The football experience at Arizona has so thoroughly changed that Monday’s journey to Rich Rodriguez’s press briefing required directions, a doorman and an elevator operator.
Going up, anyone?
The UA’s football staff directory lists 13 assistant coaches (paid and unpaid), five strength and conditioning instructors, a director of operations, an assistant director of operations, and two operations coordinators.
And that doesn’t include the videographers, medical staff, equipment personnel, academic counselors, communications specialists, and the on-campus recruiting coordinator unique to football.
A week ago, RichRod told me, “I’d still like to have a few more; you never want to be at a competitive disadvantage.’’
Alabama, for example, employs nine “analysts’’ to assist its coaching staff in game preparation, statistical intelligence and player evaluation. The NCAA has no rule against it.
Oregon hired a football-only sous chef.
Texas acquired former Syracuse head coach Greg Robinson as director of quality control, data and feedback.
The game has gone far beyond a facilities arm’s race. Every team’s staff directory has doubled in 20 years.
In 1993, in the middle of Arizona’s Desert Swarm era, Dick Tomey was considered innovative when he hired former Arizona and Purdue head coach Jim Young, creating a position in which Young’s title would be director of organization, as well as coaching on the offensive line.
Now every BCS team has their own Jim Young, sometimes a few, sometimes a few more.
If you haven’t been paying attention, you might’ve failed to notice 11 ways, one for every starting position, UA football has changed in those 20 years:
1. Every 1993 Arizona game had a listed starting time, subject to change, entering the season. Now eight UA games are TBA – to be determined by TV people at your inconvenience.
2. Each UA player in 1993 had his own jersey number, from 1 through 99. Now the Wildcats have duplicate jersey numbers for those wearing 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 24, 25, 27, 29, 34, 35, 39, 42 and 88. Yes, it’s complicated.
3. An Arizona letterman and Tucson attorney, Bob Beal, was the head linesman in the 1993 UA-ASU game. Now anyone with ties to the UA is forbidden to officiate an Arizona game, or to make instant replay judgments in the press box. Trust only goes so far in today’s big-money football.
4. On the opening Saturday of college football, 1993, only four games were televised nationally, one on ABC, one on NBC and two on ESPN. This year, all 91 Pac-12 regular-season games will be broadcast live. Unless you are a DirecTV subsciber.
5. In 1993, Arizona averaged 66 offensive plays per game. Last year the Wildcats averaged 83, including 102 against South Carolina State.
6. There was no live television of the Nov. 6, 1993 Arizona-Oregon game at Arizona Stadium. It was aired at 10:30 p.m. on Channel 11. Arizona was 7-1 and Oregon 5-3. That’s unthinkable today. The 1993 UA-UTEP, UA-Pacific, UA-Oregon State games were also delayed broadcasts at 10:30 p.m. Now many (most?) UA games won’t end until past 10:30 p.m.
7. In 1993, Tomey tried to motivate his players with tales of his old Hawaii team walking on hot coals. Only a few eyebrows were raised. Last week, RichRod did an impromptu, “Gangnam Style,” lockin’-and-poppin’ dance in front of his team. It has been viewed by more than 20,000 on YouTube and has fostered more goodwill for the coach than beating USC.
8. In 1993, Arizona wore white helmets to all 12 games. This year, the Wildcats are likely to wear copper, red, white and blue helmets. And the UA might not be trendsetters. Indiana recently announced it would wear six helmet combinations this season.
9. Arizona employed three full-time strength and conditioning coaches in 1993, for the entire athletic department. Now it has nine.
10. The UA’s NCAA compliance office in 1993 consisted of former UA high jumper Justina Boyd and a secretary. Now the Wildcats have five full-time compliance employees.
11. After it rose to No. 7 in the 1993 polls, Arizona lost 37-17 at UCLA when quarterbacks Dan White and Brady Batten were injured, forcing the UA to use walk-on sophomore Ryan Hesson.
Tomey said “If you have to go three-deep at quarterback, you’re in trouble.’’
On Monday, RichRod said it’s possible Arizona will use three QBs in Friday’s opener against NAU.
At Arizona, 20 years later, some things never seem to change.