Dear Mr. Football: Are Lumberjack fans treated better than Arizona fans?
A: Incredibly, this is probably NAU’s lone night game of the season. Here’s how fans of FCS and Big Sky Conference teams benefit: NAU’s first five home games will kick off at 4 p.m., while its Nov. 11 game against Montana State will kick off at 5 p.m. NAU’s “latest” road game is a 6 p.m. start at Cal Poly.
Dear Mr. Football: Is there any good news about Arizona’s football program?
A: Best news: A 915-space parking garage on 6th Street — a long field goal south of Arizona Stadium — opens Saturday. Cost: a staggering $22 million. The once-eyesore alignment of old homes and mini-parking areas south of the stadium has been thoroughly redeveloped. Put it this way: If you played at Arizona 30 years ago, 1987, and had not been back to campus, you would spend all day asking your friends, “When did they built this? And that? And that?”
Dear Mr. Football: Can you get rich coaching football at NAU?
A: The Lumberjacks’ head coach, Jerome Souers, is paid $185,000 a year with the opportunity to earn $57,000 more in bonuses. That’s below all of Rich Rodriguez’s nine full-time assistants. This is the final year of a four-year contract for Souers.
Dear Mr. Football: Is Souers famous?
A: In the 1976 North Eugene (Ore.) High School yearbook, Souers was photographed once, on page 205. His classmate, basketball-baseball megastar Danny Ainge, is pictured 16 times. Most famous alumnus of North Eugene: Charles Emerson Winchester III, the inimitable character played so aptly by David Ogden Stiers in M.A.S.H.
Dear Mr. Football: Who is the best football player in NAU history?
A: I’ll go with College Football Hall of Famer Rex Mirich, a 1959 San Manuel High School grad who played seven years on the defensive line for the Raiders, Broncos and Patriots.
After he became a star at NAU, Mirich wondered if he could play at a bigger school; he drove to Tucson to meet UA football coach Jim LaRue.
LaRue asked Mirich if NAU head coach Max Spilsbury, a former UA standout and coach, knew that Mirich hoped to leave the Lumberjacks.
“If it’s OK with Max, it’s OK with me,” said LaRue. “But check with him first.”
But Mirich knew moving to Tucson wasn’t the right thing to do.
“When I went to NAU as a freshman, all Coach Spilsbury did was shake my hand and say, ‘a handshake and a man’s word should be good enough,’” Mirich told me in 2012. “So I knew after talking to Coach LaRue that the right thing to do was honor my commitment to NAU. I stayed, and it’s one of the best decisions I made. NAU was good for me.”
Before retiring in Tucson, Mirich spent his post-football years helping to construct hydro-electric power plants and nuclear waste facilities.
Dear Mr. Football: Is there any blood connection between NAU and Arizona?
A: The most compelling is that former Marana High School multiple-sport star Sonny Campbell is the great uncle of UA freshman linebacker My-King Johnson.
Campbell, like Mirich, is one of those on NAU’s Mount Rushmore of football. He went to NAU as a lineman in 1966, then switched to tight end as a junior and to running back and kicker as a senior. Campbell was so good that the NFL’s Falcons signed him as a free agent; he spent two full years as a running back in Atlanta.
Campbell, who spent the bulk of his professional career working as a youth counselor in Southern Arizona, is also related to two of the top football families in Arizona history, including long-time Pac-12 football official Cleo Robinson of Marana and Cleveland Colter, who went on to be a standout safety at USC.
Dear Mr. Football: How long has it been since NAU beat Arizona in football?
A: In October 1932, the Lumberjacks beat Arizona 7-6 in downtown Phoenix. It is NAU’s only victory in 14 games against the UA.
That was the best time to “get” Arizona. The ’32 Wildcats were coached by Lieutenant Colonel August “Gus” Farwick, a former All-American guard at Army who had essentially been “loaned” to Arizona for one year by the United States War Department.
The UA, which was counting pennies during the depression, had requested help from the Army. It defined the acquisition of Farwick as part of its campus-wide “retrenchment.”
Farwick was a career military officer, mostly in the First Cavalry, who had been coaching the Army team in the Bay Area. UA coach Pop McKale retired from football in 1930; his successor, Fred Enke, coached football in 1931 and then asked to specialize as the UA’s basketball coach.
Farwick had a strong reputation as a football man. In 1931, Army’s program assigned Farwick to scout all of Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne’s games. Farwick then accepted the Arizona assignment, arriving on campus on Sept. 1, 1932, just 10 days before practice began.
After losing to NAU – referred to as “Woodchoppers” in the newspapers — Farwick coached three more games. In the spring of ’33, General Douglas MacArthur assigned him to take command of the Cavalry at Fort Bliss, Texas.
There was not much of a coaching search. Arizona replaced Farwick with PE professor Tex Oliver, who was an immediate hit. His five UA teams — known as the Blue Brigade — went 32-11-4 and put Arizona football on the map for the first time. Alas, after the 1937 season, Oliver left to become the head coach at Oregon.
Dear Mr. Football: Didn’t NAU beat Arizona State recently?
A: In the 2006 season opener, NAU and ASU were tied 14-14 entering the fourth quarter. It was no accident. Although the Sun Devils rallied to win 35-14, ASU had been exposed as a not-ready-for-big-time team. After finishing 7-6, the Sun Devils parted ways with coach Dirk Koetter and replaced him with recycled Dennis Erickson.
RichRod’s team needs to avoid any suspense and beat the Woodchoppers decisively. If not, the road ahead will become menacing.
Arizona 47, NAU 20.