Meaning behind Arizona Wildcats’ “Hard Edge” motto



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The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is 63 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.

(Arizona Athletics You Tube video)

(Arizona Athletics You Tube video)

We’ve seen it in videos and on the helmet of Arizona’s football team: “Hard Edge”.

What exactly does it mean?

The dictionary defines hard-edge as an adjective “of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a style of abstract painting associated with the 1960s and marked chiefly by sharply outlined geometric or nongeometric forms.”

Rich Rodriguez is a child of the 1960s, born in 1963, but the UA’s “Hard Edge” motto is not about geometric shapes. Leave that kind of rally cry to Stanford.

It’s not a common saying. How often have you said you conducted business with a hard edge? Be honest.

We all know of the hard edges of furniture we stub our toe on or bang our elbow against. Painful to be sure, but that does not apply here. Although Arizona wants to inflict pain on the opposition, that has nothing to do with the motto.

Anthony Gimino of TucsonCitizen.com went the extra mile last August and simply asked Rodriguez about the meaning behind “Hard Edge”, a motto he created during his time at Glenville State from 1990 to 1996.

“You think kids all play hard, especially in college and especially at this level,” Rodriguez told Gimino. “But there are different levels of playing hard. It’s like watching a really good high school game. They could be two really good high school teams, great programs, but those kids don’t play nearly as hard as what college kids do because they don’t know.

“I think my greatest pride as a coach, I hope, is that when people turn on the film, if nothing else they say, ‘Man, those kids really play hard.’ Because you can control it. You sometimes can’t control how fast you are and things like that, but you can control how hard you play. Our guys have gotten better at that, but we aren’t close to where you need to be right now.”

Rodriguez can always say Arizona strives to have a hard-edged mentality. That’s too wordy. It can’t fit on the front of a helmet.

One Web definition of “hard-edged”: “If you describe something such as a style, play, or article as hard-edged, you mean you admire it because it is powerful, critical, or unsentimental.”

That’s more like it.

If Arizona is powerful and unsentimental, victories are sure to follow.

The Wildcat program has a history of sayings. “Burn The Boats”, used by Dick Tomey, is the most powerful. Others included “Raise The Bar”, “Finish It”, “In It To Win It”, “Stay Together” and “Back for More”.

“Burn The Boats” is the most obscure. It pertains to a situation where Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes, having landed in Mexico, ordered his men to destroy their boats to let them know they were at the point of no return to find gold and riches.

“Hard Edge” has developed into a way of every day life for Rodriguez’s team, but it has not supplanted the grand rally cry of “Bear Down”. Imagine if Button Salmon said on his death bed, “Tell the team … tell them to have a hard edge.”

The “Hard Edge” saying works with today’s Wildcats because they must develop that characteristic to achieve a spot in the ever-elusive Rose Bowl. They must also play smart with a sharp edge to make it all happen.

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The best No. 63 to wear the Arizona uniform is offensive guard John Brandom (1986-89). Gimino writes that Brandom teamed with offensive tackle Glenn Parker to make a formidable right side of the line, and is now a successful high school coach in Corona, Calif.

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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