A movement within Arizona athletics is establishing a presence as the state program. Phoenix and its many suburbs account for over half the state’s population, so what better location to shore up a fan base?
To that end, UA football is taking its show on the road this week. The Wildcats will host a practice and scrimmage open to the public at Glendale Community College, per The Tucson Citizen.
Head coach Rich Rodriguez told The Citizen UA hopes to:
make our presence felt in the Valley, but also to provide a service for all the fans we have in that area. ... It's a chance for the local fans to see some of the players and see some of the things we're doing.I spoke with athletic director Greg Byrne for another project last week. He emphasized the significance of the Phoenix fan base, both due to the high alumni population that now resides there, and the potential for growth the Valley offers.
There are obvious recruiting merits to firming its footing in Phoenix. Coinciding with the Valley’s population is a boom in prep football.
Phoenix-area high schools have produced numerous high-level recruits in recent seasons, including a crop in this past class of offensive lineman Andrus Peat (Corona del Sol High/Tempe); quarterback Connor Brewer (Chaparral High/Scottsdale); Reggie Daniels (Hamilton High/Gilbert); D.J. Foster (Saguaro High/Scottsdale); DaVonte Neal (Chaparral).
Just one -- Foster -- remained in state. UA missed out on all of them.
In an ArizonaWildcats.com interview with Brian Jeffries on National Signing Day, Rodriguez said his top recruiting priority moving forward is winning the in-state battles. The 2013 class features such Rivals.com Top 150 targets as Priest Willis, Devon Allen and Kenny Lacy.
UA is pursuing all three, but each have offers from nationally prominent programs. The university’s perception within its own borders is critical to battling back the Texases, Notre Dames and Oregons.
The work being done to raise UA’s profile in the Valley is akin to what the university has done in Southern California. The Golden State has long been a vital pipeline to UA, both athletically and academically. A longstanding joke around campus is that UA is actually UC-Tucson.
The partnership is one the school seems to embrace. Cross the border from I-8 in Yuma, and a billboard boasts "You Are In Wildcat Country."
Similarly, UA billboards can be seen along the Pacific Coast Highway in north coastal San Diego County.
For football purposes, the stretch of roughly 100 miles along I-5 from San Diego into southern Orange County is a rich well. The amount of talent produced from the region is comparable to the ballyhooed pools in football-mad Texas and Florida.
UA is targeting numerous prospects along this corridor, but faces stiff competition. USC has routinely plucked prime talent from the area, and a familiar face has set up shop there. Mike Stoops is the primary recruiter from Oklahoma pursuing Mission Viejo safety Max Redfield.