In the final 17 games of his football career at Tucson High, Joel Favara’s teams went 17-0, won two state championships and he was named the state’s Player of the Year.
This newspaper wrote: “Favara, Tucson’s magnificent scoring demon and defensive stalwart, is Arizona’s Class A MVP by a landslide.”
That 1952 team included star-level players who signed with Notre Dame, Illinois, Oklahoma, Arizona and Missouri. One team. It might’ve been the best-ever in Tucson.
“The bashful Badger was termed the finest performer ever to play for him by Red Greer,” the Star wrote, quoting the coach who had won multiple state championships over 18 years.
Not only that, after becoming a team captain at Oklahoma State in 1955, Favara returned to Arizona and coached Safford High School (10-0) to the 1962 state championship.
So it’s a bit overdue that it took Favara more than a half-century to be inducted into the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame; the ceremony is this afternoon.
Ever modest, Favara talks not about himself, but about fellow running back inductee, Joe Petroshus, the state’s 1968 football player of the year at Tucson High.
“It was a stretch to call me (the best),” Favara says now. “I appreciate all those comments, but Joe Petroshus was bigger and faster, so were a lot of guys to follow me. I’m fortunate to be included in his class.”
Petroshus was indeed in a select class. He set a state-record 2,718 career rushing yards and established the then-city record of 303 in a game against Pueblo. He was subject of a recruiting tug-of-war between Arizona and Oklahoma.
In the end, Favara’s career was done in by a fractured spine; Petroshus was never the same after breaking his ankle in his first week as a UA varsity running back.
But it’s fitting they are inducted together today; Favaro and Petroshus were the Ka’Deem Careys and Mario Bateses of an earlier era, state champs, record-setters and, today, Hall of Famers.
Arizona's top-ranked runners gearing up for league championships
Arizona’s women’s cross country team rose to the NCAA’s No. 1 in ranking last week, but that’s getting a bit ahead of the important stuff.
The Wildcats have forever been knocking on the door of the Pac-12, threatening but never winning a league title. Under both Dave Murray and now James Li, Arizona finished second in the Pac-12 in 1993, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2010 and 2012.
Li will take the top-ranked Wildcats to the league championships next Saturday near Boulder, Colo. If Elvin Kibet, Nicci Corbin and their teammates can win there, they will surely enter next month’s NCAA finals in Terre Haute, Ind., as the favorite, or close enough.
Arizona’s continued ascension as a track/field/cross country power was further manifest last week when coach Fred Harvey accepted a bid to compete in April’s annual Pepsi Dual Meet at Hayward Field.
The Ducks stage one dual meet per year, part of the legacy of Steve Prefontaine, and plan for it to be televised before about 10,000 fans.
The Ducks have managed to schedule Top 10-type men’s and women’s teams for that dual meet; Arizona finished in the NCAA Top 10 in both last year and is likely to be stronger, possibly in the top three, in women’s track and field, 2014.
Short stuff: Book's return comes at perfect time
- The return to practice of UA super-recruiter Book Richardson can’t be understated. The finish line to a year’s worth of recruiting is next week, and, at practice, Sean Miller will now have eight eyes instead of six. You can imagine the extra workload Miller absorbed in Richardson’s absence — coaching, recruiting, being a father figure to 13 players — and it had to take a toll. Essentially, Miller was down 25 percent in practice and recruiting personnel.
- Mike Bibby stopped by Arizona practices last weekend, posing for a picture with Damon Stoudamire, Nick Johnson and Miller. Bibby, retired, is 35 now. Where did the time go?
- Here’s another look-back-in-time figure: Charles O’Bannon was often an Arizona-killer in his mid-90s days on those UCLA powerhouse hoops teams coached by Jim Harrick. Now, Charles O’Bannon Jr. has emerged as an elite recruit in the Class of 2017 at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman.
- Quietly standing on the sideline at the Utah-Arizona football game was Larry Mac Duff, the UA’s defensive coordinator during the Desert Swarm era, one of the top coordinators in the last quarter-century of college football. Mac Duff, who later coached for the Texas Longhorns, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers, still has a home in Tucson and is not coaching this season. He is a young 65.
- Tucsonan Chip Hale’s trajectory to be a big-league manager stalled a bit when he left the Tucson Sidewinders, where his team won the 2006 Pacific Coast League championship. He has been the bench coach for Bob Melvin’s Oakland A’s the last two seasons. But now Hale, 48, one of the top players in Arizona Wildcats history, has interviewed for the Seattle Mariners vacant managerial job.
More short stuff: Swim coach's leave latest hurdle for powerhouse program
- UA swimming coach Eric Hansen, who has taken an indefinite leave for personal reasons, has had a difficult last few months. His top assistant coach for 11 years at both Wisconsin and Arizona, Geoff Hanson, unexpectedly submitted his resignation during the offseason and has yet to find another college swimming position. Last month, an industry information source, swimswam.com, said that Arizona’s women’s recruiting, usually among the nation’s top four, has seriously ebbed. And two weeks ago, the school’s impact recruit, South African freestyle sprinter Brad Tandy, was ruled ineligible for the 2013-14 season, dropping Arizona from consideration as a potential NCAA men’s champion. On top of that, Arizona was smoked by unranked Utah last week. Stay tuned.
