Run for the roses

By Brett Fera
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 8, 2004

Wildcats, still searching for first Rose Bowl game nod, visit vaunted stadium for first time since '99

When Mike Stoops accepted the head coaching position with the Arizona football team, taking a team to the Rose Bowl was among his highest priorities.

While he surely meant the prestigious Rose Bowl game, traditionally pitting the Pacific 10 Conference's top team against the best of the Big Ten Conference on New Year's Day, Stoops will get his first taste of the 82-year-old stadium as a head coach tomorrow afternoon when the Bruins play host to the Wildcats at 3:30 p.m.

"It's just a different setting. It's a regular season game," said Stoops, who competed in the 1983 Rose Bowl game during his playing days at Iowa as well as coached in the 1991 and 2003 contests. "We'll go in with the mindset that we're going to have a great opportunity to win."

While Stoops may be downplaying the trip, UA junior defensive back Darrell Brooks said he and his teammates understand the significance of what playing in the stadium means to the UA program, even if it's just the regular season.

"Being a Pac-10 team, that's what you shoot for," said Brooks of his ultimate goal while at the UA. "We'll get a feel for what we're trying to accomplish."

What the Wildcats are trying to accomplish under their new head coach is something the UA program has never seen before. Of the 10 Pac-10 schools and the 11 participants in the Big Ten that make up the game's traditional matchup, Arizona is the only school to never compete in the Rose Bowl game.

"That's all the Cali boys have been talking about, playing in the Rose Bowl," said UA sophomore wideout Syndric Steptoe.

Two of Arizona's California products have different impressions, however, of what this weekend's game signifies for the program.

UA senior wide receiver Ricky Williams said that while many of his teammates had a chance to go home to visit family during the Wildcats' bye week last weekend, he stayed in Tucson to avoid having to discuss UCLA's early season success with many of his relatives who attended the Westwood, Calif., school.

Freshman cornerback Antoine Cason, a native of Long Beach, Calif., said he's not fazed at playing at the Rose Bowl because of his allegiance to USC while growing up.

"When I was coming up through high school I never really cared for (UCLA)," said Cason, who did admit much of his family would attend tomorrow's game. "They never recruited me."

Chuck White, who's worked as public address announcer at the stadium for more than a decade, covering UCLA football games as well as the last seven Rose Bowl games, said the Rose Bowl's picturesque setting is among its greatest traits to teams and fans that visit.

"It's something very special," White said. "You drive into the Arroyo Seco there with the beautiful mountains in the background, it's very exciting."