The University of Arizona announced it is going to retire the football jerseys of seven former players.
It’s about time.
Art Luppino’s jersey has been lonely hanging above the south end zone in Arizona Stadium. Going fifty years without adding anyone else has been a disservice to the many great players who have run amok on the Tucson gridiron.
It’s as if Greg Byrne saw Chuck Cecil going into the College Football Hall of Fame and said, “Glad we finally got one. Wait, we have two? Why aren’t we talking about this?!”
Here are the sensational seven and the award that got them there:
#89 LB Ricky Hunley – 1997 CFHOF inductee
#6 S Chuck Cecil – 2009 CFHOF inductee
#4 CB Darryll Lewis – 1990 Thorpe Award
#92 DT Rob Waldrop – 1993 Outland Trophy
#28 K Steve McLaughlin – 1994 Groza Award
#11 CB Chris McAlister – 1998 Tatupu Award (top special teams player)
#5 CB Antoine Cason – 2007 Thorpe Award
(That’s right, not a single offensive player. More guys who kick extra points than guys who score touchdowns. Ah, Arizona Football.)
Since it’s a logistical headache to yank seven uniform numbers out of circulation, the “jerseys” are just being retired and the numbers themselves will still be used. The distinction of having a true retired number will remain Luppino’s alone.
(Sometimes. Dick Tomey let players wear #22, such as future NFL player Mike Scurlock. But apparently John Mackovic re-retired the number and Mike Stoops has left it unused.)
Now that an elite level of football honor has been established the next step is to revisit the criteria for getting into the Ring of Fame. When you look up toward the press box at UA games you see the names of all the statistical giants like Tom Tunnicliffe, Tedy Bruschi and Dennis Northcutt. But one name stands out by its absence: Wildcat career rushing leader Trung Canidate.
You remember Trung. The guy who was a legit threat to go the distance every time he touched the ball. The guy who dropped a school record 288 yards on ASU in 1998. The guy who isn’t considered good enough to put his name on display.
When you look at the Ring of Fame official criteria the one where you think Trung would qualify is “Career leader in 3 or more positive categories.” Obviously he holds the rushing record which is why we’re having this discussion, so that’s one.
What about carries? Canidate was third when his career ended and Mike Bell has since dropped Trung another rung.
Yards per carry? Luppino’s 6.6 barely beat Trung’s 6.3. But think about that: six-point-three yards per carry! Over a Pac-10 football career!
Rushing touchdowns? It’s not even close as the Cactus Comet had 44 to Canidate’s 25. In Trung’s defense Kelvin Eafon got all the goal line carries to the tune of 20 career TDs.
All-purpose yards? McAlister was an award-winning kickoff return man and Northcutt was lethal returning punts. No need to tire out your franchise tailback there.
So Canidate is being punished for carrying the ball too little (201 attempts behind Ontiwaun Carter), carrying the ball too much (almost a hundred attempts more than Luppino), and for playing on a team good enough to go 12-1.
I’m not saying to lower the standards enough to let in a flood of guys. But if a player has remained your school’s all-time leading rusher for a dozen years and he can’t get into your Ring of Fame, you’ve got an odd definition of fame.
There should be room for the career leaders in each of the highest profile stats: rushing yards, receiving yards, passing yards, tackles, interceptions and sacks. Hold on to any of those records for at least five years and you’re in.
A UA Ring of Fame without Trung Canidate isn’t a true Ring of Fame. In fact, the one in Arizona Stadium isn’t a ring at all since it’s only on one side. Rows of Fame? Façade of Fame?
Trung might agree with that last one in more ways than one.