- Until the UA lost at home, shut out by unheralded Washington State on Friday, senior soccer player Jazmin Ponce was on the radar as a potential Pac-12 Player of the Year. That’s probably a stretch now, although Ponce, a first-team All-Pac-12 player in 2012, is among the West’s premier players. Here’s some context: Arizona has only had six players make the all-conference first team in 19 years; Ponce is likely to join Candice Wilks as the only two-time honorees. Ponce needs to bust it to catch Arizona’s 2005 Pac-12 Player of the Year Mallory Miller, who holds the school record with 19 goals in a season. Ponce has 10.
- Of the hundreds of UA-generated tweets last week, my favorite was first-year sand volleyball coach Steve Walker transmitting an image of dump trucks delivering 40 tons of sand to the school’s first-ever facility at Jimenez Field. “The sand has arrived!” he wrote. Game on.
- Arizona’s reigning NCAA high jump champion, Brigetta Barrett, did not win the school’s fifth NCAA Woman of the Year, even though she was probably the on-paper favorite. In last week’s ceremony in Indianapolis, Texas Tech shot-putter Ifeatu Okafor was so honored. Okafor has never finished higher than No. 6 nationally in the shot put, which means the NCAA Woman of the Year panel has modified its requirements, putting more emphasis on off-field achievements. Strangely, Barrett was as accomplished off the field as she was on it, an honor student who won an Olympic silver medal and six NCAA championships.
More short stuff: Small-college football tilt took on Tucson-area flair
- Imagine the odds of a “Tucson reunion” on Saturday when 6-1 Lake Forest (Ill.) College met 4-2 Cornell (Iowa) College in a football showdown. The Lake Forest starting quarterback was Mike Lewis, who helped Canyon del Oro win the 2009 state title. He had passed for 1,002 yards entering the game and threw a TD as Lake Forest won Saturday 17-10. His opposition’s top defensive back was Jeff Bollnow, who had made 29 tackles this season. Bollnow was Lewis’ high school rival, playing at Mountain View High School. In 2003, Lewis and Bollnow were teammates on the Oro Valley Dolphins Junior Pee Wee team.
- Abyee Maracigan, who led Flowing Wells High School to the 2008 state girls basketball championship, 33-1 overall, has returned to her school as an assistant to her old coach, Michael Perkins. Maracigan spent the last three years playing at Idaho State, which included a Big Sky championship. She also led Pima College to a No. 3 overall finish in the NJCAA under Todd Holthaus. Fittingly, Maracigan is coaching a YMCA basketball team nicknamed “Bengals,” after her Idaho State alma mater, as she completes student-teaching requirements.
- Flowing Wells grad Jeff Thomas was inducted into the University of Redlands sports Hall of Fame last weekend. He was not only a standout football player there, but an assistant coach from 2003 to 2009, capped in ’09 by being named the NCAA Division III assistant coach of the year. Thomas is in his fourth year as head coach of University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash.
- After John Mozeliak ended his days as a UA undergrad in 1992, he got his foot in the door as an intern for the new Colorado Rockies at Hi Corbett Field. In spring training 1993, Mozeliak operated the radar gun, among other duties in the Rockies’ first spring training. Now Mozeliak is the St. Louis Cardinals general manager, bidding to win the World Series. Try to top that career path.
- Sahuaro grad and 2012 London Olympic bronze medal swimmer Caitin Leverenz returned to Tucson on Saturday to speak at the Sahuaro Cougar Foundation Hall of Fame ceremony. Among those inducted was former Cougar shortstop/basketball standout Rick McConnell, who has won 543 games in his high school basketball coaching career, mostly at Mesa Dobson. After playing baseball at Arizona, McConnell followed his father Dick McConnell’s path into coaching. Dick has a state-record 774 victories. Rick would probably have to coach successfully another 20 years to even come close. The ceremony was held in Dick McConnell Gymnasium. Fitting.
My two cents: City golf situation could be solved soon — or not
The long process of deciding whether the city of Tucson is to get out of the golf business and deliver its five city golf courses to a management firm — the process has been narrowed from seven to two firms — could be decided by Christmas.
But it’s also possible the city will leave Tucson City Golf as is, especially after it reported a six-figure profit for the 2013 fiscal year. It’s a significant call for the future.
I had to chuckle last week when I came across a Feb. 4, 1969, front-page article in the Star in which Mayor Jim Corbett reported the city’s muni courses had lost $42,000.
“We need a full-time, competent professional manager,” the mayor said 44 years ago, “one who could run courses like a business.” He also noted that the city golf enterprise had failed under two previous management systems.
And here we are in 2013 still trying to get it right.