Pac-10 expansion into Texas could rekindle old rivalryby Javier Morales on Jun. 10, 2010, under Sports
Arizona State aside, Arizona has engaged in some pretty intense rivalries over the years.
Before the Cats and UCLA became fierce basketball rivals, another rivalry stoked the fire for Arizona fans.
I’m not talking about UCLA-Arizona softball, Stanford-Arizona basketball, California-Arizona football (with an incredible 16 games decided by a TD or less in the 1980s and 1990s), Arizona-New Mexico football (the battle for the Kit Carson rifle) and UNLV-Arizona basketball (when Jerry Tarkanian and Lute Olson, who are not on each other’s buddy list, were running the programs).
The rival in football I remember the most from my childhood years, other than ASU, is Texas Tech. Trivia question: After ASU (36 wins against the Cats) and USC (26), what is the next program that has the most victories against the UA in the history of the football program? You got it: Texas Tech with 25 wins against the UA. In fact, the Red Raiders have the best winning percentage against Arizona — an eye-popping record of 25-4-2 (.839 percentage).
I am not old enough to remember when they played each other back in the old Border Conference, but I recall the Red Raiders and Wildcats continuing their rivalry on the football field long after the UA left to the WAC in 1962.
If the rumors of Pac-10 expansion hold true, and the conference gains six existing Big 12 teams including Texas Tech, the Wildcats and Red Raiders would again be in the same conference for the first time in 48 years. Rivals.com reported first last week that this alignment is a strong possibility. The Dallas Morning News posted a blog late Wednesday that indicated that Texas Tech and other Texas teams in the Big 12 will be invited to join the Pac-10 “soon”.
Those old enough to remember Arizona football pre-Larry Smith years, recall that perhaps the most memorable moment in the 1970s — other than John Jefferson‘s controversial catch in 1975 — was Lee Pistor‘s game-winning field goal and subsequent safety by the UA against Texas Tech also in 1975.
Arizona’s 32-28 win over Texas Tech on Oct. 18, 1975, ranks in the top 5 games ever played at Arizona Stadium, and I happened to be there at age 8. The Cats scored 26 points in the second half, including five in the last six seconds, to come back from a 21-6 halftime deficit. Pistor drilled a 41-yard field goal with six seconds remaining to put the UA ahead 30-28. After the ensuing kickoff, Arizona’s Tony Mitre tackled the Texas Tech returner in the end zone after the squib kick was mishandled by the Red Raiders.
Only two minutes earlier, UA coach Jim Young gambled on a two-point conversion and failed as Texas Tech held on to a 28-27 lead.
The win gave the 13th-ranked Cats a 5-0 record that season and a nine-game winning season stretched from the year before. Young produced the best Wildcat team in history at that point with Bruce Hill, “T” Bell, Willie Hamilton, Jim Upchurch, Obra Erby and Pistor.
Of course, the Texas Tech-Arizona football rivalry will be secondary news in this generation behind the thought of Texas’ football team coming to Tucson for the first time since 1925. That is the only meeting in history between the Longhorns and Wildcats (which Texas won 20-0). In fact, that season UA hosted USC and Texas and lost by a combined score of 76-0.
And the thought of Mike Stoops vs. big brother Bob Stoops might cause some indigestion within the Stoops’ family, but it will be exciting for the fans of Arizona and Oklahoma. Playing the basketball programs of Texas and Oklahoma is also intriguing (do you think former Texas commit Daniel Bejarano would be ready to play against the Longhorns?). In baseball, Arizona playing the storied programs of Texas and Oklahoma State is intriguing as well.
With all of this discussion, are we forgetting what playing USC and UCLA regularly means to all of the Arizona programs? What do all the UA alumni in southern California think about this news and the possibility of seeing their Wildcats less?
To escape that thought for now: The memory of Arizona’s players piling on top of each other in celebration after tackling Texas Tech for a safety to end that classic 1975 game. Bring on the Red Raiders. Arizona has a lot of catching up to do.