Arizona lost 61-14 at Arizona State in 1951 and UA coach Bob Winslow reacted by going deer hunting the next day.
When he returned, sans deer, his office was a madhouse and the shooting was just getting started.
The president of the school’s booster club, the Towncats, sent a telegram to athletic director Pop McKale, demanding Winslow’s firing. The Towncats said they would stop paying dues — donations to the athletic department — if Winslow remained.
A day later, State Sen. James Ewing wrote a guest newspaper column, displayed prominently, suggesting that “Tempe was about to swallow” the UA football program whole.
Winslow was soon fired. His legacy, if he has one, was that he was 0-3 against the Sun Devils, losing 61-14, 47-13 and 34-7.
So, yes, things have been worse.
As Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez was leaving Sun Devil Stadium a few minutes before midnight Saturday, a 58-21 loser, two video boards aired ASU coach Todd Graham’s lengthy postgame chatter.
“You get up in the morning and the first thing you hear is, ‘They painted the A,’ ” said Graham, alluding to the game’s build-up. He shook his head. “Hey, nobody cares.”
But that’s not true. They don’t care immediately after you’ve won 58-21. But they cared last week and they’ll care next year.
Unless you are Alabama (oops) or USC (double oops), success in college football is as fleeting as a snowstorm in Gila Bend.
At the end of the 2007 season, the five hot coaches — the Todd Grahams of the day — were:
RichRod, 11-2 at West Virginia.
Mark Mangino, 12-1 at Kansas.
Jeff Jagodzinski, 11-3 at Boston College.
June Jones, 12-1 at Hawaii.
Dennis Erickson, 10-3 in his first year at Arizona State.
How’d that go?
Mangino is an assistant coach at Youngstown State.
Jagodzinski is an assistant coach at Georgia State.
Jones is 36-40 as SMU’s head coach.
Erickson is the offensive coordinator at woebegone Utah.
RichRod has been sued by West Virginia, fired by Michigan and is 0-2 against the Sun Devils.
He said he was “embarrassed.” It’s the same feeling Oregon coach Mark Helfrich felt a week earlier at Arizona Stadium.
Over the space of three weekends, Arizona realized the angst of losing to a bad Washington State team, experienced the joy of whipping powerful Oregon and was thoroughly humbled by yielding 58 points in the Territorial Cup.
College football is as unpredictable as July rainclouds over the Rincons.
On Monday, Graham was rightfully chosen as the Pac-12 Coach of the Year. It is the same award Erickson won at ASU in 2007; the same trophy ASU coach Bruce Snyder earned in 1996.
Erickson and Snyder were fired four years after being Coach of the Year, but that’s nothing new. USC’s Larry Smith won back-to-back Pac-10 Coach of the Year awards in 1987 and 1988 after leaving Arizona. He, too, was fired four years later.
Do you realize that John Mackovic won his first Territorial Cup game, at Sun Devil Stadium in 2001? He was fired 17 games later.
Unless you are Florida (oops) or Michigan (double oops), enjoy the moment. Don’t worry about your A’s paint job or someone like ASU’s Will Sutton circling the field with the Territorial Cup overhead.
Graham and Rodriguez were hired in the same cycle, the 2011 offseason, and took entirely different approaches to their new positions.
Graham took the fast track and has recruited 19 junior-college players. Two of them, receiver Jaelen Strong and defensive back Chris Young, were selected to the All-Pac-12 second team Monday.
RichRod chose to dig a deeper foundation. He has signed three JC players, including quarterback B.J. Denker. It takes longer to win when you develop freshmen and maintain the program’s year-to-year personnel integrity; it also means that your first year or two are likely to be susceptible to the Wazzu-Oregon-ASU roller coaster ride.
Graham inherited a mother lode and chose to win now. RichRod, whose inheritance was essentially a few shiny helmets and a new practice field, had no choice but build for 2014 and beyond.
On Monday, the Sun Devils placed an astonishing 13 players on either the first- or second-team all-Pac-12 list. Ten of those 13, all except Strong, Young and kicker Zane Gonzalez, were recruited by Erickson.
By comparison, Arizona had one player, Ka’Deem Carey on the Pac-12 all-star teams. One. Single. Player.
It was as if the previous UA coaching staff spent recruiting season deer hunting.