University of Arizona football coach Jedd Fisch was a guest on Steve & Jay’s show Eye on the Ball on Fox Sports 1450 this week to talk about his upcoming football camps and what’s going on with football.
Give a listen or read what he said below.
Jay: We’re waiting for football season to start, running out of stuff to do, so we need to get football season going.
Fisch: Yeah, yeah me too. Although I’m not necessarily ready for it just yet. I’m excited for camp season first of all and recruiting season right now is going on full force. So, in the midst of recruiting and camp, it’s (going to be) a busy June coming up.
Jay: Well, let’s talk about camp, because there’s a lot of social media and stuff with all the camps coming up. You are bringing in young kids in and high school kids, what’s the basis, you’re doing these camps and they are a lot of work. Why do you do these camps?
Fisch: I think the most important part of all these camps is to be able to give back to the community, to give back to football itself. There’s nothing more fun than football camp. It’s not like the old days where you are putting on pads and doing these team camps. These are opportunities for 7-on-7 teams to play tournaments here. Big men compete against other big men. High school kids to just work on their skills for a few hours or just a bunch of kids running around from first to eighth grade out there to have a blast. To me, it’s a chance to have eight to 10 days of three-or-four-hour sessions where we can just go out there and make football fun. The more people that come to our campus, the more they see what a place we have here, the more fun that they have.
Steve: You did something like this a while back with the little kids. I thought it was a brilliant idea because it got moms and dads to give a chance and a feel of Jedd Fisch and his coaches. Did you get the sense as well?
Fisch: Yeah, that’s the idea. I hope we have about 500 kids come through here if not more in terms of under fifth grade or sixth grade. I hope we have another 500-1,000 kids for the skills camp. Then I hope we have another 1,000 come through for our 7 vs. 7 big men camp. Then I want all 2500-3000 of these kids and parents to recognize what a great situation we have here. I want parents to know that this place is where they want to send their son as either a student or a student-athlete. And then hopefully we can entice them to come to our games. We got to get all of these people to come to all of our games. That’s why I challenged the community. I did our own little Fisch football challenge, buying 10 season tickets to donate to the kids but it’s an opportunity for more and more people to see what we are doing here and get excited about it.
Jay: Jedd, how much of this was always a part of your plan when you got a job like this as a head football coach?
Fisch: It was always, for me if I was going to be a head coach it would have to be at the program, at the right community, at the right college town. It’s what I always thought would be the best way to do it. How much fun could we have in our community, how much could my family and I embrace being in a college town. And then what could we do to make the community better. I coached at Michigan, at Florida, at Miami, at Minnesota, at UCLA, when you work in a college town, Ann Arbor, Gainesville, Tucson, you know what it feels like when football is good. And when football is good everything’s good. All of the other sports are benefiting, the community is excited. And, when you have an opportunity to have great football, you have an opportunity to have just an incredible community and excitement throughout and that’s just what my goals have always been. That’s why I only wanted to come to a place and a big college town with a big college program.
Steve: Jedd, so I have been here for 33 years, and Jay has been here his whole life. You’ve done something here in my time that no other coach was able to do. Bring in these great recruits to have the best recruiting class in my time. I’m thinking what is this guy doing? This guy is doing a great, fantastic job, if you have any of that magic dust, can I get a little ounce of it to keep it in my pocket? There’s got to be a secret to your success, because you have done a fantastic job and I’m not trying to be nice, I’m the skeptical dude in the room.
Jay: He’s never very nice.
Steve: I’m never very nice, Jedd, I admit that, but you have done a fantastic job. What are you doing?”
