Trying to predict the outcome of a football season for a program facing major scheme changes on both sides of the football, as well as the overhaul of an entire coaching staff is like trying to predict the outcome of a blind date. Sure, things could go incredibly awesome. However, things could also go straight to Hades in a hand basket within the blink of an eye. Yes, Rich Rodriguez is doing and saying the right things thus far, and that’s all anyone can ask of him to this point. Personally, I’ll be paying close attention to see if those “death nail” words come out of his mouth in the months ahead if and when the team is struggling. What I’m referring to is the dreadful excuse of “these aren’t my players.” I honestly don’t think Rodriguez will play that card, and surely hope he doesn’t because it’s a copout used by way too many coaches in way too many new-hire situations. The truth is every single Wildcat on the roster became Rodriquez’s player the day spring camp started. At that point, both the players and the coaches knew what the score was, what was being asked of them, and everyone, including Rodriguez, had the chance to opt out. My point is this. This is Rich Rod’s program now. He has the keys and if he takes ownership for everything that happens within his program, including the results on the field, my guess is everything will work out in the end and Arizona Football will be a success story under his reign. And let’s be clear, so far it is my opinion that Rich Rod has taken ownership.
It's your program, coach. Own it!
You ever have those moments in life when you’re harmlessly minding your own business to then suddenly be thrust into a conversation that you can’t seem to get out of. Thursday I’m at Starbucks, and it’s early so the majority of my faculties were still in sleep mode. This unassuming man starts chatting me up about his struggles in faith, claiming he’s an agnostic Jewish-Catholic. I know, right. All the while I’m looking upward to my own God thinking, “Save Me.” I’ll spare you the details, but examples like this are why The Fizz goes into lockdown mode 135 days out of the year.
The pinnacle of my direct affiliation with the University of Arizona came in the school’s hay-day of sports, the 1990’s. Not only did I get to experience the outbreak of the real Desert Swarm; storm the field following the 1992 Washington win; and more, but I got to experience the thrill of going to classes and planning my Thursday/Saturday sports swing for three consecutive weeks during Arizona’s memorable Final Four run with Damon Stoudamire and Khalid Reeves. Of course, the decade also produced the Fiesta Bowl mashing of Miami; No. 1 Sports Illustrated covers in both hoops and football; the famous, “Simon says, championship” line; the 1998 football dream season; the Keith Smith-Ortege Jenkins QB combo; and on and on. High times for sure. What’s funny, though, is if you had told me back then that TODAY I’d be dreaming that Arizona basketball had Arizona football’s offensive firepower AND UA football had Wildcat hoops’ defensive tenacity I’d call you crazy. However, that’s where I am right now. In order for both programs to be successful in 2012-13, Arizona basketball desperately needs to improve its scoring while UA football, a program prided on defense, needs to learn how to stop somebody!
Speaking of Arizona basketball, the thing that will intrigue me the most come the start of the season is how the five new roster players whom are eligible will handle the game-minutes distribution. It’s fairly obvious that Mark Lyons will be thrust into the starter’s role and likely play more than 30 minutes a game as a fifth-year senior/grad student. It’s also fairly obvious that Kaleb Tarczewski will play about 25 minutes a game barring foul trouble. However, not so obvious is how Gabe York, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett will respond to roles smaller than those on their high school teams. Ashley did get a taste of playing on a loaded roster by transferring to Findlay Prep (Nev.) for his senior season; understanding that he did not have to score 30 points a night in order for his team to win (although his incredible fourth quarter performance at the nationals in late March showed that he can take his game to another level at the snap of a finger). York and Jerrett are different stories, though, although I can see Jerrett acclimating to role-player status (as a freshman) much easier than someone like York who not only was the star for his high school team, but HAD to be the star in order for his Orange Lutheran club to be successful. York is uber-competitive and for athletes with his mental-approach, he’d rather be triple-teamed in the baseline corner rather than sitting on the bench. I’m confident York will get his opportunity, and shine within those moments, but he’ll need to overcome that tricky mental hurdle that all talented incoming freshmen face when they go from playing all but 30 seconds in a high school game to possibly playing in just half of a college game in that first season.
