Looking back on it now, forcing Dick Tomey out as football coach after the 2000 season was among the worst decisions the Arizona Wildcats have ever made. Not nearly as worse as replacing him with John Mackovic, but still bad all the same.
Yet despite that unpleasant end, Tomey remained a regular presence around the program where he won 95 games from 1987-2000, most in school history. And after his passing earlier this year at the age of 81, it was a no-brainer that the school would find an appropriate way to honor his memory.
That officially happened on Friday with the dedication of the Dick Tomey Football Practice Fields adjacent to the Davis Sports Center.
The official unveiling of the Dick Tomey Football Practice Fields pic.twitter.com/UVIh0nnPtA— AZ Desert Swarm (@AZDesertSwarm) November 1, 2019
The unveiling came at the end of a 90-minute ceremony in which numerous former Tomey players spoke, including prospective Hall of Fame inductee Lance Briggs, who starred at linebacker for Arizona from 1999-2002.
“I was honored,” Briggs said. “Just like everybody else up here. Dick Tomey impacted a lot of lives. You can see the impact that he had.”
Tomey’s son, Rich, said it was fitting the school named their outdoor fields after his father since that was his favorite place to be.
“This is where he spent all his time,” Rich Tomey said. “He loved practice, loved putting in the work.”
Current UA coach Kevin Sumlin shared a phone interaction he had with Tomey shortly after Arizona first approached him about the job in January 2018. Tomey was in Hawaii and Sumlin was driving through Texas when Tomey called to say “this is where you want to be” in regards to Tucson.
“When you have that kind of blessing from a man like that, it says a lot,” Sumlin said.
The practice field dedication comes during Homecoming weekend, with Arizona set to host the Oregon State Beavers on Saturday afternoon wearing “Desert Swarm” throwback uniforms from Tomey’s tenure.
“I think it’s definitely appropriate,” Briggs said. “I’m excited to see them run out in those uniforms. I think they should do that as least once a year … just to pay respects.”