MOST NEWSWORTHY DEVELOPMENTS FOR DECEMBER 2021
The Arizona Bowl, in existence since 2015 without a previous cancellation, even last year despite COVID-19 concerns, announced Dec. 27 that this year’s scheduled game between Central Michigan and Boise State on New Year’s Eve will not take place. The bowl, scheduled to be at Arizona Stadium, was canceled after Boise State could not travel to Tucson due to COVID-19 cases within their program. Central Michigan, which arrived in Tucson on Dec. 26, will instead play in the Sun Bowl at El Paso on Dec. 31 against Washington State. The Cougars originally slated to play Miami in that game but the Hurricanes also had to withdraw because of COVID-19 cases. “We would like to thank our conference partners and corporate sponsors for their support,” the Arizona Bowl mentioned in a statement released on Twitter. “We look forward to providing a world class bowl experience in 2022.” Teams from the Mid-American Conference and Mountain West are affiliated with the Arizona Bowl through 2025. Last year’s Arizona Bowl between San Jose State and Ball State was nearly canceled but the game was played in front of no fans at Arizona Stadium because of COVID-19 protocol. The game pitted the champions of the Mountain West and MAC against each other.
The unreal life story of Steve Kerr added another chapter on Dec. 20 with his selection to be the next U.S. Olympic basketball coach starting in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. From an unknown high school guard out of Pacific Palisades, Calif., to a folk hero at Arizona leading the Wildcats along with Sean Elliott to the school’s first Final Four to five NBA titles in 15 years a pro to three more NBA titles as coach of the Golden State Warriors to now the Team USA men’s basketball coach … the legend grows stronger. “This is truly humbling when I think about how few coaches have ever had this opportunity to be the coach of the Olympic team in USA basketball,” Kerr said Monday morning during his introductory press conference. “I have been very blessed, very lucky in my career and this opportunity is a result of being in the right place at the right time, working with the right people. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime and I can’t wait to work with all these guys.”
Arizona’s undefeated run to start the season for the men’s and women’s basketball programs came to an end Dec. 22 with the Wildcat men losing 77-73 at No. 19 Tennessee. Tommy Lloyd’s team was 11-0 and ranked No. 9 at the time of that game. Adia Barnes’ women’s team remained 10-0 through the end of the year after games against Texas on Dec. 19 and USC on Dec. 31 were not played because of COVID-19 protocol. The Wildcats, coming off last year’s appearance in the national title, went into 2022 with a No. 4 ranking despite losing All-American guard Aari McDonald. The men’s and women’s programs were the last in the country to both remain unbeaten and be ranked in the top 10. As a fun bet between Lloyd and Barnes, Lloyd owed Barnes a lunch for his team losing first. “We’ve had a heck of a start to the season, and this (loss to Tennessee) doesn’t diminish it,” said Lloyd, whose team rallied from an early 15-point deficit. “It just reinforces it. I don’t know how many teams could have come into this environment, play like we did and come back a couple of times. To me, it shows something about this team. You have a choice to how you respond to something like this. We can’t let it send us the wrong way.”
Arizona got its signature recruit of the Class of 2022 — Anaheim (Calif.) Servite High School five-star wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan — on Dec. 18. Arizona coach Jedd Fisch and his staff continued their impressive recruiting effort by getting McMillan to flip his commitment from Oregon to Arizona. The Wildcats’ Class of 2022 was rated No. 24 nationally and No. 2 in the Pac-12 by Rivals.com after McMillan signed with Arizona. Fisch announced Saturday the acquisition via Twitter (McMillan is nicknamed “T-Mac”):
— Jedd Fisch (@CoachJeddFisch) December 18, 2021
McMillan decided to join three of his Servite teammates in Tucson, especially after former Oregon coach Mario Cristobal left to coach at his alma mater Miami last month. McMillan will join quarterback Noah Fifita, receiver Jacob Manu and tight end Keyan Burnett in the caravan from Anaheim to Tucson.
Mica Mountain announced the hiring of Shane Folsom on Dec. 30 to lead the Thunderbolts’ baseball team. Folsom led Sabino to 3A state championships in 2019 and 2021. There were no playoffs in 2020 due to COVID precautions and the team ended that season 9-0. “I am excited to take over this new program,” Folsom told AllSportsTucson.com. “I enjoyed my time at Sabino but this is a great opportunity and challenge for me to take on. I am grateful for the opportunity to take Mica Mountain baseball to the next level.” Folsom (121-100) coached at Catalina for six seasons before moving to Sabino in November of 2018.
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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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District