I’m a sucker for great television commercial ad campaigns. Since we’re in the dog days of summer, here’s my list of top advertising themes this year:
1. AllState’s “Mayhem” campaign
2. FedEx’s “If it Fits it Ships”
3. Wilson Golf’s “Wanna Play Around”
4. EA Sports’ “Choose Your Heisman”
5. Anything from Sonic Burger
6. NBA’s “Big Heads”
7. eBay “Talking Baby” series
8. FedEx’s “Golf Club Shipping”
9. ESPN’s “College Mascots”
10. MetLife’s “Peanuts Gang”
As Pac-12 football nears, I can tell you that I’m not as excited about the new Pac-12 Network as others. For one, I enjoy watching “all” conference games, not those in my zone, or whatever P12N is labeling their television matrices right now. Second, with all of these last second deals still to be negotiated, I find that incredibly bothersome so late in the game. I’m a planner, which is to say I like to know what I’m doing tomorrow before tomorrow gets here. Sure, I’d love to be one of those cavalier types that wakes up and allows the day to come to them. Unfortunately, I operate in this thing called the Real World and it demands scheduling. Let’s assume that the cable/satellite provider I currently have doesn’t offer P12N. Am I to wait around another two weeks and hope that my provider miraculously agrees to a deal on Aug. 30? If they don’t, do I then run out to secure a new provider in the days that follow only to then be insulted a month later when my previous provider suddenly says “yes” to P12N? Further, what if the provider I ultimately settle with is only offering the local teams, which happen to be the 2-3 teams I need to watch least? Exactly what value does that bring to me and the typical out-of-market fan? When sold on the concept, fans were given the impression that P12N was designed to bring their team to them. So far, that’s not happening and it’s not even close. As of today, not a single cable/satellite provider in my market has agreed to a deal with P12N, which means I can forget about seeing these special Pac-12 games (in any sport), let alone my preferred college. And for the record, I don’t reside in Puxatawny, Pa. I’m in Los Angeles, the one market you’d think P12N would have secured first or second. And finally, do you know how insulting it is to a person to read about “all the amazing things” P12N is offering conference fans when you don’t get it. It’s like being on a diet and your jackass friend comes over with a meatball sandwich and starts hoovering the thing right in front of you. Uncool.
Hopefully, P12N will play itself out and we’ll all be happy in the end, but this isn’t my first rodeo with disappointment so consider me suspicious.
On a more pleasant note, I was pleasantly surprised to see Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott publicly stand up for Lane Kiffin this week on L.A. Radio after Kiffin was caught lying about how he would not be voting USC No. 1 on his preseason AP Coaches Poll ballot. He did. While I’m not surprised that Kiffin is a backdoor liar, I do like the fact that the Commish was willing to stand up and protect his own by publicly defending Kiffin through the guise that college coaches should not be put in the position to subjectively judge their peers each week when most of the coaching voters aren’t paying attention beyond their own football programs anyway. What Scott did was tell every coach and Athletics Department in conference that no matter what, “I’ve got your back.”
Would it have been so wrong for Lane Kiffin to simply admit that he voted his Trojans #1 in the country. After all, they kinda sorta are.
Credit is due to the London Olympics. Simply brilliant, and safe, and exciting, so cheerio! Surprisingly, I did lose interest in any track and field event that didn’t include Usain Bolt. For some reason, the magic of the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles remains simply that for me as it relates to T&F. Comparatively, I was riveted by men’s and women’s swimming, beach and indoor volleyball, women’s soccer, and women’s gymnastics. As for Team USA Basketball…boring! Seriously, I was bored to death, and that’s saying something. It’s bad enough having to watch Duke basketball during the college season let alone be forced to pretend that I’m excited about Coach K turning NBA all-stars into a grown up version of the Duke Blue Devils and their pick and pop and triangle screening until someone’s freed up for a 3-Pointer. Ugh, give me a break!
In conclusion, the start of the football season is just around the corner. I just hope I’m able to see it.
Have a great weekend!
Bear Down, Everyone! And Bear Down, Arizona!
Follow me on Twitter @garyrandazzo, and follow WSR @WSRArizona.