The 2011-12 school year was a rough, character-building season if you are a fan of the two major college sports at the University of Arizona. Last August, fans entered the season with tempered expectations towards both football and basketball but, by the end of the year, the expectations of even the most pessimistic fans were failed to be met.
For football, UA got off to an extremely poor start to the season and ended with its worst record since the mid-2000's. The team's struggles led to the eventual purging of nearly the entire coaching staff after the program failed to reach a bowl game for the first time since the 2007 season.
Head coach Mike Stoops was the first to go and despite finishing the season with two victories – one over rival Arizona State – the rest of the staff followed at the conclusion of the season.
If you were an incoming freshman this past year (or simply a new Wildcats fan), then your first year cheering on UA football was a tough one. In the middle of the 2010 season, Arizona was ranked in the top-10 nationally and stood strong with a 7-1 record in the middle of the season. While the Wildcats ended that season losing five straight, not many – even with the tough start to the 2011 schedule – expected Arizona to lose another five straight to FBS competition to kick off this past season.
With coaches getting shown the door, certain players looking detached from the squad and no postseason, there wasn't much to get excited about regarding the future of the UA football program.
Basketball on the other hand was coming off an Elite Eight appearance and was bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in the country. Sure, Arizona lost Derrick Williams to the NBA, but it was bringing in four players that filled immediate needs and each one came in with high expectations.
Problems arose early for the basketball squad, however, when big man Sidiki Johnson failed to buy in to anything head coach Sean Miller was selling. Johnson had several problems with Miller and the Wildcats' head coach didn't tolerate it long as Johnson was shown the door before he could ever make any sort of impact.
Then there was Josiah Turner. The point guard from Sacramento entered UA as arguably the best college point guard prospect in the country, but he seemed to struggle both on and off the court from the moment he stepped foot on campus.
Turner struggled to lead the Wildcats on the floor. He committed entirely too many turnovers, dished out too few assists and shot the ball poorly. While Arizona seemed to play better offense with Turner on the floor, the overall product was disappointing with him leading the way.
Turner had more than just on-the-court issues. He was suspended multiple times throughout the 2011-12 campaign and frustrated the coaching staff and his team with his inconsistent play and questionable dedication. Turner possesses all the talent needed to run Miller's squad, but there were obviously some demons within Turner preventing him from reaching his potential.
For whatever reason, Turner was given a much longer leash than Johnson was but, by the end of the season, Turner's return to the team was in question. Eventually, the point guard decided to transfer to SMU where he will attempt to get his basketball life back on track under former NBA head coach Larry Brown.
For Arizona, the Turner and Johnson incidents weren't the only roadblocks the Wildcats ran in to, but they were certainly two of the biggest low-lights of a disappointing campaign.
All of this was compiled on to the Kevin Parrom situation. Coming off a huge season where he really stepped his game up, Parrom had an extremely rough offseason where he saw both his grandmother and mother pass away and, while in New York before the season started, Parrom was shot in the leg.
Parrom returned to the court, but was a shell of his former self. He struggled with consistency on both ends of the floor and was finding it difficult to contribute on a consistent basis. Unfortunately for Parrom, his frustrating season was made worse by a season-ending foot injury.
Parrom's injury, the struggles and eventual departures of Johnson and Turner and the failure of certain players to meet expectations led to UA's second postseason absence in three seasons.
Both sports had pretty rough seasons, but light at the end of the tunnel has been discovered for each in recent months.
In football, it began with the hiring of Rich Rodriguez to be Arizona's next head coach. On top of that, Rodriguez was able to lure his top assistants – including coaches he didn't have on staff at Michigan, but did have at West Virginia – to join him in Tucson.
While Rodriguez has generated excitement around the program, it is very tempered at this point in time. The Wildcats have to prove themselves on the field for fans to fully buy in, but the change has brought some much-needed excitement and enthusiasm surrounding the program after a very rough 2011 campaign.
As for basketball, many consider 2011-12 to be an aberration. Arizona has one of the best recruiting classes in the country coming in and each prospect has been a model citizen throughout their individual recruiting processes.
The Wildcats also add Xavier transfer Mark Lyons – a proven double-digit scorer who is expected to take over and improve the point guard position. Lyons comes with one year of eligibility and his arrival has increased the expectations surrounding the UA basketball program for the upcoming season.
The offseason also saw the arrivals of Duquense transfer T.J. McConnell – who will sit out the upcoming campaign – and JUCO forward Matt Korcheck - who could play but is also likely to sit a year. Each player fills a need and fits a specific role for Arizona. While neither is expected to play this year, their choice to come play basketball at UA lifted some spirits after the disappointing campaign.
With all of the additions to the roster, both the present and the future appear to be very bright for Arizona basketball. Missing two tournaments in three years is a lot for a program that didn't get left out of the big dance for a quarter-century, but this offseason has given UA basketball fans something to get excited for heading into next season.
This past school year was a tough one for Arizona fans, but the down period shouldn't last long. With Rodriguez on board, UA has a bright mind leading its program into the future. As for basketball, the negativity has been addressed and the holes have been filled. Now all that's left to do for each program is to start winning on a much more consistent basis.
2011-12 School Year in review
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