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Gimino: Cats have good chance to break curse

There’s Duke. There’s Vanderbilt. There’s Baylor.

That’s it.

That’s not so good when it’s the company you keep in college football.

Duke and Vanderbilt and Baylor.

And Arizona.

The leaders of lost seasons.

Those four teams – out of the 65 that play in the six major conferences – have the longest bowl droughts in college football.

Vanderbilt’s famine is the longest at 25 years.

Duke and Baylor are at 13 years.

Arizona is next at nine.

Nine long years since the Wildcats went to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, beating Nebraska 23-20 on Dec. 30, 1998.

Ah, 1998.

Arizona’s last bowl appearance was so long ago that “You’ve Got Mail” was still a popular phrase and the name of a movie that was new in theaters, and not a weekend afternoon cable staple.

Arizona’s last bowl appearance was so long ago that if you got the Internet, you were on dial-up and maybe just checking out this promising months-old site called Google.

Arizona’s last bowl appearance was so long ago that gas, sigh, cost a mere $1.15 per gallon.

While the Wildcats were celebrating a 12-1 season and looking forward to what appeared to be a sure-thing 1999 that included a made-for-TV opener at Penn State, the laughingstock in college football was Oregon State.

The Beavers hadn’t advanced to the postseason since the 1965 Rose Bowl and had been the worst college program over a quarter-century.

Since 1998: Oregon State has been to seven bowls in nine seasons.

The Wildcats, well . . . hey, they almost went to a few bowl games. Each time, they managed to find a way to come up with no cigars.

In Arizona’s college football world, up is down, down is up and even Indiana gets to a bowl game before UA does.

The Hoosiers had gone 13 bowl-less seasons until they found a way to win seven games last year.

Shoot, even Northwestern has been blessed with three bowls in the past nine seasons.

Rutgers, another traditionally woeful program, had a 26-season drought before whetting its appetite with the 2005 Insight, only its second bowl ever. The Knights have now been to three bowls in a row.

South Florida has made it to three bowl games since Arizona made its last appearance. And the Bulls weren’t even in Division I-A until 2001.

In college football, almost every dog has its day.

But not the Cats for nearly a decade.

It’s not like getting to the postseason is a major whoop-tee-do these days.

In 1998, the Pac-10 had contracts with five bowls and the entire postseason wasn’t yet bloated, consisting of 22 games. How quaint.

Starting this season, the Pac-10 grows by one to seven bowl slots and there are an overstuffed 34 postseason games. Imagine. Sixty-eight of the nation’s 119 teams will go to a bowl.

A 6-6 record is nearly a guarantee.

Alas, it didn’t work out that way for Arizona in 2006 when it was 6-6, but that’s when the Pac-10 had only six bowl tie-ins. The Wildcats would have gone to the league’s seventh bowl – if it had existed.

It would have worked out that way for Arizona in 2007 had it beaten ASU to finish 6-6, but the Cats fell in the finale to go 5-7.

Such has been UA’s fate.

At least the Wildcats have been consistent.

On the other hand, nine teams have been in each of the past nine postseasons while Arizona sat at home.

Michigan’s bowl streak is at 33 seasons. Florida State is next at 26, followed by Florida (17), Virginia Tech (15), Georgia and Georgia Tech (11), Texas (10), and Boston College and Oklahoma (nine).

Even national powers have bad years over a decade – notice the lack of Miami, Alabama, USC, Notre Dame and Ohio State, among others, on the above list – which is understandable.

Bad stuff happens.

But no good stuff has happened in a long time for Duke, Vanderbilt, Baylor and Arizona.

Vanderbilt is absolutely buried in the SEC and might have missed a recent window of opportunity when it had quarterback Jay Cutler.

Duke feels better about its future because it hired former Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe in the offseason, giving the Blue Devils some coaching cred.

Baylor, too, is smiling about its new coach, spread offense guru Art Briles, who had five successful seasons at Houston.

Arizona is more advanced than any of these stragglers. It just needs a little greater push in coach Mike Stoops’ fifth season to get off the do-not-bowl list.

In UA lore, “The Streak” is Arizona’s unbeaten run against Arizona State from 1982 to 1990. That lasted nine years.

So has this streak.

That’s long enough.

It won’t make it to 10.

Anthony Gimino’s email:agimino@ tucsoncitizen.com

———

UA 2008 SCHEDULE

Date Opp Time (P.M.)/TV

Aug. 30 Idaho 7

Sept. 6 Toledo 7

Sept. 13 at New Mexico 5/CSTV

Sept. 20 at UCLA Noon/FSN

Oct. 4 Washington 4

Oct. 11 at Stanford TBA

Oct. 18 Cal 7/FSNA

Oct. 25 USC 7:15/FSN

Nov. 8 at Wash. St. TBA

Nov. 15 at Oregon TBA

Nov. 22 Oregon St. 4/Versus

Dec. 6 ASU 1 or 6*

* FSN or ESPN or ESPN2

———

UA’S 9-YEAR ‘BOWL-LESS’ RECORD

Since UA’s win over Nebraska in the 1998 Holiday Bowl, the Wildcats have failed to get to a bowl game under Dick Tomey, John Mackovic and Mike Stoops:

Year Coach Record Note

1999 Tomey 6-6 Cats lose 4 of last 5.

2000 Tomey 5-6 UA drops last 5.

2001 Mackovic 5-6 Cats 2-6 in Pac-10 but beat ASU.

2002 Mackovic 4-8 UA goes 1-7 in Pac-10.

2003 Mackovic* 2-10 Early 59-13 loss to LSU sets tone.

2004 Stoops 3-8 UA loses 3 by total of 4 points, beats ASU.

2005 Stoops 3-8 A 52-14 win over No. 7 UCLA only bright spot.

2006 Stoops 6-6 Sun Devils keep Cats out of bowl 28-14.

2007 Stoops 5-7 UA’s 20-17 loss at ASU ruins strong finish.

*- After Mackovic was fired, interim coach Mike Hankwitz went 1-6

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