Arizona Daily Wildcat
Dick Tomey wore all black to what some speculate could be the final press conference of his Arizona tenure yesterday.
Three days before his Arizona football team faces Arizona State with a bowl bid on the line, the UA head coach delivered an impromptu "state of the program" address despite rumors that the 62-year old head coach may be terminated at season's end.
Tomey - whose contract runs through the 2004 season - said that he is optimistic about the future of the Arizona program despite feeling pressure from Tucsonans to succeed.
"I think we have a great program," he said. "I think our program is acknowledged to be a great program throughout the country, but not necessarily in Tucson. That pains me. I'm not sure Tucson - in some sectors - knows what a great program is."
A four-game conference losing streak has fueled speculation that a loss to Arizona State Friday would likely end Tomey's reign as UA's head coach.
At yesterday's conference, Tomey said that the Wildcat football program is in good shape.
"What constitutes a good program?," Tomey asked. "I think you'd start with the general feeling among the players and the coaches how they feel about each other. I think we're exceptional in that area."
Tomey is popular among his players, many of whom admire the coach's "open-door" meeting policy and straight talk.
"Everything that he spoke about on the recruiting trip, he's followed through with," sophomore wide receiver Bobby Wade said. "(He's) family-oriented with the players and letting everyone know how he feels...you can walk in (to his office) at any time or stop by the house."
Tomey said that UA's bowl success is unparalleled in the Pacific 10 Conference.
"The program went to four (nationally-recognized) bowl games before our staff got here and we've been to seven since," Tomey said. We've had two of the most significant bowl wins (a 1994 Fiesta Bowl win and a 1998 Holiday Bowl victory) in the past decade."
In Tomey's tenure, the Wildcats are 95-63-4 despite posting an 11-11 record in the past two seasons.
"I think we've competed real well," he said. "At the same time, we've had two very outstanding football teams in the past eight years. We didn't go to the Rose Bowl, but we were the best team in our league."
Tomey's players are optimistic that he will be retained at the end of the season.
"I really doubt (that he will be fired)," senior offensive lineman Marques McFadden said. "He's a great guy. There's nothing bad to say about coach Tomey. I spent my five years here, I got my degree. That's what I came here for. You need a coach like that, not one of those token coaches that says, 'Let's win one for the Gipper.'"
McFadden said that Tomey, unlike "some other coaches in other conferences," runs a clean program. No Tomey-led team has ever been reprimanded by the NCAA.
"Honestly, there are some dirty programs going around - this is one of the most clean," McFadden said. "Other schools were offering me vehicles to go to their university. As a young kid, I was brought up right. That's why I came here."
Wade said he believed that no amount of popular support could sway UA Athletic Director Jim Livengood, who will ultimately decide on the fate of the Wildcats' head coach.
"The head coach is going to take the heat and (Tomey) knows that," Wade said. "The players know what kind of coach he is. That's a decision that's made by the higher-up guys - by his boss."