Fisch: Well, you know, for us it’s pretty simple. It’s that we are selling a vision and we are telling guys about what we are trying to get done here. Very simply put we believe 100% we can win a Pac-12 Championship here in Tucson. We believe we can compete for a Rose Bowl in Tucson and when you come to our campus what else can you ask for. When I was at Florida, we won the national championship in football and basketball. Our baseball team was a national championship contender and went to the College World Series, our women’s softball team did the same thing. And there’s no reason why that can’t be the case here in Tucson. I don’t think there’s a more similar town than (Gainesville) and the University of Florida vs. the University of Arizona. Other than the fact that we have about three times more people in Tucson so we should have no problem filling our stadiums and winning championships here. That’s what I told the recruits, that’s what I told our donors and that’s what I told our alumni. That there’s no excuse for us not to become great in football here, and when we are great in football, we will be great in everything.
Jay: We will call it what it was, the attendance wasn’t good last year. You guys had a tough time drawing crowds. But you have been through a season now, what did you learn about what needs to happen other than winning to get this town back behind the football program because it’s been there before. I’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it, football gets a following. I think in the end football, when it’s good, it’s right there with basketball, so, what do you think you learned from last year about what needs to happen and what are you doing to kind of respond to that this summer?
Fisch: Well, I think what has to happen is that we have to have people that want to come to the games. We had 30 something thousand people come to a 55,000-person stadium each week. When you look at it that way, you have to say to yourself why? The tickets aren’t overpriced, the games were extremely competitive, we were winning in four of the six home games at halftime. We were playing Utah and it was 17-14 at the half, we were playing Washington 13-0, we were playing NAU 13-0. Other than the San Diego State game every other game was a heck of a game here. So, as I look at it, the Cal game we won here, so, I don’t know. We need people to want to come. Come watch, come cheer us on, come stay for the whole game. It’s 16-7 with eight minutes left against Washington. We need our full fan base; I could point to other opportunities in other games, but the fact of the matter is we have an unbelievable DJ in the student sections. Our players play their tails off, why wouldn’t you want to enjoy under the lights, under the stars at night for four of our six games. Two of our games are at noon, I don’t know, when I was at Florida, we sold it out, when I was at Michigan, we sold it out. My goal is the same here, if we did that here we know what it would look like. We would look like one of the top college programs in the country. That’s what it should look like.
Steve: So, Jay and I went out and we covered Dick Tomey here in the late 80’s. We were the first guys to cover Dick Tomey back in the day. What I noticed and I think Jay will agree you came in and you coached them up. Much improved from the year before when you got here. You did very well, the guys loved the coaching staff. Is that a top priority? Get them to believe in what you do and to coach them up?
Fisch: Yeah, I think development. The development of the student athlete is an enormous part of being a college football coach and for us it’s the most important thing that we can do. When you look back at the success Coach Tomey had here you know he took a lot of guys that weren’t the highest recruited players in the country and made them great players and they were the hardest team to play, it was an unbelievable home field advantage. The defense was just incredible and when you look at what it was it was just a bunch of guys that they developed and taught how to be become great football players. The same thing for us. We need to take our team and we need to out develop our team into becoming pros. And how we do that is gonna be from our assistant coaches. We have a great coaching staff, 125 years of NFL experience. All sorts of experience in the PAC 12. And for us, it looks like we gotta take these kids, we gotta help develop them, we gotta earn their trust, we gotta find a way to become great with the roster that we have right now.
Jay: So, coach, we talked about Shawn Parnell yesterday, a kid who came back after a long time graduated former football player, played under Dick, we were talking to Donnell Harris who played basketball here in the late 90’s. What does that feel like to you to see these guys who still are Wildcats? They still come back and do this, how meaningful is that to a football coach at any level and anywhere?
Fisch: It was cool, I was at the graduation when Shawn Parnell spoke at the graduation and it was so great to hear his message and so great to hear what he had to say and so inspiring how he was able to thank Cats’ academic staff for helping him get there, obviously his coaching staff, coach Tomey for when he played here. Some of his teammates, Brandon Sanders etc. But it was just great to see that, that’s what you are looking for. The fact that we had the valedictorian this year, the valedictorian of all Arizona athletics was Kyle Ostendorp who obviously was a first team All-Pac-12 punter. So, from the same graduation we got to hear from a current football player as a valedictorian and we got to hear from a former one. His message was inspiring and great to listen to.