Is Stoops football's Lute Olson?

Optimistic fans have not missed the opportunity to make comparisons to Mike Stoops and Lute Olson based on a parallel between Ben Lindsey and John Mackovic. That said, the Wildcat basketball and football timeline might have even more significant similarities.

It's easy to say that Mike Stoops has the same chance to succeed with Arizona football that Lute Olson did with the basketball program. After all, Olson arrived at the UA following its worst season on the hardwood, the infamous 4-24 debacle.

And Stoops now runs a program that Mackovic helped to run into the ground, culminating in a two-win season, the worst in school history.

But Olson didn't come to Arizona because Lindsey was a bad coach. Olson came to Arizona because he saw the real chance to succeed. Likewise, Stoops isn't the new UA football coach because Mackovic did a terrible job. He's the new Wildcat football coach because he believes there's a real opportunity to place this program among the upper echelon.

The reason for that belief has nothing to do with the performances of Lindsay and Mackovic. It has much more to do with the strides made by their respective predecessors: Fred Snowden and Dick Tomey.

At Arizona, basketball is sort of broken into two categories: BL—or Before Lute, and the Lute Olson era. But Snowden was the man who really helped to give Arizona some credence. When Snowden arrived from Michigan, he lured a lot of Midwest talent with him, and in the program's early stages that talent helped to get the UA into the post-season. In fact, in 1976, Arizona knocked on the door of its first Final Four, only to be turned away by juggernaut UCLA.

Snowden's brush with success opened some eyes, and it certainly played a role in Olson's belief that one could win in Tucson. That was 21 years ago, and since then Olson has made the Wildcats an elite-level program that routinely competes for national championships.

The Elite Eight appearance isn't what fans tend to remember about Snowden's tenure in Tucson. Instead, the first thing that pops into their head is the nickname: Kiddie Korps. Ironically, Tomey's 14-year stay in the Old Pueblo is not remembered so much by the trip to the Fiesta Bowl, or the win at the Holiday Bowl that capped the 12-1 season, but instead, by a nickname: Desert Swarm.

A reference Stoops made regularly during his initial press conference as Wildcat head coach. Arizona football has been a tradition of frustration, but there have been strong seasons in the mix, and that's what captured Stoops' attention. Just as Olson was aware of the Elite Eight and the potential for winning as a result, moreso than a nomenclature of alliteration, Stoops is well aware, by virtue of the strong Tomey seasons, and not by the Desert Swarm nametag, that winning is possible in Tucson. He just wants to do so in more consistent fashion.

If Stoops is to be revered in the way Olson is, a part of that will be due to recognition. As Olson recognized the potential for positive results based on Snowden's ability to win, Stoops will have recognized the same makeup based on the foundation Tomey helped to lay.

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