The Arizona football and basketball teams, which have been fed up with talks of a salary cap ever since the collective bargaining agreement expired Sept. 10, have decided to begin a players' strike effective this afternoon, UA athletic director Jim Livengood said yesterday.
This announcement, although expected, created a feeling of widespread disbelief and panic among administrators and employees who work for Arizona's department of intercollegiate athletics.
"I ... I just never thought anything like this could happen," said John Perrin, UA associate athletic director for business affairs. "This type of thing is only supposed to happen in organizations like the NBA or the NFL, not the NCAA. It's a shock, no doubt about it."
With no resolve expected and certainly no hope for any New Year's bowl games or an NCAA Tournament in 1995, players and coaches spent much of yesterday afternoon cleaning out their lockers and offices.
By 9 p.m. last night, Lute Olson's office in McKale Center was completely empty save for a copy of the latest Wildcat and a half-eaten jelly doughnut. In another wing of the building, Dick Tomey held back a few tears as he stacked the last of his old playbooks into a plastic milk crate.
Olson and Tomey, both dedicated, hard-working coaches Ä in essence, lifers Ä will now have to find new activities with which to occupy their time.
"I've always wanted to take up fly fishing," Tomey told reporters. "I loved 'A River Runs Through It.' For now though, I think I'll just kick back at home and watch some of the playoffs. Uhh ... wait a second ... baseball's been cancelled, hasn't it?"
Said Olson: "ASU coach Bill Frieder and I have chartered a trip to Florida to play a few rounds of golf at Sawgrass. We may try to catch a Florida Panthers game while we're down there. Uhh ... wait a second ... they've cancelled hockey, I forgot."
Sources close to the athletic department said that Arizona Stadium, which was slated to be completely cleaned between noon and 5 p.m. today, will be used as the women's soccer team's home field for the remainder of its 1994 season. However, those same sources said the team is not close in its free agency restructuring talks with the university, and UA head coach Lisa Fraser has indicated that a lockout is likely.
"This whole business is just crazy," said junior forward/midfielder Jenn Duran, who is also the president of the players' union. "I'm just fed up with collusion and profit-sharing and arbitration and whatnot. I mean, besides the NFL, the only other major sport that's active right now is the NBA. And even that looks like it's on its way out."
There is a glimmer of hope for UA athletics, however. The Clinton Administration's department of labor said in a statement released yesterday that it is prepared to mediate any negotiations, and is even willing to draft resolutions that can be proposed at the next players' union meeting.
"The President earned a lot of respect for the Wildcats after they put up such a good fight against his Arkansas Razorbacks last year," the labor department's statement said. "He shudders to think that there could be a year without a Final Four. Therefore, we feel that these strikes represent a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States. We hope this matter can be resolved as swiftly and as effectively as possible."
But for now, unless they are an active member of the players' union, the only thing most players can do is wait.
"This could have been avoided," Arizona free safety Tony Bouie said, "but they just don't understand. I mean, our salaries have got to reflect the revenue that football generates for the university. If they can't do something as simple as that, we won't ever come back, and there won't be any more Arizona football Ä ever."
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