New football center will help Cats, but no time for Byrne to rest


Killing time before a Friday interview with Sean Miller, I took a lap around Oregon State's athletic campus and, in a bit of sobering reality, came to the conclusion that the Beavers' facilities are as good, maybe better, than those at Arizona.

It's not Washington State, with whom the Beavers have been lumped as Pac-12 bottom feeders.

In an ironic piece of timing, I returned to my hotel to discover that Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne had posted, via Twitter, about 10 images of the UA's $74 million Lowell-Stevens football center. Byrne took a tour of the building Friday in Tucson.

No wonder he is so eager to see that project through.

The only clear advantage Arizona has over OSU is McKale Center vs. Gill Coliseum. The Beavers are working on that, too; a three-story, 34,000-square foot basketball practice facility is under construction next to Gill. It will be as good as any in college hoops.

What I'm saying is: competition in the Pac-12 is relentless. If you're barely holding your own against Oregon State, you've got trouble. Here's my call on the UA-OSU comparison:

• Football: The Beavers have spent more than $120 million on Reser Stadium, the Truax Indoor Practice Facility, Valley Center, a player's castle, and the Prothro practice field, which is two full-sized, field-turf fields. It is far more advanced than Arizona's football plant.

• Baseball: OSU's on-campus Goss Stadium can match Arizona's Hi Corbett Field. Maybe not in clubhouse size, but in intimacy (3,248 seats), spectator suites and on-site amenities for players. Overall it's a push.

• Golf: Arizona is supposed to be a national power, but the Beavers have their own course, Trysting Tree, about five minutes from campus. Arizona plays on superb courses, but all are about a 30-minute hike, or more, to get to those privately-owned facilities.

• Track and field: Even though the Beavers have just a women's track team, OSU is spending $7.5 million for the Whyte Track Center, which will make Drachman Stadium come off as a high school facility. Incredibly, Fred Harvey has built Arizona into a top-10 program in track and cross country with spartan facilities.

• Softball: Arizona's Hillenbrand Stadium is a few steps ahead of OSU's softball stadium, but not as far as you'd think for a team with eight NCAA championships as compared to OSU's mid-pack softball program.

• Swimming, soccer and tennis: OSU doesn't play tennis and doesn't have men's swimming, which negates Arizona's huge advantage as a swimming powerhouse. OSU's Lorenz Field, a men's and women's soccer stadium, is superior to Arizona's off-campus Murphey Stadium.

Byrne is at work on an $85 million re-do of McKale Center and has identified areas of need at Arizona Stadium and Hillenbrand and Drachman stadiums. He is working on a plan to re-brand Arizona's once-prominent golf programs.

Forty miles south of OSU's campus, the Oregon Ducks are building another piece to their football plant in Eugene, for $65 million. It just completed a $200 million basketball arena, and has superb baseball, track, golf and soccer facilities, all a step up from those at Arizona.

The Ducks have even added a beer/wine "garden" at Matthew Knight Arena, open to all fans, not just premium seat holders.

In the Pac-12, it's not an arms race, it's an all-out athletic war.

Short stuff

Mack-Nehls combo has Foothills thinking title

Catalina Foothills High has shot off to an 18-1 start in boys basketball and is bidding to win the Division II state championship. Mark Felix's team lost once, at Mesa Red Mountain in November. Behind Chaz Mack and Austin Nehls, the Falcons are No. 1 in Division II. That's quite a turnaround for the Falcons, who went through four coaches in a four-year period recently. … Here's my mid-January all-city basketball team: Mack and Nehls; Cholla junior shooting star Julio Duarte; Ironwood Ridge's terrific freshman forward, Mitch Lightfoot, a potential national recruit; Rincon/University's dominating big man, Asha Esprit; and Cienega guard Shane Burton. … Arizona's 2012 All-Pac-12 guard Kyle Fogg has discovered that life in the NBA D-League is not as comfy as in college, where the UA is now exclusively a charter (or direct-flight) program. Fogg is in the middle of a 10-day road trip for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. After returning briefly, Fogg's team will embark on a 13-day trip to mid-winter garden spots in Maine, Iowa, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Indiana. Fogg is averaging 23 minutes and 8.1 points. … Luke Walton was in Tucson last week, missing two Cleveland Cavaliers road games. He accompanied his fiancée, former CDO and UA volleyball standout Bre Ladd. Her father, Bob Ladd, died last week. Walton played 23 minutes (his third most minutes this season) and scored a season-high eight points when he rejoined the team Friday in Denver. Walton and Ladd were engaged on Christmas.

