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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Year in Review: Sports’ most memorable moments

Mike+Christy%2FArizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AThe+Arizona+Wildcats+mens+basketball+team+took+on+in-state+rivals+Arizona+State+in+a+Pacific-10+Conference+game+Saturday%2C+Jan.+15%2C+2011%2C+in+McKale+Center+in+Tucson%2C+Ariz.+Derrick+Williams+recorded+a+31-point%2C+10-rebound+effort+in+a+80-69+victory.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team took on in-state rivals Arizona State in a Pacific-10 Conference game Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011, in McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. Derrick Williams recorded a 31-point, 10-rebound effort in a 80-69 victory.

Firing Stoops, hiring Rich Rodriguez

No event in the past year has changed the landscape of Arizona sports more than the firing of former UA football head coach Mike Stoops and the arrival of his successor, Rich Rodriguez. Stoops and his struggles with team-wide communication and being personable within the community landed him on the hot seat for the better part of his final two seasons with the Wildcats. Tucson locals wanted him out, and after Arizona fell apart during the 2011 season, athletic director Greg Byrne saw the chance to can Stoops and bring in “his guy.”

After months of research and meetings Byrne found the perfect candidate in Rodriguez. He took a risk on a guy who flopped at Michigan and faced questions about his compliance with NCAA rules. That risk looks like it will pay off. Rodriguez has quickly changed the culture of the program while serving as a voice to a community that’s been thirsting for exactly that. For almost eight full seasons, Stoops was the face of Arizona football. But since Oct. 10, 2011, the look of Wildcat pigskin has changed. Rodriguez brought in his entire staff minus offensive line coach Robert Anae. He’s brought a level of confidence throughout the university, and if Byrne had never taken that leap of faith and landed Rodriguez, Arizona could have been mired in mediocrity for years to come.

— Mike Schmitz

The streaker

On Oct. 20, 2011, Arizona was about halfway through a pounding of UCLA that would end the Wildcats’ 10-game losing streak against teams from BCS conferences. But just seconds before halftime, a man dressed as a ref ran onto the field and took off his clothes, and total chaos ensued. During the break in action, Arizona corner Shaq Richardson was jawing with a trio of UCLA players. That small group started pushing and shoving, and soon both teams were in a brawl at midfield. Ten players were suspended after the incident, including Arizona’s Lyle Brown, Mark Watley, Jourdon Grandon and Richardson.

— Alex Williams

Pac-10, meet Pac-12

After months of rumors and speculation, the then-Pacific 10 Conference added Utah and Colorado in the summer of 2010 to turn the conference into the Pac-12. The conference unveiled a new logo and announced it would split into two divisions on July 27, 2010. Conference commissioner Larry Scott has since been one of the most forward-thinking minds in college sports, moving the Pac-12 basketball tournament to Las Vegas, instituting a championship game in football and adding an East Coast media tour before each football season.

— Alex Williams

Beating ASU in football

“Success” was not a word often used around the Arizona football team last season. And, after Mike Stoops was fired, success didn’t exist in Tucson.

As the 2-8 Wildcats prepared for the annual Duel in the Desert, the Arizona faithful was bitterly reminding themselves of the botched Alex Zendejas kicks at Arizona Stadium the year before, thinking there was no possible way the Wildcats could beat the Sun Devils in Tempe, Ariz.

But in college football, anything can happen on a Saturday in late November.

Coming into the game, the Wildcats were actually able to show a poise they’d been missing most of the season, but with 10 minutes left on the clock, things weren’t looking so good.

Arizona was down 27-17, but Nick Foles managed to get it to wide reciever Gino Crump who danced his way into the end zone with a 33-yard scamper.

No one contributed as much to the display of senior talents and achievements as fifth-year senior quarterback Bryson Beirne.
After Foles went down with a rib injury, Kish called on the veteran to step up.

Two plays later, Beirne dumped a pass off to Juron Criner who made at least four guys miss for the touchdown. It was Beirne’s second touchdown pass of his career and the game winner.

After the final whistle, Wildcat center Kyle Quinn stabbed the Arizona flag into the end zone turf.

Redemption was complete.

— Dan Kohler

Moving to Hi Corbett Field

On a brisk Friday night in March, the then-No. 8 Arizona baseball team trailed then-No. 2 Stanford 7-4 heading into the bottom of the ninth with the top-rated pitching prospect Mark Appel still on the mound.

But in front of a season-high crowd of 4,191 fans, the Wildcats rallied back and walked off on a two-out hit by senior Bobby Brown.

The comeback was the first win of a historic sweep of Stanford — the first time since 1993 — but what was even more incredible was that 10,656 spectators walked through the gates of Hi Corbett Field that weekend, signifying a new era in Arizona baseball.

Coming into the season, Arizona Athletics made the radical change to abandon Sancet Stadium, the Wildcats’ home since 1967, and relocate off-campus to Hi Corbett Field.

And ever since the decision, fans have flocked through the gates of the old MLB spring training stadium and watched the Wildcats battle for their first conference championship since 1993.

In just the first game at the new park, almost 4,000 people showed up to watch Arizona beat North Dakota State 3-1, which was 1,759 more fans than last year’s season high.

The sale of beer and Major League amenities at Hi Corbett have given the Wildcats a home with a real professional atmosphere, and that was never clearer than in their season-defining series against Stanford.

–Kyle Johnson

Men’s basketball missing the NCAA Tournament

The most memorable moment for the Arizona men’s basketball team was also its low point. For the second time in three years, the Wildcats missed the NCAA Tournament.

In the 2011-12 season, it seemed the Wildcats took the most torturous road possible. Despite conference home losses and a number of one-point losses, it seemed that Arizona could all but secure a spot in the tournament by defeating 20-loss rival ASU in Tempe. But defense — which had been the Wildcats’ strength all year — didn’t show up to Wells Fargo Arena. The Sun Devils secured the 87-80 win and forced the Wildcats to make a run in the Pac-12 Tournament to go dancing.

Arizona ran though UCLA and Oregon State, but slipped against Colorado. And the Wildcats didn’t hear their name called on Sunday.

The UA missing the tournament this frequently is especially memorable because it hasn’t happened since the early ‘80s. But after Arizona’s Elite Eight run in 2011, this season was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

– Nicole Dimtsios

D-Will selected No. 2 overall in NBA Draft

Derrick Williams emerged as a star for the Arizona men’s basketball team during the 2010-11 season, so it was no surprise when the La Mirada, Calif., native declared for the NBA Draft.

Williams was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft — matching Mike Bibby’s 1998 draft spot selection — and was the third Wildcat ever to be drafted in the top 5.

In his two seasons at Arizona, Williams averaged 17.8 points, and nearly eight rebounds per game. Along with an Elite Eight run, Williams gave the program a face and a go-to scorer, something that the Sean Miller’s team desperately needed during the 2010-11 season.

Although most fans hated to see Williams leave Arizona early, his selection gave the program something to cheer about after a heartbreaking finish to an improbable tournament run.

“I’ve been working for this moment — to be drafted — for a long time and it’s finally come,” Williams said. “I will continue to do my best to make my family and the Arizona fans proud.”

– Nicole Dimitsios

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