Road Trip: Arizona
Posted: Wednesday January 17, 2007 10:27AM; Updated: Wednesday January 17, 2007 2:09PM
Welcome to Tucson. One of the oldest continually inhabited sites in America, its local population dates back to 800 B.C. Tucson still has a lot of Wild West flair, but with an eye on space -- as in outer. The many observatories earned southern Arizona the nicknamed "Astronomy Capital of the World" and the University of Arizona has been awarded more NASA grants for space exploration than any other univerity in the nation. UA will be leading the mission to explore Mars' arctic later this year.
But enough about space and ancient history. The UA is consistently ranked in or near the top 10 of the Director's Cup, and is usually among the top 20 for fan support. It was ranked No. 5 for Best Looking Women by Playboy and called a paradise by SIOC, so let us take you on a trip...
Best hair: Lute Olson. The Silver Fox is known for being a Hall of Famer, winning the 1997 national title, the 1986 World Championship, five Final Fours, 27 NCAA Tournament appearances, 19 straight 20-win-seasons, 11 Pac-10 titles, nine Pac-10 or Big Ten Coach of the Year awards, and, of course, his perpetually perfect hair. In a close second for best hair finishes defensive end Louis Holmes who reported to football camp 2006 with a dreadlock mullet with the Arizona "A" logo shaved in.
Best month: March. While the third month has weather that is pretty perfect, the sports make it great. The men's basketball team making the NCAA Tournament is something you can set your watch to -- a streak of 22 appearances in a row and counting. Nearly half the teams in Major League Baseball hold Spring Training in Arizona, with the Diamondbacks, White Sox and Rockies in Tucson. McKale Center, the UA's basketball arena, is tied seventh in hosting the most NCAA Tournament games: 53.
Best team you have never heard of: Softball. Arizona has won seven national championships since 1991 and been to the Women's College World Series in 18 of the last 19 years. The Wildcats are led by Mike Candrea, who won the 2006 NCAA title, the world title, the World Cup of Softball and the Japan Cup --the last three with the U.S. National Team, of which he is the head coach. It featured five Wildcats.
Biggest landmark: "A" Mountain. Inspired by a big football win in 1914, UA students built a 70-foot wide and 160-foot long A on the side of Sentinel Peak, a small mountain near campus. The A is traditionally white, but after 9/11, it took on a red, white and blue scheme. It's also usually painted green for St. Patrick's Day. Arizona State students stole the idea and built a yellow A Mountain in Tempe., creating an interesting wrinkle to the rivalry. Fans now try to paint their rival's A with their own team's colors.
Best museum: The Jim Click Hall of Champions. Located on the north side of McKale Center, the Hall of Champions is the museum of UA sports history. It has everything from national championship trophies to the SI covers on which Wildcats have appeared. Coming in second is the Center for Creative Photography, which has an extensive collection of work by Ansel Adams, one of its founders.
Best football coach: Hayden Fox. Sure Mike Stoops has Arizona poised to make a run at a BCS bowl in 2007, but Fox -- played by UA alum Craig T. Nelson -- led the doormat program Minnesota State to a national championship in the TV series Coach.
Other former Wildcats of note include Gilbert Arenas, Teddy Bruschi, Sesame Street creator Joan Ganz Cooney, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim owner Artie Moreno, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, six Pulitzer Prize winners, AOL president Ray Ogelthrope, Mattel CEO Robert A. Eckert, August A. Busch III, Linda McCartney, Nicole Richie, former UA Surgeon General Dr. Robert Carmona and singer Linda Ronstadt.
Best cheer: Bear Down. In 1926, John "Button" Salmon, student body president, quarterback and starting baseball catcher, was fatally injured in a car accident. During football coach J. F. "Pop" McKale's last visit to the dying star, Salmon gave his final message to the team: "Tell them...tell the team to bear down."
After his death, UA students made "Bear Down" the official slogan of all Arizona sports teams and painted the quote on top of the UA's main gym -- which was called Bear Down Gymnasium until the 1970s. When band director candidate Jack K. Lee flew out of Tucson after his job interview, he saw the top of the gym and wrote the UA's main fight song, Bear Down Arizona. Bear Down Gym is where the nerds were forced to sleep in Revenge of the Nerds, which was filmed at the UA.
Best spring stop: Spring Fling. Early April in Tucson is the time for the largest student-run carnival in the nation.
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