A new look
There sure were a lot of changes at Arizona Stadium for Friday’s opener.
We’ll start with our favorite: The turf. The “ghost lettering” of “Bear Down” that spans 70 yards looked great under the lights. The legendary UA phrase is in all capital letters and goes through the block “A” at midfield.
It’s something other schools will surely copy.
The new field turf also appeared to hold up just fine during a soft but steady rain in the first half. Arizona installed the field turf in the offseason after playing on natural grass. The new seats and suites in the north end zone were christened Friday night. The seats were about 70 percent full and the new suites out of the Sands Club looked close to capacity.
We’re still waiting for our invitation to watch a game from one of those suites, which come complete with TVs.
The UA and NAU wore stickers on their helmets in memory of the 19 firefighters who lost their lives during the Yarnell fire on June 30.
The sticker had a picture of three firefighters in the middle with “Granite Mountain Hot Shot Crew” around it. Outside of that was a purple circle with the words “19 Heroes; Last Alarm 6-30-2013.”
There were a couple of changes with the team’s pregame “Wildcat Walk” before Friday’s game.
First, a change we approve of: All the Arizona players wore red shirts with their numbers on the front. Coach Rich Rodriguez said one criticism he had heard of the walk in the past was that fans didn’t know who they were cheering as they walked by.
The team entered the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility at the end of the walk. The team used to enter the stadium on the northeast side and then cross the field.
The big number
The last time NAU, then Northern Arizona State Teachers College, beat Arizona was in 1932. Some fun facts from that time: Gas cost 10 cents, the average salary was $1,650 a year and cars cost $650.
Press box changes
The UA made a couple of changes in its press box.
The network TV broadcast booth is now named the “Dave Sitton Television Broadcast Booth” in honor of former UA broadcaster Dave Sitton, who died earlier this month. Sitton, who died of a pulmonary embolism, called UA football and basketball games from 1990-2012 and won an Emmy Award in 2011 for his football coverage.
The UA unveiled a large sign outside of the booth to commemorate Sitton.
The UA also honored longtime sports information director Tom Duddleston with a pregame ceremony in the press box and unveiled a large plaque in his honor. Duddleston retired earlier this year. Duddleston was on hand for the ceremony; he’s helping the SID staff with stats this season. Nicknamed “Dudd,” Duddleston was the voice of the press box, a duty that now belongs to media relations employee Danny Martinez. Big shoes to fill.
“Sir T Jackson”
— Name on the back of UA linebacker Sir Thomas Jackson’s jersey. He is one of two Jacksons on the Wildcats’ roster; wide receiver Johnny Jackson is the other.