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Why are you a fan of the Arizona Wildcats?

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Come share your unique story!

UCLA v Arizona Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Welcome to the refreshed AZ Desert Swarm! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!

Below is why some of our contributors became Arizona fans:


Alec Sills-Trausch:

*Takes off reporters hat, puts on fan hat.*

Being brought up by two parents who migrated to Arizona from Ohio and Illinois, there was no parental influence when it came to picking my rooting interests for collegiate sports (mind you, Dayton Flyers basketball wasn’t always what it was like the last few years under Archie).

As a kid, you never want to root for a losing team so that inherently pushed me towards rooting for U of A over that other school.

The 1997 National Championship was a few weeks before my fifth birthday which means I have no recollection of it — thank God for YouTube videos. In 2001, *sigh* I do remember that the game happened - though I wasn’t able to watch it… you know, early bed time for 4th graders and whatnot.

I remember waking up and asking my mom who won the game *uggh* and from that point, I guess I was an Arizona fan.

The idea what ‘why’ or ‘how’ you became a fan is fascinating because, unless your parents forced it upon you, it’s a hard thing to explain. Especially for me, with no connection to U of A, living in Phoenix, not having cable, why the hell did I choose the Arizona Wildcats?

I’m still not sure if it was fate or sheer dumb luck that pushed me towards red and blue, but regardless, it’s the best decision I’ve made — even if there’s the yearly heart ache and cardiac attacks associated with being an Arizona Wildcat.


Christopher Boan

I was raised in the great state of Maryland by an Arizona alum, so following the Cats seemed like a no-brainer, even though I was raised some 2,000 miles away.

Growing up, I was the kid who rocked a Salim jersey to my middle school, while all my friends sported some semblance of ACC pride (either Maryland or Duke).

I remember most big-ticket moments in my life through a lens of what Arizona-related heartbreak occurred soon thereafter (take the 2005 Illinois debacle, for example).

I grew up coming to Arizona a lot as a child, as my grandparents retired to Wickenburg, so my father would frequently bring me south down the 10 to Tucson, where we’d try to catch an Arizona basketball or football game.

My first McKale experience was back in the dark years, when Mustafa Shakur, Hassan Adams and the like guided the Cats to so many oh, so memorable first round exits in the tournament.

My father (class of 1974) and I ventured some 115 miles up I-95 on St. Patrick’s Day during that same eighth grade year, letting me take a “sick” day to cheer on the Cats.

That game, in which Arizona cruised past ninth-seeded Wisconsin in the first round, was like Christmas morning for me.

Finally, after years of spotty coverage on the right coast, I was able to watch my teenaged heroes take the court in-person.

It was that experience, as well as the romp I watched at McKale against Tony Bennett’s then top-10 ranked Washington State team that fueled my fandom.

It’s that experience that kept me up at night, watching Pac-10 games on my 20-inch television in my room in high school, hoping to watch the team’s renaissance.

I hoped that a hope-forlorn cast, including Jerryd Bayless, Chase Budinger and company could give Lute a final hurrah.

Unfortunately, that never happened, though their efforts did nothing to quell my fervent support of the team.

I continued to support the team as Miller came in, despite going to college at Colorado State, catching as much action as I could, either on my laptop or the closest bar.

I’ve probably attended upwards of 45 games, including the team’s first two NCAA Tournament games this year, and still cheer the team on inside my head (while of course maintaining a steadfast objectivity expected of a ‘professional’ journalist).

It’s been a wild 15 years or so since I first started following the Cats, but I’ve loved every high and low that’s happened along the way.

I’ve brushed off the collective scar tissue that covers my heart, once layer for each heartbreak witnessed.

At the end of the day, you’ve got to know the agony of pain before you can savor victory.

Bear Down.


Gabe Encinas

I was born and raised in Tempe, about eight miles south of Arizona State. My dad went to ASU and we had football season tickets for about 10 years so it was all I really knew growing up.

My sister is four years older than me and she decided that U of A was for her. My family was making trips to Tucson for football games and sorority events, which is when I started following Arizona sports. My entire high school feeds into ASU and my group of best friends since second grade were all set on going to ASU too. But I just wanted something different and that’s what led me to Tucson.

My freshman year was the start of the Rich Rodriguez era and it was cool to have all this excitement around the program as I entered college. For the first time in my life, I had actually felt like a true fan of a team as I followed the 2012-2014 teams. I had supported ASU and the professional Phoenix teams growing up, but never like I did for Arizona football throughout my college years.

My junior year I started writing for AZ Desert Swarm, which gave me credentialed access to the football team. While I loved the experience of going to practice, listening the staff and players and being so close to the program, sitting in a press box for games definitely took away some fandom I had.

Still, I am forever grateful for my experiences with Arizona football. The coaching staff for the past three years helped me out tremendously while I was covering recruiting. I also established relationships with a lot of players as I began talking to them throughout their recruitment process and as they entered the program.

Now that I’m officially graduated and going to be in Phoenix full-time, it’s going to be a lot harder to feel connected to the university. It’ll be sad not actually knowing any of the coaches or the players on a personal level in a few years, but I’ll do my part and make some trips to Tucson or find some cool road games to support the team.


Jason Bartel

I guess I can’t really pinpoint the moment or reason that I became an Arizona fan or wanted to attend the U of A. Growing up in Flagstaff, I was pretty much raised on USC football, NAU basketball, and some random San Diego State stuff here and there. I was born in the L.A. area, and both my parents went to non-D1 schools.

