The Star columnist checks in with his weekly mailbag.
Dear Mr. Football: Do all of the football people who flipped from Arizona to Oregon have happy endings?
A: The first flipper, and the biggest, was Arizona coach Tex Oliver. His famous "Blue Brigade" teams went 32-11-4 at the UA from 1933-37, and in the final game of the ’37 season — 80 years ago this season — he stomped the favored Ducks 20-6 in Tucson.
A month after the game, Oregon fired its coach, Prink Callison — yes, Prink — and offered Oliver what was then an almost unheard of three-year contract for $18,000 to coach the Ducks. That yearly salary of $6,000, which is roughly $100,000 in today’s money, blew apart the salary structure of the old Pacific Coast Conference.
And that was even before Nike’s Phil Knight, who has showered the Ducks with gobs of money, was born.
Arizona was paying Oliver $4,500. Its booster group, the Towncats, had also rewarded Oliver for his 8-2 season of 1937 by giving him a new car. He took the car and drove to Oregon. How’d it work out? He went 24-28-3 and was fired.
Dear Mr. Football: How much do the TV networks value the Special K, Khalil Tate?
A: The pecking order for Saturday’s Pac-12 games went in this order:
1. ABC chose the UCLA-USC game.
2. ESPN picked the Utah-Washington game.
3. Fox took the Stanford-Cal game.
The Arizona-Oregon game was then defaulted to the Pac-12 Networks, which means you or someone you know won’t be able to punch it up on your cable system.
According to sportsmediawatch.com, last week’s Arizona-Oregon State game drew 531,000 viewers on ESPN2 and ranked No. 17 of the 21 games monitored that day. The Pac-12 Networks, the SEC Network and the Big Ten Network aren’t measured. It trailed the Cincinnati-Temple game, for crying out loud.
Dear Mr. Football: Who’s the real Pac-12 Coach of the Year?
A: If you cast a ballot for Arizona offensive line coach Jim Michalczik, you’d be on the right track.
Except for Tate, Arizona’s offensive line is the strength of the club. It’s probable none of the starters will make the All-Pac-12 first team, or even close. The five starters include a walk-on biochemistry grad student, Christian Boettcher; a shot-putter from South Africa, Gerhard de Beer; an unheralded center from Phoenix, Nathan Eldridge, who was offered scholarships by South Dakota State and NAU; and two three-star prospects, guard Jacob Alsadek and left tackle Layth Friekh.
In 40 seasons of Pac-12 football, Michalczik ranks with Oregon/Cal line coach Steve Greatwood, Stanford’s current line coach Mike Blomgren and former Washington/Cal line coach Keith Gilbertson as the most accomplished offensive line coaches in modern league history. Who’s No. 1? Why not Micalczik?
Michalczik came of age coaching Cal’s offensive line from 2002-2008, on Jeff Tedford-coached teams that won 59 games in seven years. Remember that sensational 11-1 Oregon State team of 2000? Michalczik was its line coach.
He even looks and is built like an offensive line coach. Michalczik is a purposeful, slow-moving figure who stalks the sideline every Saturday getting the most out of his guys.
Rich Rodriguez hired Michalczik in the winter of 2013 after Robert Anae, a holdover from the Mike Stoops years, returned to BYU. It might be RichRod’s best hire in six Arizona seasons.
Dear Mr. Football: Is Oregon defensive line coach Joe Salave’a truly a tough guy?
A: The Ducks got some mileage in training camp when Salave’a started wearing a working man’s shirt to practice rather than Nike gear. He had his name patch – “Joe’’ – over the right pocket. He was dressed like a guy pumping gas at a Chevron station in 1973.
When he played at Arizona from 1994-97, Salave’a was the epitome of hard work.
In a hard-to-forget 1994 Arizona Stadium game against UCLA, the No. 14 Wildcats were struggling to win and therefore stay in the Rose Bowl race. Late in the first quarter, Salave’a appeared to break his arm or wrist. He was taken by ambulance to UMC hospital.
"I told the ambulance driver to hurry up," Salave’a said later that day. "I had a game to play."
Incredibly, once X-rays proved there was no fracture, Salave’a returned to Arizona Stadium and forced two late fumbles on sacks of UCLA quarterback Wayne Cook. Arizona rallied to win 34-24.
Salave’a was recruited by Arizona in 1992 even though he had did not speak English before moving to Oceanside, California from his native American Samoa. He missed his first UA season, 1993, because he was still learning the language. He had 21 QB sacks as a Wildcat, earned his UA degree in 1997 and then played eight NFL seasons.
He is not just another guy named Joe.
Dear Mr. Football: Are the Schooler brothers breaking new ground as opponents?
A: Arizona freshman linebacker Colin Schooler and his older brother, Oregon sophomore receiver Brenden Schooler, are believed to be the first to oppose one another in an Arizona conference game.
Arizona’s Michael Bates left school in 1991, a year before his brother Mario Bates, became a 1,000-yard rusher at Arizona State. The UA’s Trung Canidate departed Arizona in 1998, three years before his brother, Cornell, became a part-time starter at ASU.
The UA-UO connections are few: From 1981-84, Oregon defensive back Wendell Cason was a standout for the Ducks. From 2004-07, his son Antoine became a consensus All-American at Arizona. Antoine Cason capped his career as Arizona stunned the No. 2 Ducks 34-24 in a 2007 game at Arizona Stadium with his father, the ex-Duck, sitting in the bleachers.
Tom Schooler, father of Colin and Brenden, has loyalties that go beyond the Ducks and Wildcats. He was a second-team All-Mid American Conference linebacker at Eastern Michigan in 1989; on Friday night, Tom Schooler, a defensive line coach at SoCal's Mission Viejo High School, was helping coach an 11-0 team in the CIF playoffs. Schooler’s best prospect at Mission Viejo? He’s Christian LaVelle, who leads the Diablos with 128 tackles. LaVelle will be neither a Duck nor a Wildcat. He has committed to play at Arizona State.
Dear Mr. Football: Is it possible Arizona sweeps Oregon and ASU to finish the regular season 9-3?
A: Winning back-to-back road games in Eugene and Tempe to cap a 3-0 finish would be unprecedented at Arizona. Winning on the road is so difficult.
Arizona has finished the conference season on a 3-0 streak just four times in Pac-12 history — 1988, 1997, 1998 and 2004. And in each of those years it had to win just one road game among the three.
RichRod was awarded some good fortune from the football gods — and the Pac-12 schedule-maker _ by avoiding games against Washington and Stanford. The UA responded by beating Cal and Oregon State, which puts some shade on the recent 5-1 streak.
However, if Arizona wins at cloud-shrouded Autzen Stadium, there will be no more shade. The Wildcats will be the real thing and you can reserve a table for Ka-Thrill Tate at the Heisman ceremony.
Oregon 48, Arizona 41