Arizona Football

Who will be the next Arizona college football hall of famer?

Chris McAlister was a unanimous All-American in 1998

Chris McAlister was a unanimous All-American in 1998

Arizona’s Fearsome Foursome of defense — Tedy Bruschi, Rob Waldrop, Chuck Cecil and Ricky Hunley — are now in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Bruschi will be officially inducted in December after being selected by the National Football Foundation on Tuesday.

Former coaches Warren Woodson, Darrell Mudra and Jim Young are also in the Hall of Fame.

Is this Arizona’s limit? Four players and three coaches? Where is the “Cactus Comet” Art Luppino? What about Chris McAlister? Dennis Northcutt?

And shouldn’t Larry Smith and Dick Tomey get consideration?

Woodson was 26-22-2 in only five years in Tucson from 1951-56. He won the necessary 60 percent of his games because of stints at Arkansas State Teachers University (40-8-3), Hardin-Simmons (57-23-6), New Mexico State (63-36-3) and Trinity (16-5).

Mudra was 200-81-4 in his career but he was 15-27-1 at Arizona and Florida State, the only major college programs he coached. And he lasted only four years total at those institutions. He stockpiled victories at places like Adams State, North Dakota State, Western Illinois, Eastern Illinois and Northern Iowa.

Tomey had a career record of 185-145-7, a winning percentage of .546 that falls below the National Football Foundation’s required 60 percent.

Tomey, however, is widely respected among his peers and former players. During his tenure at Arizona, he coached five future NFL first-round draft choices, 20 All-Americans, and 43 Pac-10 first team players. His best teams were in the mid-1990s, highlighted by the “Desert Swarm” defense of which Bruschi and Waldrop helped form into one of the best units in college football history.

Tomey coached Arizona to the only two double-digit-win seasons in school history, including a 12–1 campaign in 1998, in which they finished fourth in both major polls, the highest ranking in UA history. His 95 wins are the most in Wildcats history. He also left Hawaii as its winningest coach in school history (63-46-3) before Junes Jones surpassed him.

The late Smith had a .518 winning percentage overall but he was 48-28-3 in seven years at Arizona and 44-25-3 with three trips to the Rose Bowl in six years at USC. He coached the Wildcats to prominence despite inheriting a program that was placed on probation for recruiting improprieties related to former staffs.

Seven Arizona players earned All-America honors during his tenure, including Hunley, a two-time consensus All-American linebacker, Morris Trophy-winning center Joe Tofflemire, and All-American safety Allan Durden, placekicker Max Zendejas, linebacker Byron Evans and Cecil, a safety. More than 20 of Smith’s UA players went on to play professionally.

The National Football Foundation states in its fine print that Tomey and Smith can still be considered for the Hall of Fame. Players that do not comply with the 50-year rule and coaches who have not won 60 percent of their games may still be eligible for consideration by the Division I-A and Divisional Honors Review Committees, which examine unique cases.

Art Luppino's chances of making the college football hall of fame are remote

Art Luppino’s chances of making the college football hall of fame are remote

The 50-year rule: Players must have played their last year of intercollegiate football within the last 50 years. For example, to be eligible for the 2013 ballot, the player must have played his last year in 1963 or thereafter.

That disqualifies Luppino, who completed his storied UA career in 1956. The National Football Foundation also makes it a requirement that a player earns a major first-team All-American selection to be considered for the Hall of Fame. Luppino, who led the nation in rushing in consecutive years in 1954 and 1955, was a UPI second-team All-American in 1954.

Currently, the NCAA recognizes All-Americans selected by the Associated Press (AP), American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), The Sporting News (TSN), and the Walter Camp Football Foundation (WCFF). Consensus All-Americans are those chosen by at least three of these entities. Unanimous All-Americans are chosen by all.

Those from Arizona not in the Hall of Fame who have these “major” first-team All-American honors include:

  • Mark Arneson, 1971, LB, TSN
  • Jackie Wallace, 1972, DB, TSN
  • Allen Durden, 1985, DB, WCFF
  • Darryll Lewis, 1990, DB, Consensus
  • Josh Miller, 1992, P, FWAA and TSN
  • Steve McLaughlin, 1994, PK, Consensus
  • Tony Bouie, 1994, DB, Consensus
  • Chris McAlister, 1998, DB, Unanimous
  • Dennis Northcutt, 1999, KR, Consensus
  • Antoine Cason, 2007, DB, Consensus
  • Ka’Deem Carey, 2012, RB, Consensus

The player from this list who should be a lock is McAlister. He was a first-team All-Pac-10 selection for three straight seasons in his UA career after transferring from Mount San Antonio College in California.

He became only the seventh player in college football history (first in Arizona history) to return a kickoff, punt and interception for touchdowns in the same season. His 18 interceptions at the end of his Arizona career ranked third on the school’s career-record chart behind Cecil (21) and Wallace (20).

Arneson and Wallace have less than 10 years before their 50-year window closes.

Arneson’s 357 tackles was a career record at Arizona when his eligibility was exhausted in 1971. It has been surpassed by nine players, including Hunley (school-record 566) and Cecil (392). Arneson was a second-round draft pick by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1972 and played with them for nine years.

Wallace, sadly, has fallen on hard times after his six seasons in the NFL — including a starting role for Minnesota in Super Bowl IX — after playing at Arizona. A New Orleans TV station reported last June that Wallace is homeless in that city. Wallace, a victim of alcohol and drug abuse, has been in and out of shelters for at least the last 23 years.

Arneson, Wallace, Durden and Miller were not at least consensus All-Americans, so they have long odds to be selected to the Hall of Fame.

Lewis, McLaughlin, Bouie and Northcutt are consensus All-Americans who might receive more votes as time goes on.

One of the requirements of the National Football Foundation: While each nominee’s football achievements are of prime consideration, his post-football record as a citizen is also weighed. He must have proven himself worthy as a citizen, carrying the ideals of football forward into his relations with his community and his fellow man with love of his country. Consideration may also be given for academic honors and whether or not the candidate earned a college degree.

Bouie, whose name is among other Wildcat greats in the Ring of Honor on the facade of Arizona Stadium, deserves recognition with this requirement.

Dennis Northcutt is the only former UA offensive player eligible for hall of fame consideration

Dennis Northcutt is the only former UA offensive player eligible for hall of fame consideration

He has two Master’s degrees — Master of Arts in literacy and education from Arizona and Master of Business Administration from ASU. He currently sits on the national boards of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the National Football League Players’ Association. He formerly was the vice president of the University of Arizona Maricopa County Black Alumni Association, and was a national board member for the University of Arizona Alumni Association. He is a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma in 2007. He underwent successful chemotherapy in the spring of 2008.

Northcutt is the only former offensive UA player that is eligible for Hall of Fame consideration. He caught passes in 43 straight games, a conference record. In his senior year, he set an Arizona record with 88 receptions for 1,422 yards. His punt-return average that year of 19 yards was second in the nation. As a senior in 1999, he was recognized a consensus first-team All-American as an “all-purpose” athlete.

Cason, a free-agent acquisition by the Arizona Cardinals this season, and Carey, a UA junior, are not yet eligible because they are not 10 years removed from their collegiate careers. Cason, who won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2007, becomes eligible for Hall of Fame consideration in 2017.

WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, TucsonCitizen.com and Sports Illustrated-sponsored site ZonaZealots.com.

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