It has been 15 years since the Arizona Wildcats went 12-1 and beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. In terms of branding, presentation and financial growth, it seems like 50 years.
On Saturday, Arizona's spring football game was played in a baseball stadium, televised by the new Pac-12 Networks, across the street from a $74 million, football-only palace, the day after school officials announced the Wildcats would play a made-for-TV game in an NFL stadium in, of all places, once-loathed Phoenix.
Since Mike Stoops was fired as Arizona's football coach in October 2011, changes in the school's football program have been as swift as they have been remarkable.
On Saturday, speaking before the spring game, UA athletic director Greg Byrne compared the UA's new football plant to that at Alabama.
The irony was that Dick Tomey, coach of the '98 Wildcats, was standing about 25 yards from Byrne at the time. During the Desert Swarm years of the '90s, it was Tomey who famously (and accurately) said, "They won't build anything here until we lose."
Arizona lost. Now Arizona builds.
The old facilities, Byrne said, "were an Achilles' heel for us."
Byrne's vision goes on. It includes an $85 million makeover of McKale Center and, later, an overhaul of Arizona Stadium, built in 1929. That is likely to cost in excess of $100 million.
"We can bond for the improvements at McKale Center and at Arizona Stadium," said Byrne. "And we'll also have cash flow to help pay it off." Byrne said the UA has already raised "in the low eight figures" for McKale's renovation.
Byrne's other home run of the week was to schedule a 2016 game at University of Phoenix Stadium against BYU. He beat Arizona State to the punch, playing in its territory, one-upping the Sun Devils as ASU tries to find about $300 million to re-do Sun Devil Stadium.
In the Stoops years, playing a game in Phoenix would've all but created a mutiny among long-time Tucsonans. But as the UA athletic department has evolved, Byrne's encroachment on ASU soil, and into the Phoenix market, has been viewed as a notion Arizona must think big to win big.
Next for JT: Hall of fame?
Terry's Naismith prospects get boost from class of 2013
When Bernard King was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame last week, it improved the chances of Jason Terry's getting similar recognition one day.
King was a terrific NBA player, scoring 19,655 points in 14 injury-marred seasons. Terry, who is 35, has scored 17,286, also in 14 seasons, and is likely to play at least one more season.
But the Naismith Hall of Fame also includes college achievements; Terry was superior to Tennessee's King, helping Arizona win the 1997 national title and becoming, by at least one outlet, the 1999 college Player of the Year. Terry also has an NBA championship ring from the 2011 Mavericks. King never won a title.
Here's how good Terry has been in the NBA: He is fourth all-time in three-point baskets made. Who knew? He has made 1,911 three-pointers, a total exceeded only by Ray Allen's 2,853, Reggie Miller's 2,560 and Jason Kidd's 1,986. By comparison, Mike Bibby made 1,517 NBA three-pointers, Damon Stoudamire 1,236.
Here's some irony: Terry's jersey is apt to be hanging at the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., before it is ever raised at McKale Center. The Pac-10 placed Terry's legacy in purgatory a decade ago because of his family's involvement with an agent while he was an Arizona senior.
The new Pac-12 administration should review and rescind that rule and allow Arizona to retire his jersey. Terry has more than paid for that error.
ASU's Carson has room for improvement
Jahii Carson's decision to return to Arizona State for his sophomore basketball season was the only smart choice available. Do you realize he had far more turnovers, 124 to 94, than Arizona's Mark Lyons, who was viewed as something of a turnover machine? What's more, Carson made just 33 three-point baskets, far fewer than Arizona's Kevin Parrom, 52, who was hardly a three-point threat. Carson has considerable work to do on his ball-handling and perimeter shooting skills, which is the only way he can ever make it in the NBA. Invariably, Carson will be asked to do too much on a talent-thin roster at ASU. It would have been fascinating to watch him play on a club with deep NCAA tournament possibilities. … Arizona will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hillenbrand Stadium in this week's series against rival UCLA. It won't be the happiest of anniversaries. Mike Candrea's club has never had a losing season in the Pac-12 but is 4-7 after Saturday's loss at Oregon. Moreover, the Wildcats, who have posted 17 seasons of 50-plus victories under Candrea, are almost sure to set a record for losses under the Hall of Fame coach. They are 27-16; Candrea's worst Arizona record is 38-19. … Receiver/returner Davonte' Neal's transfer from Notre Dame to Arizona should be greeted with some caution. He caught just one pass at Notre Dame in 2012. His punt return numbers (18 returns for 52 yards, just 2.9 yards per return) were unusually low. Even return-challenged Arizona, using Richard Morrison, had better punt return numbers: 13 for 132, or 10.2 per punt. … CDO grad Blake Martinez, a sophomore-to-be at Stanford, missed spring practice with a shoulder injury. His return for fall camp is likely.
