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Forty-seven years ago today I began this remarkable life, highlighted by the birth of my daughter Mackenzie Isabelle Ventura Morales in 2004 and solidified with family values from my late father Hector A. Morales Jr. and my mother Elsa J. Morales, who is our family’s backbone.
My family, especially my brothers, were essential to me gaining such a strong interest in Arizona athletics. My earliest memory is attending Arizona basketball games when I was about 6 or 7 and sticking around afterward to ask former coach Fred Snowden for his autograph. Snowden took a liking to me and my brothers and invited us into the locker room to get additional autographs from the players.
That ranks right up there with the greatest memory I have being around the Wildcats’ athletic department other than when I covered for The Arizona Daily Star the 1997 NCAA championship won in thrilling fashion by Arizona over Kentucky in Indianapolis.
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I have been blessed to watch many great Arizona Wildcats moments. The one that still escapes me is that ever elusive Rose Bowl trip.
For now, I will cherish the following moments. Here are the greatest UA moments in my lifetime starting in …
1967: Arizona upsets Ohio State and Woody Hayes 14-7 in Columbus, Ohio.
1968: Arizona men’s basketball coach Sean Miller is born in Pittsburgh.
1969: Arizona baseball pitcher Rich Hinton wins 14 games (12 of them complete games) and sets the UA record with a 1.07 ERA.
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1970: Arizona’s baseball team goes 44-8 under Frank Sancet and advances to its ninth trip to the College World Series.
1971: Arizona’s Les Lisowski pitches a no-hitter against Northern Colorado at Wildcat Field in the UA’s 5-0 win on March 22, 1971.
1972: Fred Snowden, an assistant at Michigan, is hired as Arizona’s basketball coach and his first recruiting class is dynamic with Eric Money, Coniel Norman and Al Fleming.
1973: The first game at McKale Center is played on Feb. 1, 1973, won by Arizona 87-69 over Wyoming. Also, Jerry Kindall is hired as UA’s baseball coach and Jim Young as the football coach.
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1974: Arizona shuts out ASU 10-0 in football at Arizona Stadium, ending a nine-game losing streak against the Sun Devils.
1975: Arizona’s basketball team advances to the championship of the National Commissioner’s Invitational Tournament in Louisville, losing to Drake 83-76.
1976: Arizona’s baseball team wins its first College World Series title, defeating Eastern Michigan 7-1 and designated hitter/pitcher Steve Powers wins the CWS Most Outstanding Player award. Arizona men’s basketball also advances to the Elite Eight, losing to UCLA 82-66 in Pauley Pavilion.
1977: Lee Pistor sets the UA record with a 57-yard field goal at Iowa in the UA’s 41-7 win in Iowa City.
1978: Arizona moves from the WAC and joins the Pac-10.
1979: The Arizona football team plays in the Fiesta Bowl, losing to Pitt and Dan Marino 16-10. Also, the baseball team advances to their 11th College World Series.
1980: Arizona’s baseball team wins its second College World Series title, defeating Hawaii 5-3 and outfielder Terry Francona wins the CWS Most Outstanding Player award. Also, Larry Smith is hired as the football coach.
1981: Arizona’s football team upsets No. 1 USC and Heisman Award-winning running back Marcus Allen 13-10 at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
1982: Arizona’s football team beats No. 9 Notre Dame 16-13 at South Bend, Ind., on Max Zendejas’ last-second 45-yard field goal. The Wildcats also start “The Streak” (nine consecutive games without a loss against ASU, beating the Sun Devils 28-18 in Tucson, eliminating their rivals from the Rose Bowl in the process.
1983: Robert Luther “Lute” Olson is hired as the Arizona basketball coach and his first recruiting class includes Steve Kerr, Pete Williams and Eddie Smith — three of the best to wear the Arizona uniform.
1984: Arizona’s Joe Magrane pitches Arizona’s last no-hitter, at Cal State Fullerton, Feb. 10, 1984, in a 4-1 victory.
1985: Arizona’s football team advances to their first bowl game under Smith — the Sun Bowl — and ties Georgia 13-13. Also, Zendejas kicks another game-winner at the end of regulation to beat ASU 16-13 in Tempe, and the UA advances to its first NCAA tournament under Olson.
1986: A glorious year … Arizona’s baseball team wins its third College World Series title, defeating Florida State 10-2 and outfielder Mike Senne wins the CWS Most Outstanding Player award. Also, Arizona hoops wins its first Pac-10 title behind Tucson legend Sean Elliott, beating UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, to achieve the championship. And the football team beats Rose Bowl-bound ASU 34-17 at Arizona Stadium behind the greatest play in UA history — Chuck Cecil’s thrilling 106-yard interception return. One more: Mike Candrea is hired as the UA softball coach.
1987: Dick Tomey is hired as Arizona’s football coach.
1988: Arizona’s basketball team finishes 35-3 and advances to its first Final Four under Olson.
1989: Elliott breaks Lew Alcindor’s Pac-12 scoring record against (fittingly) UCLA at McKale Center on Feb. 18, 1989, and finishes with 2,555 career points, winning the John R. Wooden Award in the process.
1990: Arizona wins its last game in “The Streak”, a 21-17 decision over ASU at Arizona Stadium.
1991: The Arizona softball team wins its first Women’s College World Series title behind pitcher Debbie Day. Also, Annika Sorenstam wins the individual women’s NCAA golf title.
