Jedd Fisch is a selfish man.
The Arizona football coach could have let Arizona’s basketball teams have the spotlight, you know, with the men ranked fifth in the country and the women 22nd. Both are in the midst of excellent seasons and are deserving of all the attention they can get.
But then Fisch went another great offseason, adding some high-profile transfers, high school recruits and even a notable coach.
As of Feb. 2, Arizona’s class of 25 commits ranks seventh in the Pac-12 and 41st in all of college football, according to 247Sports. They added a trio of four-stars, a bevvy of high-three stars and landed likely impact defensive players via the portal.
“If you look at how we’ve done over the last two years it’s been our goal, really, to change the narrative of Arizona Football,” Fisch said Wednesday. “That people should want to come here. That people should want to be a part of our program.”
He didn’t say it, but you know Fisch also wants Arizona Football to command attention and inspire passion.
Which it has. Which it’s doing.
All while we’d normally be fully invested in hoops.
The momentum built during the 2022 season seems to have been carried over into the new year, and the buzz surrounding the program has not dissipated in the least. There is genuine excitement about spring ball, which we now know begins on March 13 and leads up to the Spring Game on April 15.
Between now and then the basketball teams may win conference, conference tournament and/or NCAA tournament titles. They may have players continue their great seasons and earn some awards. There will certainly be big, intense games and incredible moments.
And yet, how many UA fans are still anxiously waiting for football practices to begin?
That football is able to keep fans focused on its doings is not a novel concept. At plenty of schools around the country what happens on the gridiron is more important than anything else. Signing day, the start of practice, the spring game and anything in between is viewed through the most focused of lenses, with the radio shows and message boards flush with content and conversation.
But that hasn’t really ever been the case at Arizona. Generally football season was for football, and the rest of the year was for basketball. That whole “just wait for basketball season” was as much of a truth as it was a punchline because hey, it’s the University of Arizona and all that matters is what happens at McKale.
But Fisch has been working hard to change that. Perhaps the transition began with Mike Stoops and progressed, incrementally, under Rich Rodriguez. But the Kevin Sumlin era saw any progress at best halted, and more likely reversed.
Through effort, ingenuity and performance Fisch has done plenty to change the way Arizona football is viewed. It is not just an afterthought among Arizona fans, something that just happens to take place in the fall.
Now football at Arizona, much as it is for other schools, is more of a year-round thing. Its recruiting efforts matter, its signing day matters. More talent has been brought into the program.
“I think I saw that in the last 16 years prior to last year we had six top-300 players; in the last two years we’ve had seven top-300 players by ESPN standards,” Fisch said. “In the last 10 years they signed 13 four and five-star players; in the last two years we’ve signed 10.
“So we’re pretty proud of how recruiting has gone for our program. We want to continue to build off of that.”
Sounds like a good plan. In fact, if Fisch succeeds and gets Arizona back into a bowl game in 2023 then you have to figure things will only continue to improve. What he’s been able to accomplish in such a short period of time, given the constraints of a downtrodden program at a “basketball school," is rather impressive.
There’s no guarantee that winning the offseason will lead to victories in the regular season, and it stands to reason it’s much easier to quickly improve an offense than a defense. That said, what Fisch and his staff have done is not only give Arizona fans hope, but a reason to follow the progress.
And not just during the season or when there’s no basketball to watch and enjoy. Now, even when all eyes would normally be on hoops, fans at the very least are taking a peek at what’s happening with football.
Quality recruiting classes. Big-time transfers. High-end talent visiting Tucson. Intra-conference player movement and coaching hires. The offseason offers plenty, and Fisch has helped make it all something worth paying attention to.
After all, you’d hate to miss something good.