More Short stuff
Bowman's success makes 14th place a disappointment
Tucsonan Alex Bowman finished 14th in Friday's NASCAR Nationwide event in Bristol, Tenn., which means his rookie year on NASCAR has seen him finish third, eighth, 12th, 14th, 14th and 31st. Amazing for a 19-year-old driver. But he's not happy with it. "If you'd have told me that one day I would have been disappointed with a 14th-place finish in my first trip to Bristol in a NASCAR series, I would have thought you were crazy," he said after Friday's race. … Bowman's profile continues to climb. Last week he gained another top sponsor, SchoolTipLine.com. It's part of a national "Drive Away Bullies" campaign. "Alex will visit middle schools throughout the season, speaking with students about how to deal with bullies and letting them know that, through Tipline, there is an ally available," said Zach Rosenfeld, Bowman's spokesman. Bowman's other main sponsor is Daymond John, an entrepreneur who is a regular on the ABC "Shark Tank" series. … Solomon Hill did the right thing by eschewing a chance to play in the lowbrow Portsmouth Invitational, which is essentially a showcase for players who almost never get drafted by the NBA. Hill has nothing to gain there. His game film, character and four years as a team-first player will be absorbed by NBA personnel people more than three games in Virginia with a bunch of non-prospects. … Try to picture Rich Rodriguez at his 75th birthday celebration, surrounded by old rivals such as Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian. That's not too realistic in 21st century college football, where building lifelong relationships is not part of the game. But when Dick Tomey returned to Tucson for his 75th birthday event this weekend, he was greeted by ex-Oregon coach Rich Brooks and ex-UCLA coach Terry Donahue. It tells you so much about Tomey's character and reputation, which, in the end, is more important than any Rose Bowl game.
Whyte could get payoff in Monday's draft
UA senior basketball player Davellyn Whyte is on the verge of getting a payoff after spending four years on bad basketball teams at Arizona. She is projected as a third-round choice in Monday's WNBA draft (only three rounds are held). … Pima College women's basketball coach Todd Holthaus signed seven Tucson players among his 10-woman recruiting class last week. His eye for talent has been outstanding. Holthaus discovered A'jha Edwards at Tombstone High School; she was named an NJCAA first-team All-American last week, the second in school history. Three years earlier, Holthaus signed Deanna Daniels from Las Vegas; she also became a first-team NJCAA All-American and completed her college career at Grand Canyon University. … CDO grad Chris Crevelone completed a long and winding basketball odyssey last week when he was named to the coaching staff of Dan Majerle's first team at Grand Canyon. Crevelone initially played at Green Mountain College in Vermont and then played at Adams State in Colorado. He got a coaching job at St. Edwards, a Division II school in Texas, before spending four seasons on Rick Barnes' staff at Texas. Along the way, he coached in Lute Olson and Sean Miller camps and was a key member of the Ironwood Ridge staff when the Nighthawks won the 2008 state championship. Crevelone will be Majerle's top recruiter at GCU after passing an interview session that included the critical eye of Jerry Colangelo. … Sabino grad Nathan Tyler easily made it through the PGA Tour Canada's Qualifying School last week in Beaumont, Calif. He is now eligible for eight Canadian events with a purse of $150,000 each. He was tied for 10th out of 312 golfers.
My Two Cents
Thompson's penalty typifies bridge between golf, integrity
Here's how important the honor system is on the PGA Tour and why Tiger Woods' situation at the Masters created such a controversy:
When Tucson's Michael Thompson played as an amateur in the 2008 Masters, he called a penalty on himself on the 15th hole. While addressing the ball on a putt, a gust of wind jostled the golf ball. Thompson stepped away and called a one-stroke penalty on himself.
It was among the factors that led to him missing the cut by two strokes.
Now, the boys and girls golf teams from Holy Spirit Catholic High School in Tuscaloosa, Ala., are in the process of constructing a 35-foot bridge connecting tee boxes at the Ol' Colony Golf Course. They have chosen to name it "Michael H. Thompson Bridge." Not because he had been an All-American at Alabama, but because of the admiration gained by his honesty as a 22-year-old Masters rookie.