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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Something for you all year round

    Michael Schwartz
    Michael Schwartz

    As a sports fan, there’s no better place to be than a college campus, especially at Arizona.

    Soon after school begins, you’re treated to the start of football season.

    Before the games, it’s a big party on the UA Mall with tailgating galore, even for those among us who do not religiously follow the sport.

    The party continues at Arizona Stadium. Even when the the Wildcats don’t in, the atmosphere in the Zona Zoo student section electrifies the venue. Arizona fans could stand to be a tad more original than “”F*** (insert mascot name here)!”” chants, but the camaraderie of college football makes up for it. Fans wave their arms together in celebration of first downs on offense and high-five everyone around them after a third-down stop on defense.

    You might not even have to suffer through the impotent attack that has been called the Arizona offense during the last decade.

    New offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes has brought Texas Tech’s Air Raid system to the Wildcats, and it promises to be more interesting then the “”bubble screen left”” and “”bubble screen right”” play calls of the past few years.

    Although the football team has struggled the past four years, the Wildcats consistently played out of their minds for one home game every season (see Washington, 2003; ASU, 2004; UCLA, 2005; California, 2006), giving students the chance to form a red mob at center field while storming the grass.

    There’s no better feeling as a college fan than jumping over the fence leading to the playing surface, standing on the sidelines waiting for all hell to break loose and then joining a sea of red T-shirts.

    Just like the past couple years, the Wildcats will enter the season with hopes of a bowl game, although this time might be their best chance with one of the best defenses in the Pacific 10 Conference and an offense that should score just enough to win.

    It may be hard for freshmen to appreciate if it happens, but just remember that no UA student has followed the school to a bowl game since 1998, with ugly season after ugly season in between.

    When that finally happens, this year or not, it’s cause for Arizona fans to travel near or far – to Vegas or Hawaii – during bowl season.

    Fill the seats in McKale

    When football season ends, it’s time to concentrate on the sport UA fans take pride in, with Arizona being known as a men’s basketball school.

    Only it isn’t, at least as far as student attendance goes.

    Last year, the student section in McKale Center sold out for only the biggest of games, while a plethora of seats remained unused.

    It got so bad that Zona Zoo leaders even coaxed Hall of Fame head coach Lute Olson to film an ad urging students to attend games, an embarrassing ploy that didn’t work and wouldn’t even be considered at other hardcore basketball schools like Duke or North Carolina.

    Whatever excuses that fans offered up last year – i.e., the first tickets were not sold as part of a season package – don’t matter anymore. Zona Zoo has made things easier by offering a $95 package that includes admission to every Arizona athletic event, including men’s hoops games, as opposed to making hoops a separate deal as in the past.

    That means all you have to do is buy the package, which would be second cheapest in the Pac-10 by last year’s standards. In 2006-2007, Arizona’s total deal was the most expensive among conference schools, and for men’s basketball, students had to reserve tickets online to attend a game.

    There’s no reason for students not to take full advantage of the new offer by packing the gym every game and jumping up and down from the opening tip to make McKale the intimidating venue it should be.

    There’s no question that students provide the life in the gym, even though the old people sit in the best seats. The energy the Zona Zoo section provides could make a difference in what should be the best Pac-10 basketball season in years.

    Reaching the Final Four used to be a given for every graduating class of Wildcats. But despite a few years’ drought, Arizona should be tougher defensively, if nothing else, with the addition of former Toronto Raptors head coach Kevin O’Neill as an assistant.

    O’Neill brings the reputation as a tough-guy defensive wizard. He would have helped a Wildcats team last year that was often dogged for being soft.

    Once again, Arizona will field a talented lineup, led by potential All-American Chase Budinger and stud freshman Jerryd Bayless. You won’t want to miss these Wildcats taking on a brutal conference schedule.

    Hit the diamond in the spring

    The hidden jewel of the Arizona sports season emerges in the spring when Andy Lopez’s baseball team takes the field.

    The Wildcats could be primed for another run at the College World Series with a deep and talented pitching staff, led by the reigning Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year, All-American Preston Guilmet.

    Outside of a growing student section called the Hot Corner, most students stay away from Sancet Stadium. But any member of the Corner would tell you how much fun they have heckling at games.

    With the Wildcats’ pitching staff, you might not even see the 11-10 games that many critics state as a reason for disliking college baseball.

    Plus, you never know when you could be watching the next Trevor Hoffman.

    Arizona sports fans should also follow their two-time defending national champion softball team that practically has a trip to the Women’s College World Series written on its schedule every year.

    Although head coach Mike Candrea will be off coaching the U.S. Olympic Team – as he did in 2004, when the Wildcats failed to make the WCWS for the only time in the past two decades – Female Athlete of the Year ESPY winner Taryne Mowatt will be back for her senior season looking for a three-peat, rare even in a sport Arizona has dominated greatly.

    If that’s not enough to make a sports fan happy, intramural sports offer students their chance to throw like quarterback Willie Tuitama or shoot jumpers like Budinger, and the Student Recreation Center always has a good game of pickup hoops waiting.

    With school less than a month away, Arizona fans can dream of bowl games, NCAA Tournament runs and softball national championships, not to mention a shot at their own Intramural title.

    What could be better than that?

    Michael Schwartz is a journalism senior who can’t wait for the 2007-2008 sports season. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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