The truth, the whole truth, half-truths, shades of the truth and other items admissible as sports news:
ITEM I. In the middle of Sunday’s Golden State-Houston playoff game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr ambled up to Rockets guard James Harden and said “Arizona is a better school than ASU.”
So much for the tension and conflict of playoff basketball.
Harden’s best rejoinder would’ve been: “I was 5-0 against Arizona.”
Kerr might’ve returned with “my teams were 9-1 against ASU.”
The UA vs. ASU spat is never-ending, which is the allure of the rivalry. If it gets attention during the stress of an NBA playoff game, it’s even better.
But, really — after academics, curriculum and the variables that really count in higher education — which school is better athletically?
ASU’s most likely Mount Rushmore (athletes division) is one of the best: Phil Mickelson, Reggie Jackson, Barry Bonds, James Harden.
Arizona’s isn’t bad: Annika Sorenstam, Rob Gronkowski, Jennie Finch and Steve Kerr.
The Tucson vs. Tempe spice is irresistible.
Mickelson won his first PGA Tour event in Tucson, and three times was Tucson Open champ. Sorenstam shot the all-time LPGA record score, 59, in Phoenix. It’s a push.
Frank Kush or Lute Olson? Tough call.
Since joining the Pac-10, the Territorial Cup is 21-19-1 Arizona, or about as close as it gets in any football rivalry.
In the last 40 years, Arizona has won 17 NCAA championships in sports sponsored by both schools; ASU has 15.
The one sport in which both have been consistently nationally prominent, women’s golf, is a push. Both have won eight conference championships since entering the Pac-10/12.
The real separator is defined by three sports: Arizona has 15 Pac-10/12 men’s basketball championships, ASU none. In softball, Arizona has 11 conference titles, ASU two. In men’s cross country, Arizona leads 7-0 in conference titles.
That gives Arizona a 60-35 edge in Pac-10/12 championships in sports both schools sponsor. ASU is going to need another James Harden to start chipping away at that gap.
ITEM II: It’s entirely possible that no team in the history of Tucson prep sports will again win seven state championships in a school year as Catalina Foothills did in 2005-06.
But Salpointe Catholic is giving it a serious try.
The Lancers have already banked 2018-19 state titles in girls soccer, boys soccer and girls cross country, and have reasonably good chances to win championships in softball, baseball, girls track, beach volleyball and girls tennis in the next week or two.
It’s unlikely Salpointe will sweep and go 5-0, but when is a Tucson team again going to be in the position to even dream of eight state championships in a school year?
What makes it more impressive is that Salpointe finished No. 2 this year in football and boys swimming and reached the state semifinals in boys basketball.
Coach Amy Rocha’s Salpointe softball team, 20-4, is seeded No. 1 in the 4A playoffs. The Lancers baseball team, coached by Danny Preble, is the No. 2 seed in 4A, 21-6 overall. Heather Moore-Martin’s beach volleyball team plays in the state semifinals Wednesday. Coach Mike Urbanski’s girls track team is a strong contender for the state title this week in Phoenix. The school’s girls tennis team plays in the state quarterfinals Tuesday.
In ’06-07, Foothills won state titles in girls cross country, boys and girls swimming, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls soccer. That sweet seven exceeded Tucson High’s ’44-45 sweep of six championships — track, baseball, football, basketball, boys and girls tennis.
Since Foothills opened 27 years ago, it has begun serious pursuit of Tucson High’s once-seemingly unattainable record of 117 state championships. Here’s how Tucson’s prep state championship totals stand:
Tucson 117, Catalina Foothills 82, Canyon del Oro 55, Salpointe 47, Sahuaro 34.
Check back in about 2025 when Foothills is apt to hit 100 and seriously put Tucson High on notice.
ITEM III: Since spring training baseball deserted Tucson in 2010, Triple-A franchises in Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Fresno, Tacoma, Reno and El Paso all built new downtown ballparks, or spent tens of millions of dollars to remodel older ones.
Tucson stands on the sidelines again, having lost its baseball soul. Ultimately, whether it be 2025 or 2035 or even later, someone’s going to lead a campaign to build a ballpark/stadium near downtown Tucson. So why wait?
Last week, members of a private equity firm on the East Coast visited Tucson to examine the possibility of building a ballpark, possibly near the base of “A” Mountain, which is now a deserted landfill.
You can imagine the possibilities. You can also imagine the political rhetoric that such a proposal would ignite.
Tucson’s sports facilities are sadly lacking and stuck in neutral. Do you realize the Tucson Arena will turn 50 in three years? That’s our signature community sports place. Sad.
Despite improvements by the forward-moving Rio Nuevo board, Tucson probably has the nation’s least desirable sports/concerts facilities for a community of at least 1 million .
Wichita, of all places, is in the process of erecting a $70 million downtown ballpark, a venture that has already enabled it to poach the Triple-A New Orleans franchise for 2020. If Tucson was similarly proactive at a location like the old landfill at “A” Mountain, it would be back in play for spring training, a PCL team, a franchise in the United Soccer League and more.
It could give Tucson high school teams a more fitting place for state championship games in soccer, football, baseball. They wouldn’t always have to drive to Phoenix for the Big Game. Major youth sports events could be played there year-round.
Building a sports facility at that location would expand the footprint of Tucson’s suddenly buzzing downtown scene, linked by the streetcar, enhance the gem show’s future and lead to further redevelopment.
Or we could do nothing and let the politicians and developers of the next generation deal with the mistakes made in the early 1990s when Tucson political leaders chose to build a stadium on Ajo Way and effectively doom the future of baseball in Tucson.
ITEM LAST: Pac-12 athletic directors and Larry Scott’s high command will hold their spring meetings in Scottsdale on Tuesday through Friday. (Please, no jokes about the cost of Scott’s hotel suite.)
Last week, Arizona AD Dave Heeke was in Dallas to discuss contemporary issues with Big Ten and Rose Bowl officials, and later meet with ADs of the Power 5 conferences.
One question that someone might ask is what’s going to happen if, as recently reported by the San Jose Mercury News’ Jon Wilner, Pac-12 expenses are climbing at a higher ratio than revenue?
Over the weekend, the Oregon Ducks announced they have raised the salary of their football strength and conditioning coach to $310,000 annually, and that the “lowest” paid football assistant coaches at Oregon will now be paid $350,000 each season.
Yet it all pales compared to the $93 million contract awarded Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney.
Meanwhile, Wednesday is the deadline for UA fans to renew their football season tickets for 2019 and pay the priority seating charge for 2019-20 basketball games at McKale Center.
The days of the Knothole Club in college sports are over.