McKale Center overpass

McKale has sounded different this season and it’s not good.
Photo by Wildcat Universe

The football team’s damaging defeat wasn’t the only loss we were discussing over the weekend.

When you watch the Arizona Wildcats play in this week’s basketball NIT Season Tip-Off at McKale Center you will no longer hear a song that the UA band has played before games for over a quarter of a century. It’s a shame and a change that needs to be undone.

You probably don’t even know the name of the song. I sure didn’t. It’s a loop of four simple notes that was played while the crowd stood and clapped before the start of each half. You can hear it in the background of this video.

Of course, you say. THAT song.

The band calls it “Tip-Off Chant” and it has been around so long no one knows for sure when it started. It certainly predates my family’s move to Tucson in 1989. The earliest confirmation I got was that the song was used during the 1985-’86 season so we’re talking about a tradition finishing up at least its third decade.

[Edit: The story of the song’s origin can be found here.]

Arizona Basketball doesn’t have a lot of unique fan traditions. There’s standing until the visiting team scores at the start of each half, you have the band welcoming the head coach (“Hi, Lute!” which became, “Hi, Sean!”), and then there’s yelling, “Nice Shot, Buddy!” after a missed free throw. That’s it.

So you barely have a handful of traditions and one of them leads into another. Tip-Off Chant is what told people it was time to stand up and get the half started. You didn’t even need a visual cue. The band played Tip-Off Chant, the McKale faithful stood as one, and the opponents knew they were in for a battle.

I’m not one of those “Any change is bad” people. I was fine with getting rid of the old cactus logo. It made sense to add the huge “A” logo at the center of the court instead of Lute and Bobbi Olson‘s names. I was also in favor of the baseball team leaving its on-campus home after 44 years and I understand the sacrifices needed to modernize Arizona Stadium.

Change is necessary and most changes are good but this was one change too many.

Playing (sun) devil’s advocate the athletic department probably wanted something more energetic to start the game. Tip-Off Chant in and of itself isn’t going to make anyone’s heart race. I get it. But if you want something different, modify it; don’t replace it.

The band could play the song at a faster pace. Another option would be to start it slow and then have the tempo build with the entire arena clapping along. A vocal component could be added, with the crowd shouting, “Ar-i-zo-na!” or, “U!” (clap-clap-clap) “OF!” (clap-clap-clap) “A!” Turn it into a rhythmic war chant unique to the University of Arizona.

That’s what makes this change even worse. The replacement song is “Seven Nation Army” which is used by everyone. Football, soccer, baseball…you can’t go to a sporting event around the globe without hearing it. Arizona Basketball is better than that.

Sean Miller is doing all he can to return the program to the top. Greg Byrne has been innovative in bringing fans closer to UA sports with his interactive multimedia presence. The entire athletic department is constantly trying to improve the gameday experience for both the student-athletes and fans, and it is appreciated. But maintaining 28+ years of tradition is important too.

So reach out. The UA’s official Facebook page is here. The athletic director’s email address is here. He’s accessible to fans via Twitter. Make your voice heard. Be respectful but We The People need to make it known this isn’t a change we want.

Wildcat Universe, stand up for Tip-Off Chant!

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