The news came out relatively late on a Thursday, though there is never a bad time to see a headline like it.
Arizona football program 100% vaccinated against COVID-19
Indeed, Arizona football announced that every person in the program, including players, coaches and staff, was vaccinated against the virus that, unfortunately, is still ever present in our lives.
Regardless of what you think about the vaccines or even the mandates that are starting to be handed down, it’s important to remember that while the vaccine has been available for a while now, it was not mandated that the players, specifically, get it. Recommended, yes, but not required.
They all got it.
The rate at which each player made the decision to get vaccinated certainly varies, as do the reasons for why the choice was made.
For folks on the pro-vaccine side, there’s no bad reason to get vaccinated.
For anyone who cares about football, and specifically Arizona Wildcats football, this is not only big in that it should keep players from getting dangerously ill, limit the opportunities for Covid 19 to interrupt the season or lead to forfeits, but it also shows a confidence in the coaches and dedication to the team that may not have been present in the recent past.
Ever since Jedd Fisch and the new staff arrived we’ve heard over and over how appreciative the players are of the changes. Nary a bad word has been said, and there has been zero pushback against what the coaches are trying to to do.
The vaccine is just the latest example.
It’s clear the players believe in their coaches, but does it matter?
One of the greatest clichés in sports is how much belief matters. Belief in one’s self, belief in the coaches, belief in the plan or goal. A lack of belief in any one of those areas, it is said, can lead to all sorts of bad things. Take last season, for example.
It was evident by the final game of the year, no one believed. Now, a little less than nine months since that night we’d all just as soon forget, even Ted Lasso would be impressed with the Wildcats.
The question about whether all that belief will translate to wins is a fair one. You can have all the confidence in the world, but if the talent isn’t there wins will still be hard to come by and, as the Wildcats get set for their season opener against BYU, legitimate questions about the team’s talent level remain.
There is a reason why the team’s expected win total is no greater than three.
But as the Jedd Fisch era is rounding the corner and heading for what will likely be its first major speed bumps, it’s a pleasant feeling knowing that none are likely to send the team off the rails.
Because this team has faith in its coaching staff, it is more likely the players will take to coaching and attempt to work through any and all hardships. Ideally, as the season progresses a roster that is still learning new schemes will show improvement.
Right now that would look like being competitive, but if the Cats can stay in most games then they will make enough plays to win at least a few of them.
Really, that’s what this season is about. It would be nice if the Wildcats, now with new (and improved) coaching revealed themselves to be a better team than we thought, with players excelling now that they are no longer being held back by whatever constraints were placed upon them.
Combine that with a bevy of high-quality transfers and some early returns from the freshmen and who knows, maybe the team could surprise in a fairly loaded Pac-12 South.
More likely is the Wildcats will mix flashes of improvement and maybe even excellence with a level of play that is, for lack of a better way of explaining, not good enough to win most days.
In a different season, maybe even one just a year or two down the road, that would be reason for disappointment and cause for alarm. But not this season.
No, this season is all about setting the stage for what will hopefully be a brighter future. It’s easy for writers and fans to get on board, even while our view of the program and the change within it is from a relative distance.
The players, however, tell a different story. They are all in, on Fisch and what the new coach is trying to accomplish.
The importance of what that says cannot be understated.