Dear Incoming Freshman:
Welcome to the University of Arizona, the greatest university in Arizona and almost-certainly in the entire Mountain Time Zone. You're going to love it here. For those who want to get the most out of their college experience and maximize their post-college opportunities, there are a few common-sense rules to follow. Stuff like: go to class; try not to change your major more than three times in the first two years; ask the person working at Starbucks what he/she majored in at college; avoid the Greek system (it's always been stupid); and become a Wildcat fan.
You can root for the home teams from the first day of school in August until (sometimes) a month after Graduation Day. Arizona is good in a whole lot of things. Last school year, the UA was the only school in the entire country to have teams in both the baseball and the softball College World Series. The women's basketball team played for the national championship. Men's tennis became a national power and women's golf reached the national semifinals. But all that is for later in the year. Right now, the Fall sports would appreciate your attention.
Here are five suggestions to help you in this endeavor:
Join the Zona Zoo. At the University of Iowa, at the end of the first quarter, the students stand and wave to the kids who are in the Iowa Children's Hospital, directly adjacent to Kinnick Stadium.
At Wisconsin, they blast House of Pain's "Jump Around" and tens of thousands of people...well, jump around. (I've always wondered whether they bleep out the part about "If your girl steps up, I'm smackin' the hoe...")
The University of Arizona used to have a killer tradition. It was called The Zona Zoo. Students would show up by the thousands to crowd into a small area right behind the Wildcat sideline. Guys would paint their bare chests while the young women would cover theirs via creative uses of the free Zona Zoo T-shirts that were given out.
Until recently, the Zoo was still a thing. But then, as Mayer Hawthorne would sing,
"But Sumlin was the end of the story and everything went wrong,
And we'll return it to its former glory but it just takes so long."
By the 2019 season, the Zona Zoo "tradition" had degenerated to a few hundred students showing up late, ignoring what was going on out on the field, and then leaving by halftime. In 2020, when no one was allowed into the stadium, it didn't seem much different.
Back when I was the Sports Editor of the Daily Wildcat, I used to plead with the student body to vote for an increase in student fees that would fund the building of an on-campus rec center. The main opposition complaint was that students would be paying for something that wouldn't be built until after they had graduated, so they would never get to use it.
Likewise, it may be a while before the Zona Zoo is back where it was and belongs. But you can always say that you were there at the start of The Resurgence.
Know where the line is drawn. You never, never, EVER root for Arizona State. Ever. They're evil. If somebody suggests that you should always root for a Pac-12 team if it is playing a school from another conference, that statement is ten-elevenths true. We all rooted for Oregon State basketball when it made that crazy run to the Elite Eight last year. We're generally pleased when Stanford adds to its impressive total of national championships in rich white-people sports. (Do you know that they have multiple national titles in Coed Sailing?)
But we don't want ASU to win anything. We want them to finish dead last in every sport, every year. However, to balance things out, it's usually OK to root for Northern Arizona. NAU is like that dorky kid brother that always wants to tag along...but can't because he's trapped in a frozen wasteland with bears and hippies.
Don't try to see everything. If you are actually thinking of going to watch a cross country meet—in Tucson, in September—the University has some kind of counseling available for that. Go to a volleyball game instead. They're supposed to be really good this year. Of course, they play in the Pac-12, where everybody is really good, so a great season might mean a fifth-place Conference finish.
Avoid obvious pitfalls. For the next couple years, don't watch the movie Speed. There's a pivotal scene in there when Keanu Reeves learns that Sandra Bullock goes to the UA. He sees the block "A" on her shirt and says, "Arizona Wildcats? Good football team."
You can't watch that scene without a voice screaming in your head, "How freakin' old is this movie?!"
Be hopeful. Know your history. Arizona has been good in football for two- or three-year stretches at least once in each of the past five decades. In the late '90s, the UA finished fourth in the country (but still missed out on the Rose Bowl). In the Aughts, they lost in double-overtime to Oregon for the Pac-10 title. In 2014, Arizona actually won the Pac-12 South title.
So there are nine years left in this decade. It's probably going to happen (or maybe not).