Dear Mr. Football: What's the biggest difference between the 1992 Wildcats and the 2012 Wildcats?
A: Twenty years ago, Arizona stunned No. 1 Washington 16-3 at Arizona Stadium, breaking a 22-game winning streak and suffocating the defending national co-champs. Unlike today, demand outstripped supply: 58,510 attended, then the largest non-ASU crowd in Tucson history.
On the morning of Nov. 7, 1992, almost none of those who paid to watch Arizona stuff the Huskies would've believed it had you said - from that moment until today - Arizona would have exactly the same winning percentage (.500) as Washington.
UA is 112-112, and the Huskies are 118-118-1.
And Arizona still didn't get to the Rose Bowl.
Dear Mr. Football: If the '92 Wildcats were Desert Swarm, is this Desert Dash?
A: Arizona had a mere 12 first downs and completed just five passes that day. Those variables have flipped. Now Arizona is No. 2 in the nation with 31 first downs per game, a school-record pace, and broke the league record with 69 pass attempts in its last game.
But the biggest difference is that the '92 Wildcats had eight players on the roster - Tony Bouie, Pulu Poumele, Terry Vaughn, Marcel Wade, Ontiwaun Carter, Gary Taylor, Chato Jackson and Armon Williams - who had been offered scholarships by the Huskies, then the West's power franchise. This year the Wildcats have no (notable) players pursued by Washington, and, frankly, almost none sought by any Top 25 teams. No wonder Dick Tomey won 94 games in 14 seasons here. He could recruit.
Dear Mr. Football: Are you kidding? All of those guys turned down the nation's No. 1 team?
A: True story: Former UA tailback Gary Taylor was chaperoned on his UW recruiting trip by fellow San Diego Morse High grad Lincoln Kennedy, later an NFL star and now a Fox sports analyst. On the way to the Sea-Tac airport, in a rainstorm, with temperatures in the 30s, Kennedy's car broke down.
Taylor de-committed to UW before he got through airport security. Bouie, who became a consensus All-American safety, said he chose Arizona over Washington because - as a two-sport star - he didn't want to play baseball in the rain.
Dear Mr. Football: Have any of the most prominent ex-Wildcats endorsed RichRod yet?
A: After watching the UA-Stanford overtime drama, Art Luppino, UA's famed Cactus Comet, sent this email from Kerrville, Texas:
"I can't remember the last time I watched an Arizona team in which all the players were on the same page. I was so proud; the buttons on my shirt were popping off. In a couple of years, RichRod will have his people in place, and Arizona will be a force. Now I can wear my Arizona golf hat again."
Let's hope the Comet - that's the way he signs his email - has been using sunscreen.
Dear Mr. Football: Has the Pac-12 screwed up anything besides the DirecTV deal?
A: For the first time in 30 years, former UA basketball player Dean Metz, Class of '56, isn't operating the scoreboard clock at Arizona Stadium. The Pac-12 thought it was a conflict of interest, so after three decades of spotless work, the former CDO state championship game baseball coach was forced to retire.
"I miss it, but things happen, things change," he says. "You gotta live with it."
Metz, himself a long-time referee, introduced Sports Illustrated cover boy Ed Hochuli, the NFL's most visible referee, to football officiating. Hochuli worked Pac-10 games, including those in Tucson. There was never a hint of scandal.
"Ed was at the UA Law School and he needed a release, so he came to me and we got him going, officiating football games, from Pop Warner all the way up," Metz remembers. "The bug just bit him. He was at my house virtually every day in the summer, reciting rules. After the first year, I would have put him in any game. He was that good."
Dear Mr. Football: Does the UA's relatively flat attendance (45,586 per game) get covered up by millions from Pac-12 media rights?
A: Football attendance is, and always has been, the most critical variable. Athletic director Greg Byrne says it's likely to be "three or four years" until those gaudy estimates of $20 million per year, per team, are realized, if then. Most estimate the per-school take this season is apt to be closer to $12-13 million.
The UA's athletic budget is expected to expand by about $3 million this year if for nothing else but increased travel and food costs. "We have no new services," says Byrne.
Two unspoken factors on decreased attendance at Arizona Stadium: In-close parking remains limited, as it is in every Pac-12 stadium, and bus service to and from the ballpark has been marginalized. Sometimes it takes more than 45 minutes just to get on a bus outside the stadium for a return to the Hi Corbett Field parking lots. On a game with a 7 p.m., start, it's The Midnight Run. Not fun.
Nine-year season ticket-holder Bob Flemming of Green Valley told me he is considering not renewing for 2013 because of the bus mess. "We don't appreciate the crowds at Hi Corbett, nor do we like to stand in line for over a half hour to board the bus to go back," he said. "Those who don't have season tickets will go once and not come back."
Dear Mr. Football: Is there anything worse than falling to UW and from realistic bowl contention?
A: Here's some perspective: In a week of tragedy in the extended UA football family, 1973 and 1974 All-WAC linebacker Ransom Terrell of Amphitheater High, and ex-Desert Swarm defensive lineman Chuck Osborne died. Terrell, 60, died of an apparent heart attack in Las Vegas; at 38, Osborne's cause of death, in La Jolla, Calif., was not made public.
The Wildcats have had an unusually high number of former football players die much too young in recent years: Terrell, Osborne, Joe Tofflemire, Young Thompson, Theopolis Bell, Mike Dawson, Joe Drake, Akil Jackson, Damon Terrell, McCollins Umeh, Neal Harris and Derek Hill, among others. It's almost surely a tragic coincidence, unrelated to the NFL-type impact injuries, but it has shaken the UA letterman's group.
Dear Mr. Football: How did USC, Oregon and Stanford neutralize UW quarterback Keith Price and limit the Huskies to an average of 322 total yards and 17 points?
A: It broke down Washington's front line protection, hit Price, hurried and worried him. The UA won't likely be able to do that; Price is apt to be a game-changer tonight, and the Huskies could double those statistics, gaining almost 600 yards and scoring almost 35 or 40 points.
The Cats could use players like Ransom and Osborne to fortify their thin and banged up defense. That's not happening anytime soon. Huskies 41, Wildcats 38.