The Arizona Wildcats are currently competing with Utah to be the fourth-best football program within their own division. Arizona Stadium, which has been around since 1929, has seen some great upgrades this decade, receiving a new video board in the south end zone in 2011 and a complete overhaul in the north end zone, part of the $73 million Lowell-Stevens Football Facility project for 2013.
Still, Arizona Stadium has been ranked among the worst venues in the Pac-12, often only leading Oregon State's Reser Stadium and Washington State's Martin Stadium.
Athletic Director Greg Byrne has been on the move, searching for a way to fund much-needed stadium upgrades and renovations. This is when Byrne looked to the rest of the Pac-12 and entertained the idea of an athletic fee imposed on incoming students.
Arizona and Washington are currently the only schools who do not currently use a fee. The difference there is that Washington has already pulled off a major renovation, throwing up $280 million back in 2013. And when I went up to Seattle this past season, that stadium was beautiful.
Just this week, it was announced that Greg Bryne had met with the Associated Students of the University of Arizona (ASUA), the school's student body government. In that meeting, Byrne faced some resistance. There was even a survey that did not receive positive feedback from 1,200 that were surveyed, with 94% strongly opposing the fee.
I find it a bit humorous, considering the push that student government will make for certain fees, spending money on bringing in concerts or putting on Spring Fling, the largest student-run carnival in the nation, and any other student service many probably don't even know about.
But yet that same group won't get behind a fee for incoming students that will help one of Arizona's largest streams of revenue, serving as their ZonaZoo pass, which allows them to go to any and all sporting events. There are already plenty of hidden fees in your Bursar bill that a student unknowingly, yet willingly, pays as the price for your education at The University of Arizona.
The $200 might be a stretch for some, especially for those disconnected from sports. But the fact of the matter is, once students pay that fee, giving them access to any and all sporting events, those kids are likely going to be using it, much more than a service that the ASUA provides. Maybe not to the extent where they feel completely compensated for their payment, but this is a fee that would only be imposed on incoming students, likely incoming freshman who should get a ZonaZoo pass anyways, to enhance their college experience.
It's imperative to keep up with the Pac-12, especially with the momentum Arizona has gained since Rich Rodriguez has come to town. Arizona is coming off a 6-6 season, an extreme disappointment given his success at Arizona, but this is still the winningest four-year stretch in Arizona history.
There have been talks about a new indoor practice facility, and whether it may be an actual building or a bubble dome similar to that of Arizona State and the Arizona Cardinals is still unknown. But the lack of funds for these stadium renovations just pushes everything back even further.
Arizona State imposed an athletic fee on students this past year and have been in the works of a massive overhaul. Sun Devil Stadium is now set to look like a World Cup venue by 2017. Of course, Arizona State has over 80,000 students -- almost double that of Arizona -- but when you multiply that by the $150 student fee, that's nearly $12.3 million of annual revenue.
Arizona hit some home runs on their defensive staff hires, doubling as huge recruiting assets, but when recruits come into Arizona Stadium during the regular season and compare that to the likes of UCLA, USC and Arizona State, on top of their stronger program and history, it's not going to bode well. Then if the program starts to slip and students complain about how bad the team is and don't want to show up to games because it's not fun anymore, that's also going to be a problem.
Of course, it's hard to compare Arizona to the upper-echelon programs -- particularly division foes UCLA and USC -- of the Pac-12, because those schools will always be top dog, that's just what happens when you have a brand and far better resources. But for Arizona to start competing for Pac-12 South titles, let alone Pac-12 Championship, it's going to have to start with something as simple as stadium renovations, with the help of student fees.