The Drive with Jody Oehler

The Drive with Jody Oehler

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Arizona Football Got It Wrong

Everyone reading this agrees that Arizona football needed a jolt of something after three years of Weekend at Kevin's coaching tenure.

But that's apparently where the common ground ends.

The University of Arizona officially named Jedd Fisch the next head coach of Arizona football. Fisch has extensive experience working for some of the biggest names in football coaching. His list of bosses in recent years has been Sean McVay, Jim Harbaugh, Pete Carroll and most recently, Bill Belichick. He's been a QB coach, a WR coach, an offensive coordinator in the NFL and was briefly an interim head coach for UCLA.

Fisch has a solid resume and has worked for some really impressive coaches and he's still relatively young.

He might win at Arizona. He might be able to turn it into an even bigger job. We might all one day celebrate his hiring. All of that is entirely possible.

But thats not what this is really about.

This hire is really about the growing disconnect between college athletics decision makers and alumni and fans.

This is about the increasingly rub-your-nose-in-it transactional nature of college athletics decision making.

Its about understanding that for the majority of big wigs in college and college athletics, their current stop is just one of their stops. They're commitment to the well being of the university and athletic department lasts as long as the paycheck does. Its about once their time at UofA ends, they'll be wearing a different college logo on their chest, preaching the same platitudes but to a different audience in a different college town. Its their JOB to convince you of their loyalty to the program but many times its not who they are.

That doesn't make them bad people. Not at all, that makes them like almost everybody else in their professional field. And it doesn't mean that those same people don't give it their all when working for Arizona. It just means they are fundamentally different from the alumni base and local fans.

My loyalty to the University of Arizona isn't dependent on whether they pay me. I paid them (although I did work as a stadium announcer for nearly ten years for the athletic department but I promise you, I still paid them for school a helluva lot more than I got paid to announce). I chose Arizona. I made life long friends there. I made life long memories there. I'm not changing the logo on my chest when its convenient or advantageous for me. I'm wearing it the day after a 70-7 drubbing. I'm wearing it after FBI investigations and arrested coaches. I'm wearing it after first round exits and draft day flops. I'm wearing it when my kids are born and when my kids are out of the house. I'm wearing it when I couldn't afford to buy a ticket and I'm wearing it when I could afford to buy season tickets. This is part of my life.

What Robert Robbins and Dave Heeke can't understand and don't seem particularly interested in understanding is that for most alumni, the experience wehad at the UofA is a completely different experience than currently exists. The buildings are different. The student union is different. The mall is different. The dorms are different. Hell, they even made the university nickname different. The only thing that's really kind of the same is the athletic department and now that's changing in the last few years with football coach roulette and Sean Miller's increasingly tired act.

We're just looking for a reason to re-connect us back to what we all love.

I have a group of friends I went to UofA with. The kind of college friends you keep in close touch with, attend weddings, golf trips, spend time around their families when kids enter the picture. Everyone in that group is a diehard sports fan. All of us will go to our grave knowing Salim Stoudamire was a better shooter than JJ Reddick. Most of us lived in a dorm directly next to Arizona Stadium. Most of us still live in Arizona. And none of us cares about Jedd Fisch. We want to care. We want to make plans for a weekend trip to Arizona Stadium. But this guy is a total stranger and we've seen how that's worked out the last decade or so.

We are used to Arizona football failing. We remember the Penn State embarrassment. We remember the decade long bowl drought. We still make Mike Stoops face jokes. We don't expect Arizona football to become USC 2.0. We just want to care again.

There is a disconnect between administrators and alums. To them, its their job. To us, its part of who we are. We want someone who represents that more than someone who takes advantage of it. Its not to say alumni and fans should hire every coach and AD. Nor does it mean you can only hire alums to work for the athletic department. We just want to make sure that the people leading are trying to lead us to success, not leading us astray and then leaving.

And based on that criteria, this hire is already the wrong choice, no matter what the football resume or interview process told them.

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