Workers moved a bust of former UA football and baseball player John "Button" Salmon - originator of the "Bear Down" phrase - to near Gate 2 at Arizona Stadium. It had been housed outside McKale Center for 27 years. (Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star)
‘Button’ Salmon bust will sit near Arizona Stadium
The final piece to Arizona's $74 million launch of the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility is its most priceless possession: the relocation of the John "Button" Salmon statue from its 27-year home on a plaza outside McKale Center.
It will next sit near Gate 2 at Arizona Stadium, a high-traffic area on game days. The move is not being done without arching some emotional eyebrows.
When former UA associate athletic director Tom Sanders raised about $30,000 for Bear Down plaza, most of it from UA letterwinners and some from Salmon's 1920s contemporaries, athletic director Cedric Dempsey said the location was meant to represent the Bear Down legend as it applied to all UA sports.
At the time, 1986, all UA sports were housed at McKale Center.
Now the baseball, football and soccer teams have left the building. Times have changed dramatically.
At the '86 dedication ceremony, I choked up as Salmon's sister, Clyde "Babe" Lockie, spoke eloquently about how much she missed her big brother. She reminded the audience that Button was an accomplished baseball catcher, kidding Dempsey that perhaps the statue should've been done with Button holding a catcher's mask and not identified as a football player.
Whatever. It will work well as a football property, too.
The '86 ceremony was part of a compelling afternoon: After 60 years, the school had finally built a legacy to forever tell one of college football's most provocative stories.
The irony in the transfer of the Bear Down statue is that it occurred last week on the day the Oregon Ducks unveiled their opulent and extravagant football complex, one that made the less gaudy Lowell-Stevens facility seem to be in shades of black and white.
It hasn't always been that way. In 1986, UA associate athletic director Bob Bockrath insisted the Bear Down statue be world-class. He ordered it to be encased in Italian marble, shipped from Rome.
It is an athletic property and heritage the Nike-fueled Ducks can't begin to match.
Wildcats land All-American for women's team
- UA women's golf coach Laura Ianello, whose team finished No. 7 in the NCAA finals in June, might've found the missing piece in a bid to win the 2014 national title. Notre Dame sophomore All-American Lindsey Weaver has moved to Tucson and will enroll at Arizona this month and become immediately eligible to play for the Wildcats. Weaver won the Big East co-championship as a freshman and, at the end of the fall 2012 season, was ranked No. 1 among all women's college golfers. Weaver played at Cactus Shadows High in Scottsdale and is thought to be the only amateur female golfer ever to shoot a 59 in competition.
- Gallery Golf Club pro Paul Nolen, the 1984 Pac-10 champion, won the PGA Southwest Section, Southern Chapter Senior title last week, with rounds of 70-73 at Oro Valley Country Club. UA grad Susie Meyers, who is the instructor for this year's PGA Tour winners Michael Thompson and Derek Ernst, won the women' senior title, shooting 72-71.
- Sabino grad Lucas Reed injured a hamstring muscle in the Denver Broncos' training camp last week and was placed on the injured reserved list. The former New Mexico Lobos tight end cleared waivers, meaning he is likely to receive a financial settlement from Denver when healthy.
- A Tucson player to watch in college football 2013: Mountain View grad Jeff Bollnow, who begins his senior season at Division III Cornell College in Iowa as an all-Midwest Conference prospect. Bollnow, who made the league's all-academic list in 2012, has made 142 tackles in three seasons as a linebacker.
- Third baseman Brittany Meade, who helped Flowing Wells win the 2002 state softball championship and became a four-year starter at UNLV, has returned home. After three years working for Jim Livengood in the UNLV athletic department, she has been hired by the UA to assist in game-day operations, among other responsibilities.
MORE SHORT STUFF
Mermuys continues meteoric rise, joins Raptors as assistant
- Few people in Tucson sports have climbed the sports ladder more impressively than Salpointe and UA grad Jesse Mermuys. He began as an assistant basketball coach at Salpointe, moved to Pima College, then Southern Utah, New Mexico State and, finally, at Arizona, director of basketball operations. He then spent four years with the Denver Nuggets as a scout, joined the Houston Rockets as director of player development in 2012-13, and now has been hired as a full-time assistant coach by the Toronto Raptors. Mermuys is 33.
- Salpointe grad Jaime Beran, who had an outstanding soccer career as a goalie at St. John's, now is making it her occupation. Beran has been hired as an assistant soccer coach at DePaul.
- In a wonderful gesture and accomplishment by Torres Blancas golf pro Rich Elias and others, such as former UA football player and recruiting coordinator Bill Baker, $9,100 was generated last week in a fundraising tournament at the Green Valley golf facility for families of the 19 firefighters killed last month in the Prescott area.
- UA football coach Rich Rodriguez got a recruiting commitment last week from Scottsdale Chaparral tight end Trevor Wood, son of Arizona 1984 All-Pac-10 defensive tackle David Wood, who also grew up in Phoenix. Over the last 20 years, David Wood has been on the sideline at UA football games, home and road, more than any other former star player, according to my unofficial count. He was a bit undersized in the Pac-10, but made up for it by being smart and a hustler. Talk about a legacy.
