The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is 83 days away. From now until then, this Web site will count down the days with facts about the Wildcats, their players, coaching staff and opponents. This is not a ranking, only a list of 100 facts and observances related to the 2013 Arizona football team and coach Rich Rodriguez.
Before Arizona competed in the Pac-10 in 1978, it was a member of the Western Athletic Conference for 16 years, from 1962-1977. Those from the WAC generation remember names such as “T” Bell, Bruce Hill, Jim Upchurch, Ron Gardin, Jackie Wallace, Mike Dawson and Mark Arneson.
WAC football is now defunct. All that remains are memories and Arizona has mostly good but some bad ones from that era.
The good elements from the WAC years was Arizona’s development of talent and its stadium.
The Wildcats’ 1-2-3 backfield of quarterback Bruce Hill (jersey No. 1) and running backs Willie Hamilton (No. 2) and Jim Upchurch (No. 3) in 1973 and 1974 stands as the best backfield in the program’s history. Players such as Wallace (record-holder with 11 interceptions in 1971) and Dawson (eye-popping 37 career sacks as an interior lineman) would have held their own in the Pac-10.
In 1976, Arizona Stadium expanded its east side, with the addition of a second tier, consisting of 17,000 seats. That move was made with the intention of Arizona moving to what was the Pac-8 in 1978.
The bad includes no outright titles, a stigma that has followed the Wildcats into their Pac-10/12 years. The last outright conference title won by Arizona was in 1941 when Miles Casteel’s team finished 5-0 in the Border Conference and 7-3 overall.
That’s an incredible 71 years without an outright title for the Wildcats. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the President and 1941 was the same year Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.
The Wildcats shared the WAC title in 1964 and 1973 but were not awarded a bowl berth in either season.
The WAC released its 15-Year All-Star Team following the 1976 season. The Wildcats had three members on the first team: offensive guard Bill Lueck, Dawson and Wallace. The second team included Bell, Arneson and his brother Jim Arneson (an offensive guard), and defensive ends Bob Crum and Will McKinley.
Lueck was the first Wildcat drafted in the first round of the NFL in the modern era. Green Bay selected him as the 26th pick overall in the 1968 draft. He played six seasons with the Packers before completing his career with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1975.
Bell, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Pittsburgh Steelers, is second on the UA charts with 30 career touchdown receptions. Juron Criner broke that record in 2011 with 32.
The Arnesons were dominant on each side of the ball. Mark Arneson was a Sporting News first-team All-American in 1971. He held the UA record in tackles (371) at the end of his career. Nine of have passed him since, including other standouts during the WAC era: linebacker Obra Erby, defensive tackle Jon Abbott and linebacker Mark Jacobs.
With this being Day No. 83 with the countdown to kickoff, the best No. 83 to wear the uniform for Arizona is Crum, according to Anthony Gimino of TucsonCitizen.com.
Crum, a third-round selection by St. Louis in 1974, is the son of Hilliard Crum, a standout at Arizona in 1946 and 1947. Bob Crum’s son, Conan Crum, was a non-scholarship player for the Wildcats.
Other notable items involving Arizona’s All-WAC Team (1962-77):
— Hill was an All-WAC selection in 1975, the last conference first-team selection for a UA quarterback. No Arizona quarterbacks have been chosen to the Pac-10/12 first team.
— Hill and Dawson were selected the top back and lineman of the league in 1975. Hill was also the freshman of the year in 1973, the same year UA coach Jim Young won the conference’s honor of coach of the year.
— John Briscoe, a center, was selected the WAC’s top lineman in 1964. Defensive tackle Tom Nelson (1968) and McKinley (1970) also won that honor. Nelson did not make this site’s All-WAC team only because Abbott and Dawson — two members of the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame — occupied the same position.
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.