We have reached only eight days until the Arizona Wildcats kick off their 2018 campaign under new coach Kevin Sumlin. The season begins when Arizona hosts BYU on Sept. 1 at Arizona Stadium.
To get ready for the upcoming season, All Sports Tucson offers another countdown, which includes memories from former Wildcats, history notes and a look ahead to the season. Think of it as a way to keep Arizona football on the mind in the summer months leading up to fall camp in early August and then kickoff against the Cougars marking the start of the Sumlin Era.
The season marks some substantial anniversaries. It is the 40th anniversary since the Wildcats left the WAC to join the Pac-12 (went from the Pac-8 to the Pac-10 then) and also the 20th anniversary of the 1998 team with the best record in school history, 12-1, and the 25th anniversary of the 1993 team that went 10-2 with a win over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.
To catch up on the countdown — which included in-depth analysis and reader polls on The Great Debate of which team was better — 1993 or 1998 — click on this: Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff.
Top 25 developments in Pac-10/12 era
Over the last part of the countdown we are ranking the top 25 developments of Arizona’s Pac-10/12 existence that started in 1978 when it arrived with ASU from the WAC. The ranking will include player highlights, team accomplishments, coaching moves and other off-field developments. If a player is involved, the ranking includes happenings only during the course of that athlete’s time at Arizona.
The ranking up to now:
Larry Smith’s tenure
The late Larry Smith was an emotional coach who was the perfect guy to lead Arizona out of the troubling tenure of Tony Mason and into the competitive Pac-10 in 1980.
After Smith served as an assistant at Arizona under Jim Young, he returned to Arizona in 1980 as its head coach after coaching the Tulane program. He took the job under the cloud of a potential NCAA probation for infractions hat allegedly occurred under Mason (Arizona’s coach from 1977 to 1979).
Smith, who finished 48-28-3 in seven seasons at Arizona before leaving to USC, elevated the program despite the probation (that prohibited national televised games and banned the Wildcats from bowls) that was served in 1983 and 1984. He ended his last season of 1986 season with a 9-3 record and his fifth straight win over rival Arizona State and the school’s first bowl win, a victory over North Carolina in the Aloha Bowl.
One of Smith’s must impressive and endearing feats for Arizona fans was the Wildcats starting “The Streak” against ASU, an unbeaten stretch that began in 1982 and ended in 1990.
After Smith’s first two Arizona teams lost to ASU, the first time 44-7 and then 24-13, he made a vow to never allow the Sun Devils to beat his Wildcat teams again. ASU never did. Smith beat them five straight times, including 28-18 in 1982 when ASU was ranked No. 6 and in need of a win to reach the Rose Bowl and 37-14 when they were No. 4 and Rose Bowl-bound.
His teams also beat No. 2 UCLA in 1980, No. 1 USC in 1981 and No. 9 Notre Dame in 1982.
The best to wear No. 8 …
The best to wear No. 8 in Arizona history? That honor goes to the most prolific passer in school history — Nick Foles — who became a national sensation in February when he earned Super Bowl MVP honors. The Michigan State transfer took the starting job four games into his sophomore season, becoming the only Arizona player to reach five digits in passing yardage (10,011). He set the school record for passing yards in a season (4,334 in 2011) before the Philadelphia Eagles selected him in the third round of the NFL Draft.
Not to be overlooked with the No. 8 jersey — receiver/punt return specialist Dennis Northcutt, one of the most productive receivers and all-purpose threats in Arizona history who was part of the 12-1 team in 1998.
Wearing No. 8 now …
UNLV graduate transfer Tim Hough, a cornerback, wears No. 8 now. He spent four seasons at UNLV before coming to Arizona after redshirting in the 2014 season. He played in all 12 games in 2017 with 19 tackles and three pass breakups and all 12 games in 2016 with five total starts. He registered 28 tackles and was named preseason second-team All-MWC by Lindy’s. He made nine starts and played in 12 games as a redshirt freshman in 2015, totaling four interceptions and 32 total tackles.
FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
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.