Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff: 18 days

We have reached only 18 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:

No. 25: Darryll Lewis’ 1990 season

No. 24: Chris McAlister’s career

No. 23: Mike Stoops’ tenure

No. 22: Rob Waldrop’s career

No. 21: Scooby Wright III’s 2014 season

No. 20: Rich Rodriguez’s tenure

No. 19: Win over No. 1 Washington in 1992

No. 18

John Mackovic coaching fiasco

The transition from the program’s most successful coach — Dick Tomey — to perhaps its worst — John Mackovic — set Arizona back a few years, completely derailing the success Tomey maintained through most of the 1990’s.

Mackovic went a dismal 10-18 in less than three seasons as Arizona’s head coach after his hiring before the 2001 season. He was 3-14 in Pac-10 games.

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A former assistant at Arizona under Jim Young, Mackovic came to Tucson following his firing at Texas and a stint as a college football analyst for ESPN.

Midway through the 2002 season, Mackovic allegedly told tight end Justin Levasseur that he was a disgrace to his family. This and other incidents led 40 players (including future Pro Bowler Lance Briggs) to hold a secret meeting with school president Peter Likins. The players complained about Mackovic’s constant verbal abuse, such as an ugly tirade after a loss to Wisconsin. Mackovic offered a public apology to his players, the university and fans.

A season later, quarterback Nic Costa reportedly said that despite a very talented roster, many players had lost their love for the game due to Mackovic’s brusque manner. Five games into the 2003 season, Mackovic was fired and replaced by defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz.

The best to wear No. 18 …

The best to wear No. 18 for the Arizona Wildcats is wide receiver legend Theopolis “T” Bell, who starred from 1972-75 and caught 30 touchdowns with the Wildcats and was a 10-year NFL veteran. His time included winning two Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although playing in a run-oriented offense under Jim Young, Bell had 153 receptions for 2,509 yards. His 217 yards on seven catches against New Mexico in 1975 is the fifth-best single-game yardage total in UA history. He was elected to the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame when first eligible in 1979, three years after the formation of the Hall. He was widely thought by those who saw him play as one of Arizona’s all-time big-play threats.

Theopolis “T” Bell set many receiving records at Arizona before winning two Super Bowls with Pittsburgh in the 1970’s (University of Arizona photo)

Wearing No. 18 now …

Fourth-year junior Cedric Peterson wears the number now. He has played sparingly after redshirting as a freshman in 2015. His two-year receiving total is 11 catches for 104 yards in 19 games. He has yet to catch a touchdown pass.

Cedric Peterson looks to contribute more at receiver now in his fourth year in the program (Arizona Athletics photo)


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.

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