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ESPN analyst Mark May: Arizona job a ‘hidden jewel’

Mark May

ESPN's Mark May can see the right coach winning quickly at Arizona. Photo by Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

ESPN analyst Mark May, making his weekly appearance on the Burns & Gambo show on KTAR 620-AM in Phoenix, called the Arizona Wildcats football coaching job a “hidden jewel.”

“From what I’ve been told and from what I’ve heard, there are a lot of coaches out there who are inquiring about this job, because it’s a jewel. It’s a hidden jewel,” May said.

“You’re in the Southwest. Great weather. Facilities are being improved. You have a ton of money you’re pumping into your facilities. You’re in a conference right now that is going to be stable for 25 or 50 years. You’re got a great television package. …

“It’s a hidden jewel right now. It’s a great opportunity for a coach to get that job at Arizona.”

My reaction: May has this right. Sometimes, the locals — understandably jaded from years of disappointment — can undervalue the hometown team.

Here’s another outside perspective: Back in the summer, Andy Staples of SI.com rated Arizona as the 19th-best coaching job in the country.

This isn’t Alabama or Ohio State or Texas — or anything like that — but even Arizona-level jobs are rare. This is a BCS-conference job. There were 10 such openings last season, which is typical on a yearly basis. Imagine trying to reach the top of your profession and having such limited opportunity.

Just as former Arizona coach Mike Stoops always said he had no shortage of good candidates when trying to fill an assistant coaching position, I don’t think athletic director Greg Byrne will have to venture anywhere near the bottom of the coaching barrel.

This isn’t a no-hope job.

Back to the radio show …

Host Dave Burns, responding to May’s comments about the Arizona job, told him he “might be the only person in the history of my life to ever use the words ‘jewel’ and ‘Tucson’ in the same sentence.”

“Yeah, but think about it,” May said.

“You’re in a great city, you’re in a great conference, you have got terrific weather. What are the negatives in the selling points about going there?”

Burns’ response: No one has ever won there. (You can debate the finer points of that among yourselves.)

“That’s the challenge and the opportunity for a really good coach,” May said. “You have a new athletic director and you’ve got a ton of money that is going to be infused into these facilities.

“If you’re Chris Petersen or somebody like that, you’re sitting there, thinking, “Let’s see. Got money. Got backing. Got fan support. Got alumni support. Got a great, dynamic athletic director. Got an opportunity here to do some great things.’ And you’re playing in the Pac-12 South.”

May’s point there is that the South doesn’t project to be any great shakes in the near future. USC is going to start to feel the effects of NCAA scholarship reductions. ASU has to show it can maintain this season’s good play. UCLA is still waiting for a breakthrough. Can Utah handle the bigger conference? Colorado is rebuilding.

“Within the next two years, if you recruit well enough, guess what — you can be the kings of the South,” May said.

“All of a sudden, you have a terrific opportunity to build something great here.”

My reaction: May might be going a bit overboard by making it sound like there is money flowing freely around here, but the new revenue from the Pac-12 media deal definitely opens more doors for Arizona. The projected upgrade in facilities at least puts a new Arizona coach in position to launch into bigger and better things.

That’s not to say Arizona is a “sleeping giant.” ASU is sometimes referred to as that when its program is down. Same as Washington.

But “hidden jewel” is at least a cousin to sleeping giant … and I’m going to agree with May on that point for many of the same reasons.

This makes two weeks in a row I’ve agreed with May, concurring on last week’s thoughts about Boise State coach Chris Petersen: Arizona football coaching search: 10 things I believe

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