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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Big Sport on Campus?

They’re turning the corner and about to pass a 1997 Lexus across a double yellow line.

Its license plate: AZHOOPS.

The Arizona football program, a once-embarrassing Pac-10 punching bag, is on the cusp of eclipsing the Arizona basketball program, a once-elite Pac-10 bully still hungover from its mid-2000s reputation, in campus popularity.

Football’s win against Stanford on Saturday wasn’t pretty by any means, but it did send a clear statement to the Zona Zoo: It’s not basketball season just yet.

Let the numbers talk: Football is 4-2 overall, but most significantly, ranked No. 22 in the first BCS standings of the season.

Basketball held Media Day last Wednesday, but most significantly, its only star player, Nic Wise, was a no-show due to academic commitments.

Football, led by breakout QB of the year Nick Foles, could legitimately bring a 6-2 record and top-20 ranking into the Cal showdown on Nov. 14.

Basketball’s depth chart, after Wise, looks more like a scatter plot of newcomers.

Football is still more than relevant, but is it more relevant?

Consider what Sean Miller did at Media Day: the first-year UA hoops coach squashed all expectations and essentially downplayed traditional success before 2010.

“”I’m not anxious at all to see a game,”” Miller joked last Wednesday. “”As a matter of fact, I don’t want to see a game for some time.””

That’s not what UA sports fans want to hear — especially this generation of students accustom to reeling from football’s annual mid-season collapses.

Even something guaranteed like The Streak — an annual bragging point students use as Thanksgiving Dinner Table Conversation — went from a minimum requirement to a rallying point.

“”Because things have happened here in the past, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to continue,”” Miller said. “”I think the streak is something that can really be damaging to this year’s team. In reality, it’s something that we can’t control.””

Basketball Media Day hardly felt like a pep rally. In fact, after watching a weekend of rock-concert-caliber celebrations in college basketball arenas around the country, it’s baffling as to why the UA didn’t throw its own Midnight Madness to restore — or recapture — some excitement around a program with only one returning go-to guy.

And he’s the point guard who didn’t show up for Media Day.

“”What happened a year ago or two years ago, 13 years ago, it’s all things that we’re proud of. It’s our tradition. It’s our legacy. It’s why you want to be at a program like Arizona,”” Miller said. “”But what that means in this season, 2009-10, is nothing.””

There’s hardly a Kansas-esque inter-athletics fist-fighting rivalry going on here, but it must’ve ticked former quarterback Willie Tuitama off when a UA basketball exhibition game would get more attention than his Pac-10 football games.

Our newsroom must always gauge popularity: Who gets priority on our sports front page? Fridays, when we run weekend previews, who gets the dominant photo — football or basketball?

In December of 2007 and 2008, UA basketball played Virgina and at Texas A&M, respectively, while UA football played decisive Pac-10 games.

The basketball losses were bigger stories.

Chase Budinger wigs still sold off the shelves at Halloween costume warehouses. This year, the Nick Foles blonde mop could be on backorder.

Where would you rather spend the weekend of Dec. 5, at the Los Angeles Coliseum watching football’s potential Rose Bowl play-in game against USC, or in Oklahoma watching a potential NCAA Tournament résumé bubble-breaker?

Oklahoma is a Bob Stoops school that already takes football seriously.

And for the first time, Arizona’s Mike Stoops is ranked in the BCS standings higher than his brother.

On campus, Mike could finish the year No. 1.

— Bryan Roy can be reached at media@wildcat.arizona.edu

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