Constant moves affect more than just coaches

It was almost inevitable that one of Rich Rodriguez's assistant coaches would return home, to native West Virginia. That's what happened when UA defensive backs coach Tony Gibson rejoined the WVU staff last week. It's not the coaches that go through the worst of the moves the industry often requires. Cody Gibson, Tony's 17-year-old son, played his senior season of high school football at Salpointe Catholic (he made 17 tackles); his junior year at Bethel Park High in Pennsylvania, as his dad spent one season on the Pitt staff; and his sophomore year for the Saline High Hornets near Ann Arbor, Mich., when his dad coached on RichRod's Michigan staff. Brutal. … Former UA defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo, who has four young children, ages 3-15, is on the move again. He was not retained on Mike MacIntyre's new staff at Colorado. … Bill Tripp, who was the head football coach at Salpointe, CDO and Sahuarita high schools in the 1970s and 1980s, has retired after a 42-year coaching career. He spent the last eight seasons coaching the offensive line for one of his former Salpointe pupils, Rich Ellerson, now the head coach at Army. … On the drive from Portland to Eugene on Thursday, listening to 1080-AM The Fan sports radio, I heard host Josh Wilcox, an ex-Oregon Ducks football standout, say Arizona's 2013 football schedule "is a joke." Can't disagree much. The UA's non-conference schedule of NAU, UNLV and Texas-San Antonio matches or exceeds the weakest pre-conference schedule of the last quarter-century. But it works for RichRod, who will be breaking in a new quarterback. … Rodriguez was teamed with ASU coach Todd Graham on Friday in Phoenix at the Valley of the Sun chapter of the National Football Foundation's banquet to honor the 25 leading high school players in Arizona. That's one you can't miss, even if you don't enjoy Graham's company. Ironwood Ridge lineman Robert Coleman and Sabino tight end Matt Bushman were the two Tucson players honored at the banquet.

Flowing Wells grad stars on 23rd birthday

Abyee Maracigan, who led Flowing Wells to the 2008 girls state basketball championship and later directed Pima College to a No. 3 finish in the NJCAA finals, had her career day as a college player Thursday. Good timing: It was her 23rd birthday, and her mother, Kathy Hupp, had flown to Pocatello, Idaho, to see Abyee score 21 points and gather 10 rebounds for Idaho State. Limited by knee problems, Maracigan had averaged just 5.9 points this season. … UA baseball coach Andy Lopez begins full workouts this week. The Andy Across America Tour, celebrating the 2012 national championship, concludes this weekend. He joined Hall of Famer Jim Rice, Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey and Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo in Connecticut for the Mohegan Sun World Baseball Coaches' Convention. … The Seattle Mariners last week invited Sunnyside grad Stefen Romero to big-league spring training. Romero is likely to open the season at Class AAA, but being part of the big-league camp stamps him as a legitimate prospect. … After the Dallas Cowboys collapsed this season, the club fired running backs coach Skip Peete, a Sahuaro grad and former UA receiver. I'm sure he is the reason the Cowboys missed the playoffs. Right. … Ex-Arizona basketball player Fendi Onobun has signed with the Chicago Bears for 2013. Since leaving Arizona, Onobun has been given tryouts/jobs with the Rams, Bills and Jaguars as a tight end.

Ex-Rincon/University golfer going big-time

Former Rincon/University golfer Michael Thompson, who missed the cut at the ongoing Sony Open in Hawaii, will conduct a clinic to members of the Ventana Canyon Golf and Racquet Club on Wednesday afternoon. He will not play in this week's PGA Tour event in Palm Springs. In his third year on the Tour, Thompson is playing for high stakes. He has a coach, a trainer, a caddie, an agent and a financial planner, a five-man support team customary for the world's leading golfers. … During last week's PGA Tour event at Kapalua in Maui, an oft-repeated Buick TV commercial showed Ventana Canyon's golf course, on a low-flying trajectory up the 18th fairway. It was absolutely spectacular. It made Maui come off as Oklahoma. … Former UA football player Mark Walczak told USA Today last week that his close friend, the late Junior Seau, was ravaged by concussions during his football career. Now in the real estate industry in Scottsdale, Walczak told the newspaper, "I had concussions, too, especially back when guys were allowed to tee-off on the long snappers. But you just don't report them. You're a football player. You're tough. If you reported stuff like that, you'd be on waivers." Sad but true. After starting at Arizona in 1983-85, Walczak spent time with the Colts, Chargers and Bills. … Kenny Lofton will no longer appear on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. He drew only 18 votes last week (3.2 percent); 5 percent is necessary to maintain a ballot presence. Lofton probably needed two more big years to reach Cooperstown. He had 2,428 hits, stole 622 bases and made six All-Star teams. Not bad. … Adam Grant, who started 31 games on Arizona's offensive line in the Mike Stoops years, spent part of this season on the Denver Broncos' practice squad. He has been signed by the Buffalo Bills for 2013.

My Two Cents

College hoops fans pay big prices for big games

Tickets for Saturday's UA-ASU basketball game in Tempe were raised to $36 and $45, a "special" Territorial Cup series price.

A week later, you can buy the same upper-deck tickets for $10 and $15 when UCLA plays the Sun Devils at Wells Fargo Arena. The Wildcats also escalate prices for three "special" games: Washington, UCLA and ASU. Tickets that were $20 will go to $35, and those that were $28 will go to $38. Not that it seems to matter; the UCLA game is already a sellout.

Someone's gotta pay for the $85 million re-do of McKale Center, right?

Contact columnist Greg Hansen at or 573-4362.