Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin looked on the west side of Arizona Stadium and, well, was pleased.
Ditto for Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke.
And understandably so, given an estimated 5,000 fans showed up for the annual Wildcats Spring football game.
Without hesitation you can sense there is a sense of anticipation and excitement. Yes, a buzz about football … finally? Maybe more of a curiosity than anything given the exit of Rich Rodriguez and the addition of Sumlin and the return of Khalil Tate.
“I thought it was great and I thought the atmosphere was great,” said Sumlin when asked about the fans.
Great, great, great. He used the word too many times to count.
“It was a great atmosphere,” he continued. “I know our players appreciated it. They were buzzing about it before the game. It was about as game like as you can get.”
No truer words have been spoken given half the crowd left at halftime, but the point of excitement about the upcoming season was surely noted.
“It is a good vibe and a good feel,” Heeke said of the community’s buzz.
He said the school has sold more than 3,000 season tickets so far or since announcing Sumlin’s hiring in January.
Many of which are fresh faces and some are those who had given up on the program but have decided to come back.
“The people who are taking those calls (for tickets) are saying those who are (buying) are excited to have football back,” Heeke said. “We want to hear people excited about the program. We need that kind of support. We need to fill the stadium. It will help our football program grow.”
Another that will help – at least with support – is having former players back, spreading goodwill and the program’s good name. More than 75 former Wildcat players were on hand on Saturday for the day’s spring festivities.
“I have people talking to me about how much they love the choice of Coach Sumlin and I totally agree,” said John Kaiser, who played for UA in the mid-1980s. “I have also heard from many people are going to get season tickets again. Coach has made it be known that the former players are always welcomed and that we are the ones that put our heart and soul into Arizona football. I also like where he states that Tucson and the U of A is a place that players would want come to.”
Former UA player Jay Dobyns agreed.
“I believe Coach Sumlin understands that some of his dreams for the future lays in the greatness from the past,” he said. “Sumlin and Tate, (Tony) Fields, (Colin) Schooler leads to …? A Rose Bowl?
“They demand it. We as alums expect it, and want to do whatever we can to help them achieve it.”
That’s another reason Sumlin used the word great a few times.
“I can’t tell you how many people have said welcome to Tucson,” he said.
Then later said, “I’m undefeated right now. That probably has a little to do with it.”
Yes, probably. But they are excited nonetheless.