Commencement: Best sports moments
Kevin Cordes wins two national titles
Sophomore breaststroker Kevin Cordes was named NCAA Swimmer of the Year after shattering records in the 100 and 200 breaststroke events and leading the Wildcats to a third place finish at the NCAA Championships this March in Indianapolis. Cordes became the fastest man to ever swim the 200 breaststroke event and broke NCAA, American, U.S. Open and school records in the 100 breaststroke.
— Evan Rosenfeld
The day — December 15
When the clock hit the two minute mark in Arizona’s bowl game against Nevada, it looked like a nice season for the Wildcats was about to hit a disappointing finish.
Since he came to the UA, head coach Rich Rodriguez had flipped the script but, after the Wolf Pack’s Allen Hardison split the uprights, putting the Wolf Pack up 13 with little time remaining, the season was about to end with a Gildan New Mexico Bowl defeat.
But then, before it even seemed possible, Arizona was in the end zone and an onside kick away from pulling an incredible upset.
Senior John Bonano’s kick was perfect. The UA recovered, and with an almost effortless feel, quarterback Matt Scott again drove the Wildcats down the field to capture an improbable upset.
But the day wasn’t over.
Later that night, then-No. 8 Arizona men’s basketball team hosted then-No. 5 Florida at McKale Center.
The inexperienced Wildcats hung with the Gators throughout most of the game. Florida just looked a little too good. Arizona trailed by double-digits for most of the second half.
Even after a late 7-0 run, a missed three-pointer by Mark Lyons forced the Wildcats to foul, down six with 1:08 left.
But then the UA forced a turnover, and another and another.
After Florida’s Kenny Boynton missed the front end of a one-and-one, the comeback was actually a possibility. Lyons had the ball and a chance to win the game.
The senior exploded past the taller Patric Young and nailed the game winner. Comeback complete.
Neither team won a national championship, or even a meaningful bowl, but few days in Arizona history will ever match the magic of December 15.
— Kyle Johnson
Aaron Gordon signing
We already knew head coach Sean Miller was a top recruiter, particularly after last year’s Top 5 recruiting haul of Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett and Gabe York. But, Miller even one-upped himself at the beginning of April. At the McDonald’s All-American game in Chicago, top 5-ranked forward Aaron Gordon held a press conference and announced, “I hope Tucson is celebrating me because I’m about to be a West Coast Wildcat.” Gordon has often been compared to Clippers star Blake Griffin, and might be the most talented recruit ever to make his way to McKale Center as an Arizona Wildcat.
Brigetta Barrett at the Olympics
Pride resonated throughout Tucson when senior high jumper Brigetta Barrett stood on the podium on the final night of track and field competition at the 2012 London Olympics. Barrett earned a silver medal with a mark of 6-8 in the high jump, the highest in U.S. collegiate history.
— Scarlett McCourt
UA adds sand volleyball
In January, the UA announced that it will add its 20th varsity sport: Women’s sand volleyball. Sand volleyball is the UA’s first stand alone sport to be added since women’s indoor track and field in 1998. Former indoor volleyball associate head coach Steve Walker was made the sand volleyball head coach.
— James Kelley
Baseball NCAA title
It had been 36 years since Arizona’s last NCAA title in baseball, and the first trip to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series since 2004, and the Wildcats certainly did not disappoint. In defeating two-time defending champion South Carolina, the UA became the first team to go undefeated (10-0) in the postseason since the Gamecocks the year before.
The UA had six future draftees on its roster in 2012, Pac-12 Player of the Year Alex Mejia, Third-team All-American pitcher Kurt Heyer, Joey Rickard, Seth Mejias-Brean, Rob Refsnyder and fifth-year senior Bobby Brown. The experience and maturity of those players coupled with the good fortune of hosting both the regionals and super regionals of the NCAA postseason at Hi Corbett Field made for a magical June and a heavy burden come this season.
— Cameron Moon