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Corky: Naming of award for ex-UA coach Young fitting

Jim Young's UA teams went 31-13 from 1973-76, including seasons of 8-3, 9-2 and 9-2, yet the Wildcats did not go to any bowl games.

Jim Young's UA teams went 31-13 from 1973-76, including seasons of 8-3, 9-2 and 9-2, yet the Wildcats did not go to any bowl games.

Remembered joys are never past. The three decades since Jim Young was head football coach at Arizona are still fresh in the minds and hearts of Wildcats fans who recall how he turned around the program.

The Southern Arizona chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame announced this week its annual youth football award will have a new name:

The Jim Young Award.

Jim and his wife, Jane, were honored Thursday night at a reception in UA’s Jim Click Hall of Champions. Among those present were former Wildcats head coaches Larry Smith, who came with Young from Michigan in 1973, and Jim LaRue.

Since retiring as head coach at Army in 1990, Jim and Jane Young have lived in Tucson.

Jim’s record at Arizona was 31-13 from 1973-76. He moved on to Purdue, where the record was 38-19-1, and finally to Army, 51-39-1. He returned to Tucson and came out of retirement after leaving Army to coach the Wildcats’ offensive line under Dick Tomey from 1992-94.

With a world of ingenuity and enthusiasm, a young guy from Bo Schembechler’s staff at Michigan came to Tucson in 1973, and UA football took off like a rocket across the desert sky.

The Cats had been losers in seven of the previous eight seasons until the quiet, scholarly looking gent rode into town.

The next three Arizona teams went 8-3, 9-2 and 9-2. The Cats put up impressive wins against Wyoming – a rugged Western Athletic Conference opponent back then – Arizona State, Indiana, Iowa and a Texas Tech team that had owned the series with UA.

Young was inducted into the UA Sports Hall of Fame in 1996 and three years later, the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind.

“This is an unexpected honor,” Young told the guests at the Hall of Champions this week. “Arizona has been very good to us.”

And the Youngs have been very good to Arizona.

Smith, who also retired in Tucson, with his wife, Cheryl, has been a friend of Young’s for most of his life.

“I became a head coach because I had great teachers,” Larry said. “One was Gil Smith, my high school coach. Another was Doyt Perry, my college coach at Bowling Green.

“And the other was Jim Young. Jim was a great coach because he’s a great teacher. His organizational ability, his teaching and his preparation were always the best.”

Smith and Young first got together back in their hometown of Van Wert, Ohio, when Larry was a fifth-grade basketball player coached by high school athletic hero Young.

“He’s my closest friend,” Young said of Smith. “Any success we had at Arizona was due in very large part to Larry coaching the defense.”

The secret to the Wildcats’ turnaround under Young was hard work, Smith said.

“We believed we could outwork everybody,” he said. “We won a lot of games because we worked so doggone hard in practice.”

Jane Young was in a wheelchair this week because of a broken left leg, an injury she suffered in a fall while playing golf.

“The first time we came to Tucson was in 1970 with Bo Schembechler and his wife,” Jane Young said. “Bo and Jim were scouting the Arizona spring football game. (In those days, it was allowed.)

“We were very impressed with the weather. It was 63 degrees at the time in Tucson. A few years later we were thrilled when Jim got the job at UA.”

Jane and the late Georgia Kindall, wife of Arizona baseball coach Jerry Kindall, became great friends.

A special guest at the reception this week was Jack Lengyel, who became head coach at Marshall shortly after the tragic airplane crash that wiped out the team, coaching staff and numerous boosters in 1970.

In the 2006 movie “We Are Marshall,” Matthew McConaughey, plays the role of Lengyel. Jack’s wife, Sandy, was also a guest at this week’s function here. The role of Lengyel’s wife in the movie, due out on DVD in September, is played by Kimberly Williams.

A couple of sidelights to the Jim Young story:

He was a fullback on the 1954 national champion Ohio State team coached by Woody Hayes. He transferred to Bowling Green when Doyt Perry of the Ohio State staff became head coach there.

● Jim coached Michigan in the 1970 Rose Bowl when Schembechler was hospitalized with a heart attack.

● Young’s first staff at Arizona contained no fewer than three men who would become head coach of the Wildcats: Smith (1980-86), John Mackovic (2001-2003) and Mike Hankwitz, who served as interim coach when Mackovic was fired during the 2003 season.

To get a copy of his book, “Corky: 30 years of sports commentary,” call 573-4417 or go to tucson.com/store.

Retired columnist Corky Simpson writes every Saturday for the Citizen.



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