- It has been a good baseball summer for Catalina Foothills senior Luis Gonzalez, who last week accepted a baseball scholarship from New Mexico over one from Santa Clara. The pitcher-outfielder was MVP of the Junior Sunbelt Classic in Oklahoma and this week will be in Long Beach, Calif., as part of the prestigious Area Code Games, playing for the Cincinnati Reds team coached by Tucson pro scout Clark Crist. New Mexico assistant coach Ken Jacome, a Tucson native, was the lead recruiter for Gonzalez.
MORE SHORT STUFF
Ex-University of Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson recently went on a fishing trip with some of his former players. (Donna McWilliam / The Associated Press)
Olson maintains ties with former players
- I know what you're thinking: when the McKale Center renovation becomes reality in a few years, the Button Salmon plaza is sure to be replaced by a statue of Lute Olson. It will be well-deserved and appropriate. Olson's ties to his cherished 1988 Final Four team continue unabated after 25 years. Last week, Olson flew to Santa Rosa, Calif., for a fishing trip with '88 players Craig McMillan, Joe Turner, Tom Tolbert and Craig Bergman. It's a connection that will never grow old.
- I recently asked former UA standout distance runner John Quade, who set the school record in the 1,500 meters of 3:39.1 in 1989, what he thought of current Wildcat Lawi Lalang's series of record-setting runs in the same event. (Lalang has now run 3:33.20.) Quade's honest response: "Has the record been broken? Who is Lawi Lalang?" Quade lives in Alaska and obviously has not kept up with his alma mater, nor Lalang, who has won seven NCAA distance running championships.
- Perhaps the next distance runner of note in Tucson will be Flowing Wells freshman Morgan Risch, who swept national championships in 1,500 and 3,000 last week at the USA Junior Olympics in Greensboro, N.C. Risch won the 1,500 by almost 2 seconds, running in 4:14.71, which is exceptional for a runner his age. Risch is coached by Phil Pasena, who earlier helped develop Tucson prep distance stars James Eichberger and Ryan Silva. Risch and Pasena are part of UA coach Fred Harvey's Tucson Elite track club.
- At 41, Tucson Marathon director Pam Reed won the brutal Badwater Ultramarathon through Death Valley in July, completing the race in 27 hours 56 minutes in 2002. Now, 52, she continues to run competitively in the 135-mile race . She was 13th overall last month, second among all females, in 30 hours 39 minutes. Amazing. I doubt she can ever top her 2005 endurance test, running 300 miles without stopping, back and forth, on a frontage road near Picacho Peak, setting a world record.
MORE SHORT STUFF
Former Santa Rita High School and Maryland standout Terrell Stoglin is headed to France. (Gene Sweeney Jr. / MCT)
Summer heat: Marana’s Cervi tops money list after big July
- Marana's Sherry Cervi, the world champion rodeo barrel racer in 1995, 1999 and 2010, probably had the top month of her distinguished career in July. From July 1-7, she earned $31,349 in 11 rodeos, traveling on demand through Oregon, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah and Montana over seven days. Then she capped it by earning $32,000 at the Calgary Stampede and has climbed to the top of the world money list with $116,971.
- Santa Rita 2010 state championship point grad Terrell Stoglin has left his Greece pro basketball club and signed with Cholet France, from the Euroleague's top division. Stoglin led the Greek league in scoring, 19.9 points per game, in his first year as a pro. Cholet is a step up; that league last year included players such as Washington's Jon Brockman, Duke's Shelden Williams and North Carolina's Sean May.
- As Arizona sophomore shortstop Kevin Newman completes the Cape Cod League regular season today, he is the likely batting champion. The Falmouth (Mass.) Commodores shortstop was hitting .364 through Friday after going 13 for 21 in a five-day stretch that included one game with six singles. Newman, a superior fielder, has 53 singles in his 56 Cape Cod hits; at Arizona this year he hit .335 with 64 singles in 73 hits, no home runs. Whatever happened to aluminum bats?
- Canyon del Oro grad David McDaniel, a five-time Tucson City Amateur champion, set the course record with a 10-under 62 at Crooked Tree Golf Course last week. A day later, playing a combination of middle and back tees, he shot 61. Crooked Tree pro Rich Mueller said McDaniel held the old course record, 63. "He must've shot 63 a dozen times," Mueller said.
MY TWO CENTS
UA has strength in numbers, options as quarterbacks sign
Perhaps at no time since it joined the WAC a half-century ago has Arizona had the type of quarterbacking depth/quality on its roster and its list of recruiting commitments as it has today. The Wildcats essentially have seven quarterbacks.
The UA made a bold move last week by accepting the transfer of Texas sophomore Connor Brewer, a former prep All-American from Scottsdale. Bold? You never can know how Brewer's presence will affect the ultimate decision of Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian QB Brandon Dawkins, who made a commitment to Arizona last month.
On paper, Brewer was likely to be fourth string at Texas, but when Michigan State sub Nick Foles transferred to Arizona in 2008, it wasn't greeted as any type of big news. How did that turn out?
Brewer's transfer reminds me a bit of the day former Phoenix Desert Vista QB John Rattay left Tennessee's bench to play for Arizona. Rattay, like Brewer, was one of America's top-rated prep quarterbacks.
Rattay was no Nick Foles. Rattay started one game and passed for 385 yards in his brief UA career.
Given his career success, you've got to like Rich Rodriguez's chances to identify and develop a franchise quarterback out of a potential group of seven. This isn't John Mackovic rushing Ryan O'Hara and Kris Heavner into the lineup.