding the placement of the tees at the monster par 5 16th hole, which proved to be his waterloo, as he hit the ugliest duck hook off the tee that I’ve ever witnessed in professional golf. Apparently, Furyk walked up to the tee on 16 and was stunned to find that the tee had been moved up almost 100 yards from the day before, turning the 670 yard, 3 shot par 5 into a more reachable 579 yards.
“I know the USGA gives us a memo saying that they play from multiple tees, but there's no way to prepare for a hundred yards," said Furyk. “To a tee where the tee box is a hundred yards up and the fairway makes a complete L turn, I was unprepared and didn't know exactly where to hit the ball off the tee. And I took a little bit more of an aggressive route with that 3 wood. And there's no way when we play our practice rounds you're going to hit a shot from a tee a hundred yards up unless someone tells you.”
But to be fair to the USGA, they had hinted that the tee would be moved up – way up, the night before. Furyk, to his credit, did qualify his statement by adding; "But the rest of the field had that same shot to hit today and I'm pretty sure no one hit as [poor] a shot as I did, so. I did the worst job of handling it, and I have no one to blame but myself.”
A bogey and a par on two consecutive birdie possibilities, 16 and 17, made a birdie necessary for Furyk to force a playoff, but he pulled his wedge approach into the left greenside bunker and ended tied for fourth.
And how’s this for Karma? Webb Simpson attended Wake Forest on a golf scholarship – an Arnold Palmer golf scholarship. What Palmer couldn’t do in ’66, was done by the beneficiary of Palmer’s largesse to his alma mater. Congratulations to Webb Simpson, but as Wildcat fans, we would have been happy had Jim Furyk broken what seems to be an Olympic Open curse to front running favorites.
Like they say in sports, "Just win, baby!"
Speaking of golf; I love the Ping commercial featuring Bubba Watson giving himself a pep talk in the mirror in the locker room, with the dialouge: “you’ve got custom fit Ping irons – no one can beat you today.” At which point, Hunter Mahan peeks around the corner and says; “uh, Bubba, I have custom fit Ping irons too.” The best part – Watson smirks at him and says; “good luck out there today.” Funny stuff.
After citing the publishers’ new found fitness regime, golf equipment change, and of all things YOGA, Gary Randazzo has revealed the last source of his golfing inspiration, Holly Sonders. He’s even intimated that she is the official Friday Fizz girl! First of all, that’s impossible. Don’t ask me why. I just know that it is impossible, just like I don’t have to go to outer space to know there isn’t any oxygen there. Just like I know that today’s 105 degree temperature in Tucson had nothing to do with global warming. It’s just that hot. And, give Randazzo credit, so is she. In fact, Holly Sonders might be the cause of manmade warming. So, again, I’ll put my claim in for Win McMurray over Ms. Sanders, or any of the Golf Channel reporters, for that matter.
This reminds me of another great commercial.
I’m talking about the Grey Goose Vodka golf commercial. This ad is the essence of cool in several ways. First of all, it’s shot in black and white. There is a foursome of guys and women, all outfitted to the nines, hitting crisp shots from everywhere on the course, all filmed at a club that looks like the initiation fee would be more than most of us make in a lifetime. Can you picture yourself playing golf in a foursome that includes two women that look like Holly Sonders and play like Annika Sorenstam, or, uh, Holly Sonders? Neither can I. But we all can knock back a couple of iced tea glass-sized vodkas on the rocks, right? (Note: If any of you play in a group like that, can you call me if you need a fourth?) Reality check. Are you really spending money on overpriced French vodka? You’re kidding, right? Go with American made, Titos, distilled six times, out of Austin, Texas. With the savings you can buy your way into a new, hip looking foursome.
As we move toward July, Arizona football fans eagerly await the beginning of August camp. I was driving through the campus last week and saw the football team walking from McKale Center to their “voluntary” early morning workouts. There were plenty of guys heading to the field so that’s a good sign.
The progress of the construction project is on schedule and already the stadium has been transformed. The concrete sections have now replaced both sets of bleachers in the north and south end zones, translating to a much better experience for fans in those areas. Seating will be installed in the next few weeks in the south end zone, which will be in use for the coming season. The north end zone will not be utilized for fans until next season. A question that comes up from time to time is how the additions will affect overall attendance. Officially, the expansion will not increase attendance above the capacity of 58,000 or so. When all is said and done, though, with additional loge seating, I’ll bet we’ll get over 60,000 in there if necessary.
This brings us back to Greg Byrne. By securing financing so that this project could get started this past January, Arizona will be able to keep pace with other schools in the Pac-12 that are also in the midst of major reconstruction efforts in their football facilities. In addition to Arizona, California, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State and ASU have all begun or announced major construction plans. Stay tuned. Through the month of July, WSR will preview the plans and projects at each of these facilities and give you a peek at the future of conference venues, which will help change the perception of football out west once and for all.
Steve Buchanan is a regular contributor to Wildcat Sports Report.