It's 6:30 a.m., Honolulu time, and Dick Tomey is trying to explain statistics that defy logic.

The former Arizona Wildcats coach's cell phone connection pops and cracks as he talks.

"I knew we had some success," he says, "but it wasn't necessarily magic."

The numbers, though, are otherworldly.

In 14 years as Arizona's head coach, Tomey went 17-4-1 in games following bye weeks. No other UA coach has matched his .795 post-bye winning percentage (see box).

Tomey's philosophy was as simple as the numbers are impressive.

"We conditioned hard when we did work. We lifted hard. We looked at ourselves to see if we had to tweak something we were doing," Tomey said this week from his home in Hawaii. "We got out for recruiting for a couple days, no matter when the break was, and there was the rare occasion when we rested."

Bye weeks, the scheduled breaks in each football team's schedule, can either invigorate or sap a team depending on how they're handled.

The Wildcats have won more games (33) than they've lost (18) coming off byes since joining the Pac-10 in 1978, in part because most of their coaches have subscribed to the same bye-week philosophy: Rest, recharge and re-focus.

Mike Stoops gave his players two days off this week - a third, if you count a scout-team scrimmage Tuesday - before turning his attention to No. 1 Oregon. The time off allowed Arizona's growing list of injured players to get healthy, and gave the Wildcats' down-the-depth chart players a chance to play.

The practices were businesslike but relaxed, a break from the UA's recent gauntlet of games.

"It's a good week to focus on fundamentals," quarterback Nick Foles said. "You just have to get back to work."

Stoops was simpler.

"A bye," he said, "can be good."

Especially if it comes before a big game. There's a misconception about byes, coaches say: How the team is playing at the time of the bye is secondary to who the team is playing next. Arizona spent most of last week trying to get a jump on Oregon's "blur" offense, the best in America. As a result, coaches spent fewer days on player development and more time preparing for the Ducks.

Inside receivers coach Garret Chachere said coaches and players "have time to watch film and not be pressed by a deadline."

"If you're playing the No. 1 team in the country, you're putting a lot more into that opponent over two weeks than if you're playing the last team in the conference," Chachere said. "If you're playing a team that's won one or two games, you spend more time worrying about yourself."

The tweaks made during byes can be season-changers. Arizona was a pedestrian 3-2 in 1989 when it took its first bye of the year. A game with No. 22 UCLA loomed. During the week off, Arizona's coaches installed parts of Colorado's I-formation offense into its wishbone attack.

The results were jarring: the Wildcats rushed for 480 yards on the way to a 42-7 win at Arizona Stadium. David Eldridge put up 205 yards, the fourth-best single-game performance.

"We made a change on offense that led us to a 42-7 win," Tomey said. "It gave us a chance - or, a better chance."

Arizona's other coaches don't have Tomey's body of work, but can cite bye-week changes for some big wins. Stoops stunned 18th-ranked Arizona State in his first year as Arizona's coach, and in subsequent years has defeated second-ranked Oregon (2007), Washington (2008) and Washington State (2009). Stoops is 7-6 coming off byes, his last loss coming when the 4-0 Wildcats fell to Oregon State in October.

There's no one way to explain why some teams, and coaches, fare better after byes. Like vacations from any job, byes can be rejuvenating and good for the soul. For players and coaches, the time away allows them to - for a weekend - return to a somewhat normal life.

Tomey used the time to pursue his twin passions - movies and golf - and take out his wife, Nanci Kincaid.

Foles is spending this weekend at a wedding in Phoenix, while Stoops and his assistants - those who aren't recruiting, at least - will get to spend some valuable time with family.

They'll return to campus Monday ready for a new week.

After all, byes fly.

"We have two games left, a big one against Oregon and a big one against ASU. We've got to pick it back up," Foles said. "We've got to pick each other up. This is what this week is all about: Just getting the team morale back, and getting back out there."

On StarNet: Keep up with recent Wildcats news on Ryan Finley's blog at

Up next

• What: Arizona at Oregon

• When: 5 p.m. Friday


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