By James Kelley
CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Mike Stoops, considered one of the top defensive minds in all of college football, helped his brother Bob rebuild Oklahoma into a college football powerhouse. It took the Stoops brothers just two seasons to take the once-storied Sooners from a sub-500 ball club to the national championship.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Arizona football tickets selling like hot cakes
UA basketball may still the hottest ticket in town, but Arizona football is beginning to catch up.
As of last week, the UA had sold about 25,000 non-student season tickets for games at Arizona Stadium. The school record is about 28,000, set in 1994, the same year Sports Illustrated picked the Wildcats as the preseason No. 1 team in the nation.
The UA also has hopes of meeting the 1994 school record of about 10,000 student season ticket sales, moving up from nearly 7,500 last year.
Regular season ticket sales last year hovered around 20,000 for the 56,002-seat Arizona Stadium, while in 2001 the total season ticket sales were about 25,600.
The Wildcats' average home attendance could jump to the highest in years, perhaps even challenging the record of 56,562 in 1994.
Since averaging about 51,000 in 1999 - Arizona finished 12-1, its best season ever - average attendance has steadily dropped. Home attendance fell to about 49,500 in 2000, 45,000 in 2001 and 2002 and 42,765 last year.
The 2003 average home attendance was the lowest since 1997 and the second-lowest since 1981.
Saturday's season opener against Division I-AA NAU is expected to be a large draw. In 2002, the last time the UA hosted the Lumberjacks, 48,446 fans showed up.
Recruits tab Tucson, UA as place to be next season
If recruiting is the lifeblood of a program, one could say Arizona football's type is A-positive.
The UA has 15 public verbal commitments, the most in the Pacific 10 Conference, at a time when the program traditionally has just a few.
The Wildcats have commits from five blue-chip recruits already, each garnering four stars from recruiting services Rivals.com and The Insiders. Last year's only four-star player was the late McCollins Umeh.
Verbal commitments are not binding and must be consummated by signing a letter of intent. National Signing Day occurs the first week of February.
Arizona has beaten out teams like Louisiana State, Notre Dame, Washington, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia Tech and Purdue for some of its commitments.
Arizona is also a top option for many stars who just a year ago wouldn't give the Wildcats a second thought. The UA is still in the hunt for top-five players at running back, linebacker, defensive end and defensive back.
Head coach Mike Stoops said he was drawn to the UA by the facilities and the location of Arizona, which enabled him to have high aspirations. Stoops, who helped build Kansas State and rebuild Oklahoma, said the UA is in between.
"Kansas State was more of a gradual process. With Oklahoma, you snapped your fingers and it happened," Stoops said. "We'd be in between the two. We can recruit well here. We've developed our players here very, very well. We have a great nucleus of players so we probably won't win a national championship in two years, but maybe three."
So far Stoops has been very impressed with his first recruiting class after finally seeing them play for him.
"I think we stole some players," he said.
Wildcats flock to summer workouts
There's been so much talk about the success of the Wildcats' summer workouts that players have requested not to be asked questions about them anymore.
The topic will continue to be hot, however, considering that every Wildcat player stayed in town over the summer for the voluntary workouts.
Along with hiring head coach Mike Stoops after last season, the UA hired a pair of strength and conditioning coaches from Oklahoma. Corey Edmond and Mark Hill came to Arizona from Oklahoma to become the school's first football-specific strength coaches.
Stoops said he is really happy with what the Wildcats did during the summer, saying they are quicker and stronger than in Spring Football.
"I just think it makes you tougher; it makes you more physically fit, able to maintain things longer. In the long run I think it will definitely help. Our physical strength and conditioning will be a factor, especially playing here early in the heat," Stoops said.
The players are sold on it and former Oklahoma star Tommie Harris even came to Tucson to work out with Edmond and Hill before the NFL draft.
"We are going to play four quarters of football ... last year we only played one or two quarters," said junior running back Mike Bell. "I think if we can play four quarters of football, we can win a lot of games. Last year we did lose some close ones because we weren't physically ready to play."