1992: The “Desert Swarm” defense is born as the Arizona football team goes on a memorable roll, culminating with a 16-3 win over No. 1 Washington at Arizona Stadium. Also, the men’s golf team won the NCAA title behind Manny Zerman, Harry Rudolph, David Berganio and Jim Furyk.
1993: Arizona’s football team goes 10-2 and wins the Fiesta Bowl by shutting out Miami 29-0. Also, the UA wins its second Women’s College World Series behind pitcher Susie Parra and first baseman Amy Chellevold.
1994: Arizona reaches its second Final Four behind the dynamic backcourt of Damon Stoudamire and Khalid Reeves, and the softball team wins its third Women’s CWS title behind Chellevold, shortstop Laura Espinoza and pitcher Susie Parra.
1995: Tedy Bruschi concludes his UA career with a school-record 14.5 sacks in 1995 and finishes with an NCAA-record 55 sacks in his illustrious career.
1996: Miles Simon hits a 65-foot shot at the buzzer, beating Cincinnati in Phoenix and enabling Olson to win his 500th career game. Also, Arizona wins its fourth Women’s College World Series behind second baseman Jenny Dalton (the Most Oustanding Player), and the women’s golf team wins its first NCAA title behind Marisa Baena, Heather Graff and Krissie Register.
1997: Arizona advances to its third Final Four and wins its first NCAA title behind Simon (the Final Four MVP) and backcourt mate Mike Bibby and wing player Michael Dickerson. Also, Arizona wins its fifth Women’s College World Series behind pitcher Nancy Evans (the Most Outstanding Player).
1998: Arizona posts its most wins in a season with a 12-1 record, culminating with a 23-20 win over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
1999: My favorite UA athlete whom I’ve covered — Jason Terry — concludes his UA career and is drafted in the first round of the NBA draft (10th overall pick by Atlanta).
2000: The women’s golf team wins its second NCAA title behind Jenna Daniels, Jill Gomric, Cristina Baena and Julia Kraschinski.
2001: Arizona advances to the NCAA title game (losing to Duke) behind the backcourt of Jason Gardner and Gilbert Arenas and strong frontcourt of Loren Woods, Michael Wright and Richard Jefferson. Also, golfer Lorena Ochoa is selected the NCAA Women’s Player of the Year and the softball team wins its sixth Women’s College World Series behind pitcher Jennie Finch (the Most Outstanding Player).
2002: Andy Lopez is hired as Arizona’s baseball coach, and Ochoa wins her second consecutive NCAA Women’s Player of Year.
2003: Furyk wins the 2003 U.S. Open.
2004: The smallest UA fan is born, my daughter Mackenzie. Also, the Arizona baseball team advances to the College World Series for the first time since winning it all in 1986. And Candrea coaches the U.S. softball team to a gold medal in Athens.
2005: Arizona wins its last of 11 Pac-10 titles under Olson. Also, good times return to the UA football program, with the Wildcats routing No. 7 UCLA 52-14 at Arizona Stadium.
2006: Arizona wins its seventh Women’s College World Series behind pitcher Alicia Howell (the Most Outstanding Player).
2007: Arizona’s football team upsets No. 2 Oregon 34-24 at Arizona Stadium and in front of a national TV audience on ESPN. Also, Arizona wins its eighth (and last) Women’s College World Series behind pitcher Taryne Mowatt (the Most Outstanding Player).
2008: Arizona goes 8-5 and concludes its season with a 31-10 win over ASU and 31-21 victory over BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. Also, the Arizona women’s swimming & diving team won their first national championship behind Lara Jackson (50-yard free winner) and Lacey Nymeyer (100 free champ).
2009: Miller is hired away from Xavier to coach the basketball program and his first recruiting class includes Derrick Williams, a future No. 2 pick in the NBA draft.
2010: As part of a 4-0 start, Arizona’s football team beats No. 9 Iowa 37-34 at Arizona Stadium, sacking Hawkeyes quarterback Ricky Stanzi four times in their last possession. Arizona’s softball team advances to its 13th Women’s College World Series.
2011: Arizona advances to the Elite Eight behind Williams, who had one of the best individual performances in the program’s history against Duke in the Sweet 16 victory. Also, Arizona hires Rich Rodriguez as its football coach on Nov. 21, 2011.
2012: Arizona’s baseball team, playing its first season at Hi Corbett Field, captures its fourth College World Series title behind outfielder Robert Refsnyder (the Most Outstanding Player). Also, CDO product Ka’Deem Carey rushes for a school-record 1,929 yards, which tops the NCAA for the season. The Wildcats beat Nevada 49-48 in the New Mexico Bowl in one of the greatest comebacks in the program’s history. And UA long jumper Brigetta Barrett takes home the silver at the London Olympics.
2013: Carey breaks Arizona’s school record in career rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in a dominating 42-16 victory over No. 5 Oregon, one of the most significant games in the history of the program. He finishes the season with 4,239 career rushing yards and 48 rushing touchdowns. Barrett wins the indoor and outdoor NCAA Division I high jump title for the third consecutive season (a feat unmatched in NCAA history). Also, Arizona advances to the Sweet 16 behind senior forward Solomon Hill, a two-time All-Pac-12 selection.
2014 (to this point): Arizona’s basketball team wins the regular-season Pac-12 title and advances to the Elite Eight. Nick Johnson is the Pac-12 Player of the Year. Lawi Lalang wins his eighth NCAA title with a victory in the 5,000 meters. He finishes his career with six Pac-12 titles, 12 All-America honors and eight NCAA championships