Friday, April 12, 2013
When University of Arizona athletic director went to Twitter and Facebook to announce a "big announcement for the football program" via a Google Hangout live feed today, the interwebs quickly became a beehive of speculation.
Stadium naming rights?
Replacing Wilbur with some Disney-created abomination that resembles the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland?
In the end, the news didn't turn out to be that earth-shattering, but still a big deal: Arizona and everyone's favor devoutly Mormon college, Brigham Young, announced a three-game football series that will include a neutral site game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
The catch? None of this is happening for another three years.
The UA and BYU will meet in Glendale on a date to be announced (though likely around Labor Day weekend, to milk the most from the TV money teet) in 2016, with the Cougars coming to Tucson in 2018 and the Wildcats heading to scenic Provo, Utah in 2020.
The non-conference series is the first major football deal inked by Byrne since taking over the athletic department. Previous deals had been made with Nevada (2014 at home, 2015 in Reno), Texas-El Paso (2017-2018, sites TBD) and Hawaii (2019 in Hononlulu, 2020 in Tucson).
It was speculated the UA was trying to line up a big-time opponent to open the 2013 season, thus bringing in a big TV audience to christen a renovated Arizona Stadium complete with its fancy new seatbacks in the north end zone (seats that yours truly has secured a pair of for all six home games this fall). Many thought that foe would be West Virginia, where UA football coach Rich Rodriguez had gained so much previous fame and from where Rodriguez stole defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel.
Instead, we got another game against Northern Arizona to open the 2013 slate.
Don't be surprised if other major-level opponent series get locked in by Arizona in the next few years, especially if RichRod is able to keep the program moving in the positive direction it did in 2012. That could mean a much hoped-for matchup with Michigan, the school Rodriguez went to from West Virginia and flamed out at in three spectacularly bad seasons.
Some advice, though, UA schedule-makers: avoid Notre Dame. Despite the fact the Fighting Irish just aren't as good as their national reputation leads you to believe, they're also backer-outers. Just ask our neighbors to the north at Girls Gone Wild University and Casino, which is playing Notre Dame in Dallas this season but appears to have lost its 2014 home game against them Irish.