Is there a more tortured fan than that of the Arizona Wildcat football enthusiast?
It takes about five minutes of any football interaction with a casual Pac 12 observer and an Arizona Wildcat fan for the rhetorical question “You guys have never played in the Rose Bowl, correct?” to be posted.

It’s as close to a mic drop phrase as you will ever come across.

And it is rightfully something that eats at Wildcat fans.

Arizona football fans have proven they will show up from some of the vintage Dick Tomey teams of the 1990s to the Mike Stoops era.

But inevitably, their excitement ends in disappointment. And it’s much deeper than never playing in the Rose Bowl.

There are too many examples to choose from. But two stand out.

Arizona went into the 1994 season fresh off a demolition of Miami in the Fiesta Bowl and armed with national title aspirations punctuated by gracing the cover of the preseason Sports Illustrated college football preview edition.

A clunky start ended in a disappointing 8-4 campaign and an ensuing general malaise until 1998.

The 1998 and following season was emblematic of everything that is the UA football fan experience.

The 12-1 1998 season was punctuated by a Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska and a top 5 national finish.

With the majority of the roster returning and a preseason number 3 ranking, the immediate future projected incredibly bright.

That joy was short-lived, though, as a 41-7 opening game loss to Penn State in Happy Valley and continued struggles saw Arizona out of the rankings within a month.

The last two decades have seen Arizona claim the undesired mantle with around a half dozen other programs around the country of finishing ranked once or less.

Again, one ranked finish in the last twenty-plus years.

That is the fanbase Jedd Fisch is trying to enthuse at the moment.

Now, to the immense credit of Jedd Fisch, from fan engagement to alumni outreach to recruiting, he has done absolutely everything right.

And the hope certainly goes that Arizona fans will show up to the home opener as Fisch has done more than enough to sell a new vision, but this is a fanbase that might need to see it first.

We will find out Saturday.


Mike Luke is the second most famous descendant of Crete, Nebraska fame, a haven for basketball knowledge that also produced Oregon head coach Dana Altman. But around these parts, we don't talk about Altman. We talk Wildcats. And Wildcat talk is Mike's obsession. An information junkie, Mike quickly earned on-air radio opportunities and made the most of them with a depth of understanding rare on Tucson's airwaves with his numerous contributions to the UA flagship station. That vast...let's call it what it is...obsessively geeky desire to delve into Wildcat lore: past, present and future, has been an invaluable asset for listeners on the radio. Now he brings that untethered knowledge to PHNX. If you want to know about the Wildcats, this is the place. And Mike is the guy.