Schu Strings: Rebuilding

Since recent coaching changes, Oregon State, Arizona State and Cal have experienced seasons of improvement. The same cannot yet be said of Arizona. But even though that's the case, a single season spike does not necessarily set the foundation for a consistently successful program.

Tis time to state the obvious. It's been a frustrating year for Wildcat football. A rash of injuries has depleted an already undermanned offensive line. It has crippled the running game, now last in Division I. It has decimated a small defensive front.

But injuries are not the only reason for Arizona's struggles. It seems to have acted as a sort of snowball, and since the near-loss against Utah, things just haven't been the same.

Meanwhile, other perennial Pac-10 also-rans have shown signs of success. Oregon State, which replaced Jerry Pettibone with Mike Riley, then Dennis Erickson when Riley jumped ship for the pros, parlayed the talent of many of Riley's players with Erickson's attitude en route to a school-best 11-1 record just two years ago. But since then, Oregon State has met with some difficult times. Granted, not difficult by OSU standards, but certainly not the pinnacle experienced at the onset of the new millennium.

Since its run through the Pac-10 in 1996, Arizona State has been middle-of-the-pack fodder. There were those who wanted to run Dirk Koetter out of Tempe after last year's 4-7 showing, but this year ASU is the talk of the conference and has put itself in position for a nice bowl game at season's end.

California has leveled off since catching the attention of the nation with a then-stunning win at Michigan State, which has since shown to be the biggest disappointment in college football this season. That aside, Cal has played well, and the results are a vast improvement from last year's one-win entry.

Of the three examples, Arizona State should have the greatest opportunity to break into the Pac-10's upper tier of consistency, an area currently occupied by Oregon and Washington, and a place where the two Los Angeles schools should be perched with regularity. That said, I think it's Oregon State that really has the leg up, and it might simply be because of the timing of respective coaching changes. Erickson has two years on Koetter, and as a result two added seasons to put things in place the way he would like. Looking ahead, Oregon State and ASU should be serious contenders for conference honors next season, but I think OSU might be better equipped for consistency on a yearly basis at this stage.

Jeff Tedford is going to have a monster rebuilding year in store next season at Cal. Most of his starters are seniors, so it seems very possible his program could be bottom feeding again. Still, Tedford has instilled optimism in Berkeley, so perhaps he's the man to ultimately right that ship.

But where does that leave Arizona? I think it's too early to tell for sure. The addition of the Eddie Lynch Pavilion should play a role in giving Tucson some consideration among recruits. And certainly, the added playing time experienced by the underclassmen can't hurt. That said, I think if one really looks at the UA's roster, it appears to be a team that can be generally competitive next season, but probably hover around .500 again. The future of the Arizona program might not come to light until 2004, 05 and 06. If the UA can rattle off consecutive strong years in that window, there's an opportunity for long-term benefits.

Most of the Pac-10 has been unable to pull that off. Only Oregon has gone from fodder to frontrunner. Every other program that has tried to break through hasn't been able to get it done. Arizona is no exception. Great year in 93, strong year in 94, middle of the Pac until 98. Great year in 98, middle of the Pac or worse since. Same story at Washington State, at Stanford, at ASU, at…you get the picture.

Right now, the other programs at Arizona's general level have an advantage. But it might be short-lived. It might be business as usual. Or it might be the dawn of a new era, an era that Arizona fans won't like at all. Truth be told, it's too early to know for sure.

I consider voting my great personal inconsistency. I do it, yet think it matters not in the least, especially in major elections. And the proof is in simple math, which is all I'm qualified to do. In the major elections, voting is like the Powerball. You have a greater chance at being a multi-millionaire by virtue of picking seven random numbers than you do being in a circumstance where your vote could actually count. Nobody actually says this, but sadly, it's in the numbers.

Voting advocates will reference the debacle in Florida as an example of the importance of one's vote. I view the voting debacle in Florida as an example of the Powerball theory. A few people in a few counties were instrumental in the Presidential outcome. But how many counties are there? Um, bunches. And did any of them play any role whatsoever? Um, no.

A few years back, some Get Out The Vote campaign paid for TV spots featuring major political figures. They'd rattle off stats about how one vote in each district could change the outcome of some larger race. Nice ploy, but it was almost as if they had to struggle to come up with close races. Then again, who's to say that one vote wouldn't have added to the lead of the winner anyway?

Then there are the folks who toss out this great catch-line. "If you don't vote, you don't have the right to complain." What a load of poppycock that is. The right to vote is a separate issue entirely from freedom of speech, so heck, if you don't vote and still complain, have at it for all I care.

I don't want to go so far as to say voting is a sham. It's certainly a right we possess that other countries don't, and as a result, to some very small degree, we do get to say something. In that regard it's far better than the alternative. But the individual input is so miniscule it hardly makes a ripple.

Had I not voted, nothing would have changed. I realize that, yet I do it anyway. Maybe it provides me with some small entertainment value. Like actually circling the little dot for the Libertarian candidate for governor.

I did feel special on Election Day, however, when Martin Sheen dialed me up around four in the afternoon. Yeah, that Martin Sheen. He wanted to tell me to vote Democrat because that's the party that cares. Apparently, they care enough to solicit me on the phone. Anyway, Sheen talked about the issues that mattered to him, much like the issues that are important to him as President Bartlett on West Wing. I tried to tell him I thought he handled himself very well in that debate with James Brolin last week, but Sheen just kept on talking. I asked him about his bout with MS, and whether he was still getting along with Stockard Channing, but maybe that was just too personal, for Sheen just kept talking. It's as if he was a recording or something. Not that I could tell. Politicians pretty much sound like that anyway.

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