B y T o m D a n e h y
OKAY, THE COLLEGE athletic season has finally drawn to a close, so it's time for final grades. For everybody except UCLA pitcher Tanya Harding, who gets an incomplete in everything including ethics. Although she did do her best to uphold the tradition of the name in the seamy world of sports. I sure hope there isn't a Tanya Harding, javelin thrower.
I can just see the pitcher now, walking back into her place of business Down Under. Her co-worker says, "Where ya been for the past couple weeks, Tanya luv?"
"Oh, I've been in America, winning a softball championship."
"Oh really? How much did they pay you?"
"Hah! Not only did they not pay me, they made me pretend that I was a college student. I'm never going back there."
The University of Arizona had a mixed bag this year. For the first time in a while, there was no national championship in anything, but the overall quality level remains high.
FOOTBALL. What can be said here? Considering the sky-high expectations with which they started the season (ranked No. 1 by Sports Illustrated, picked to go to their first-ever Rose Bowl), they had nowhere to go but down. And down they went.
They lost to Colorado State at home, surprise Pac-10 champ Oregon on the road, then got blown out at USC. Then they bottomed it off by blowing a bowl game to, ahem, Utah.
It was a disappointing season, but not really a bad one. The Cats finished near the top of the Pac-10 again, Ontiwaun Carter broke the all-time Arizona rushing record, the UA beat ASU and went to a bowl game. That's not horrible. Just not what we hoped for and maybe even expected.
MEN'S BASKETBALL. Oh, the Cat-haters down at the gym, led by their vocal--if not always cerebral--leader, Skippy, had a field day with this one. Another first-round exit in the NCAAs.
As usual, Skippy's blind bias taints his judgment. The first-round loss is galling, but look at that tournament. By the end of the first two rounds, virtually the entire Big 10 was gone, defending champion Arkansas had barely escaped twice, and there were so many upsets, the word had all but lost its meaning.
As for the regular season, the Cats finished second in their conference to the eventual national champion, and Cat guard Damon Stoudamire was first-team All-American. Not bad.
The Cats did lose two conference games on their home court, including the season-ending, multiple-overtime loss to ASU when the NCAA incorrectly sat on Damon Stoudamire.
WOMEN'S SOFTBALL. Okay, the Cats didn't three-peat as national champions. That made-for-TV, one-game-for-the-title format stinks worse than Dennis Rodman's panty crust after the day-long SI cover photo shoot. Which, in turn, doesn't stink as bad as the Tanya Harding thing.
However, the Cats went 66-6, won another Pac-10 title, another Regional title, and had six All-Americans (and should have had more were if not for an arbitrary limit). Slugger Laura Espinoza sets records which may not be broken for a long, long time, if ever, and the Cats set a new attendance record at Hillenbrand Stadium. This is a dream athletic program.
MEN'S BASEBALL. Another down season. The Cats reeked, mostly because their pitching reeked. Coach Jerry Kindall's program continues on what appears to be a downward spiral.
I must say that I find it presumptuous that many fans and some wags are calling for Kindall to be fired. One writer even has a new coach picked out. Heck, it's presumptuous enough for me to be giving grades. I wouldn't want to have a say in someone's career. There are folks who're paid to make those determinations. However, it appears that if things continue as they have, someone will be making that determination in the near future.
TRACK AND FIELD. Why do the gods frown on track? It's such a great sport. It should be hugely popular, but it's not. The Cat men did okay, mostly because the had some great African runners. The Cat women almost don't exist due to injuries and defections, including one with a serious case of marriage and motherhood.
GRADE: Men: B; Women: Incomplete
HOCKEY.They kicked butt all year, then did a swan dive onto the home ice in the Nationals.
TENNIS. How the hell should I know? I think they play their games in secret.
GOLF. The women have conceded things to ASU. The men peaked a couple years ago and are sliding. Heck, my boy E-Dog could beat most of the guys on the team, but then Coach Rick LaRose would have to admit that a walk-on is better than a scholarship player, and we can't have that, now can we?
GRADE: Women: B; Men: B-minus
Other grades: Women's basketball: C-plus; Women's soccer: C; Gymnastics: A-minus; Women's Volleyball: A-minus; Cross country (see tennis).
The UA Athletic Director gets an A for overseeing things and especially for his handling of the Damon Stoudamire mess.
OVERALL GRADE: B. Things could be better, but they could also be a whole lot worse.
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