Is it basketball season yet?
No, seriously. It’s an honest question. We’ve been kind of busy with that other sport.
It turns out the hoops season has in fact begun. The Red-Blue scrimmage is behind us (and – good news – the official site says we won) and the regular season is just around the corner.
Are you ready? Have you memorized the heights and weights of all the new players? Do you have your scouting report ready for when NAU comes to town on November 15?
Don’t get me wrong; I love Wildcat Basketball. I live (March 31, 1997) and die (March 26, 2005) with the Hoops Cats just as much as with their gridiron brethren. I can’t wait to see the start of the Sean Miller Era.
Actually, scratch that. This year I can wait.
It’s a strange feeling. For years and years basketball was the relief Arizona Wildcat fans needed. Every time Coach Tomey/Mackovic/Hankwitz/Stoops let us down Coach Olson was there to pick us up.
But things are a little different in 2009. Arizona Basketball is rebuilding with untested freshman and Arizona Football is in the Top 25.
When’s the last time that happened? I’m glad you asked. And thanks to this tremendous site I can give you the answer. The last time the UA hoops team started the season ranked lower in the AP poll than the Wildcat football team was the 1998-’99 season. On November 9, 1998 the footballers were #9 while the basketball team checked in at #18 in the preseason poll.
The 2009 football team has a long way to go but if the Cats can somehow stay in the Top 25 they stand a good chance of finishing the season ranked higher than Arizona Basketball for the first time since that ’98-’99 season. That year our football squad finished with a school record #4 ranking while the hoopsters finished a measly #13.
Now, the real question, one that will stretch your Wildcat memory: When was the last time the Arizona football team was ranked and the Arizona basketball team was not? Go ahead and guess. Oh come on, it’s no fun if you don’t guess.
You ready for this?
On December 2, 1986 the football team was ranked #16 and the basketball team was #20. In the following football poll, released January 4, 1987, the FootCats were #11 to finish the season (after our first ever bowl win) but by then the BasketCats had dropped out of the poll.
That 1987 basketball team finished the season unranked but Lute Olson’s Wildcats went on to finish in the Top 25 each of the next 18 years. During that span the football team made the final AP poll just four times.
Are the tables about to turn? Is Arizona Football ready to carry the flag for the UA athletic department? Or is this just a football mirage before Sean Miller rules this town?
OR…are we about to enter an unprecedented era when both programs are able to sustain success at a national level?
If it’s that final option I definitely can’t wait.