Arizona’s season opener against NAU at Arizona Stadium on Sept. 2 is 22 days away. To go along with the countdown to kickoff, this site will publish the Top 50 games in Wildcat football history.
SCORE: ASU Sun Devils 30, Arizona Wildcats 7
DATE: Nov. 30, 1968
SITE: Arizona Stadium, 41,350 in attendance
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: The “Ultimatum Bowl” as it became known is the game that ignited the idea of the Fiesta Bowl and, as a result, produced future national championship football games in Phoenix. ASU (7-2) and Arizona (8-1) were about to meet in the Territorial Cup game. The Wildcats were coming off a significant 14-7 victory over No. 20 Wyoming the week before.
Officials of the Sun Bowl intended to invite the winner of the ASU-UA game to the El Paso bowl game. Instead, Arizona coach Darrell Mudra issued his infamous ultimatum: Take us now or don’t take us at all. The Sun Bowl officials buckled to his demand and offered Arizona its 1968 invitation before the motivated Sun Devils routed the Wildcats 30-7 in Tucson.
The Ultimatum Bowl led to the successful Fiesta Bowl because Phoenix officials wanted to create their own bowl game to avoid what happened to the Sun Devils in 1968. The Fiesta Bowl began in 1971. ASU played in four of the first five games (winning all of them). By then, the Fiesta Bowl had been established nationally and financially. Arizona played Auburn in the 1968 Sun Bowl and lost 34-10.
Mudra, who later coached unsuccessfully at Florida State in 1974-1975, resigned for personal reasons after the 1968 season although it was reported that he and Arizona officials agreed it was in the best interest for him to leave. He wanted more than a one-year contract (which was regulated then by the Board of Regents) and Arizona president Richard Harvill was reportedly angered by Mudra’s ultimatum to the Sun Bowl. Bob Weber was hired as Mudra’s replacement.
ASU, which had the No. 1 rushing defense in the country, did not allow the Wildcats a yard on the ground. Arizona, tops in the nation in scoring defense, allowed 30 points to ASU largely because of the rushing of fullback Art Malone. He rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns in the first seven minutes of the game. All of Malone’s five runs in this stretch were up the middle.
Former ASU center Thomas Delnoce recalled in 2009 with the Tucson Citizen the Sun Devils’ determination before the game because the Sun Bowl caved in to Mudra and offered the Wildcats a bid to the bowl.
“As a player, I remember vividly walking out into the stadium for pregame warm-ups. Next to me was defensive tackle Bobby Johnson (now deceased); we walked the entire length of the field taunting the fans who were already there and then registered our disgust by spitting in their end zone. Bad, I know, but we were a very angry team. Bowl games were hard to come by then, and we knew we were the better team. I suspect Mudra knew that as well, thus the ultimatum.
“The rest, as they say, is history. On our first possession, (ASU coach) Frank (Kush) – as was his custom – called a play named 44 trap. Everyone knew it was coming, including the Wildcats. Jimmy Kane (guard, and now president of Southwest Gas) pulled and opened a gaping hole for Art Malone. Art went in for the touchdown. Unfortunately, there was a penalty on the play, and it was called back. What did Frank do? Well, he called the same play again with same result – without the penalty. Art took it to the house for a second time, and the rout was on.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.