Coming out of high school I applied to two colleges: U of A and University of New Mexico. The main reason for those two? They were four hours away. Just far enough away from home, but not too far. UNLV almost made the exclusive list of applications I filled out.

A lot of my friends from the previous two years had graduated high school and made the trip to Tucson, and when they would come back to the FLG, they would talk about how much they loved it in Tucson, and that I should definitely join them down there.

So I did that. I tried out for and made the drumline pretty much because one of my best friends at the time, Aaron Thurman, had been doing it for the last two years, and things were starting to get exciting because it felt like Mike Stoops was building something special. Aaron had called me from the field after the 2005 throttling of No. 7 UCLA and the 2006 upset of No. 8 Cal, and hearing everything in the background I got that feeling that I want to do that.

The 2007 Oregon game, I got to do that. That game is why I will always watch Arizona football no matter how bad things get.

One of my other friends from high school, Kai Lindstedt, really got me into Arizona baseball my freshman year too. Sitting in The Hot Corner with him, Butters, and the rest of the dudes every Friday and Saturday night at Sancet was the true college experience I wanted. We had Facebook profiles of opponents printed out to use as heckling fuel. We had the Hortons and the Murphys and the Gwynns coming through Sancet those years. Everything was great. The Georgia series in 2009 was probably the greatest three games I’ve ever been to, even though UGA won all three of them. There was a fight, then the next day, the suspended Arizona players were up in the old trees beyond the left field fence watching the game. Where else would that have happened?

I only saw Lute Olson coach one game in person, and that was the 2007 Red-Blue Game. Maybe that’s why I don’t love basketball as much as just about everyone else. Basketball was in constant transition and flux while I went to Arizona. U of A didn’t beat ASU in McKale in my first three years as a student, and I pretty much stopped going to basketball games my senior year (school and stuff like that got in the way). So it was always football and baseball for me.

Softball may have been one of the reasons I chose U of A too. They had won back-to-back national championships in ‘06 and ‘07, right before I made the voyage to Tucson. In 2008, the USA National Team came through, and seeing all those legendary softball athletes all in one place was truly a sight to behold and will be something I never forget.

My UA fandom has always been tricky (and still is), but I will always be forever grateful that I chose to come to Tucson and stayed as long as I have.


Brandon Hill

I was born in Arizona but grew up in New Mexico. I took a lot of pride in my Arizona roots and the University of Arizona, “Arizona’s University” if you will, made me gravitate to the red and blue block A and the Wilbur logo (and the Arizona cactus logo, which is timeless).

My first memories of UA sports are both early 1990’s: Desert Swarm football and run and gun hoops and those two silver haired foxes, Dick Tomey and Lute Olson. Guys like Tedy Bruschi, Rob Waldrop, and Jim Hoffman in football and Khalid Reeves, Damon Stoudamire, and Reggie Geary in basketball. 1994 was a good snapshot: Fiesta Bowl win over Miami and Final Four run during my freshman year in high school.

I have crazy nostalgia thinking of late night hoops games with Barry Tompkins or Steve Physioc and Marques Johnson on the call for Fox Sports. Lots of March Madness disappointment with first round losses (East Tennessee State, Santa Clara come to mind) were washed away with that magic run in 1997, beating unbeatable Kansas then fellow no. 1 seeds North Carolina and Kentucky, the defending champs. Jim Nance saying, “Simon says… championship” never fails to make me smile.

I still live and die with Wildcat hoops, much to my wife’s chagrin (the ol’ “It’s just a game, honey” nonsense). For all fans the idea of what is and isn’t rational goes out the window. For better or worse, we are invested.


Brandon Combs

I was born and raised in Tucson. I pride myself in being from the Old Pueblo and from Arizona.

Ever since I can remember I have always loved Arizona football. I remember going to football games growing up (Dick Tomey era and the upset of the No.1 Washington team in 1992) and loving every minute of it. Seeing the Desert Swarm defense...amazing.

Once I graduated from high school I joined the military and was sent all the way across the country. I may not have been able to go to every game, but I brought my love and passion for Zona football with me and stayed up late to watch games (I still do). From basic, tech school, my first duty station to my two deployments.

Currently in Maryland, I still hold my love for Tucson and the Wildcat football team. I have a bunch of SEC fans in my unit who give me grief (in good fun) but I still hold true.

Last year I took my wife (who is from Washington state) to Tucson and to my first Arizona game in a couple of years. We both loved it, so much so she suggested another trip this year.

I will always support the football team no matter how a season goes and will always sport the Block A. BearDown!


Rob Leano

Well first things first, I am a true bled Pac-12 fan. I grew up in San Jose, California (aka Aaron Gordon’s hometown) which happens to be right in between Cal and Stanford, well known Pac-12 Rivals.

I never really picked either one of those schools because I didn’t want to be caught deadlocked in a deep rivalry. But now that I look back at it, I kind of found it foolish to have not picked a team for that reason.

Anyways, back to how I became an Arizona fan. To be quite honest, I never really grew up watching Arizona, except for their basketball team here and there, or if Cal or Stanford played them in football.

But once it came down to college decisions in my final months of high school, I knew it was time to lock in a school team. In the end it came down to two Big East schools, a Mountain West school, and a Pac-12 school, which was Arizona.

Sports programs was huge for me in the decision for these schools, so after assessing all my options I found that I had to keep my Pac-12 loyalty and sport the Block A.

At first, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about my choice, and thought it would just grow on me eventually. That was in part of entering at the wrong time for football season. But once basketball season began, I felt the passion flow through much easier. I finally felt a fan connection for a college sports team. Arizona became my team, and I’m proud to say it. Bear Down!


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