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Looking back at Arizona sports from 50 years ago

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Caleb Villegas | The Daily Wildcat Tucson Ariz.- A little boy swinging an Arizona wildcats flag on Sunday April 14, 2019 at Hi Corbett Field. The crowd would cheer him on.

With Homecoming right around the corner, we take a look back at Arizona Athletics from 50 years ago in 1969. A lot has changed in 50 years, including Arizona even changing conferences. 

1969 was a special year for college football because it was the 100th anniversary of the sport. Back in '69, Arizona was still part of the Western Athletic Conference with other teams such as ASU, BYU, University of Utah, University of Wyoming, University of Texas at El Paso, University of New Mexico and Colorado State University for football. The football season didn’t go too well, though, as they went on to finish 3-7 overall and 3-3 in conference play. Brian Linstrom was quarterback that year and finished with 1,598 passing yards while Ron Gardin ran the ball for 759 rushing yards and Hal Arnason had 489 receiving yards. These were the leaders on that '69 Wildcat team and just for comparison, Khalil Tate already has 1,528 passing yards this year and J.J. Taylor has 488 rushing yards while missing a significant amount of time. 

The conference that Arizona would go on to join in 1978 was still called the Pac-8 back in '69, simply because there were only eight teams. The other two schools that still weren’t a part of the conference were the Rocky Mountain schools, and they would not go on to join until the 2000s. 

In football in '69, USC dominated like they usually did at that time and finished undefeated and No. 3 in the final rankings. Back then, there was no college football playoff or BCS championship game, so whoever finished the season No. 1 would be the champion. 

Fifty years ago, Arizona basketball was nowhere near the West Coast powerhouse they are considered today. Arizona's coach at the time was Bruce Larson, who finished with an all-time record of 136-148. They still played in Bear Down Gym, where capacity was only around a couple thousand while McKale Center was being built.

While they had success in the Border Conference years before, they were now in the WAC just like football was. Even though they were in the same conference as football, not all the other teams were the same. The other teams included in the conference were University of Wyoming, University of Utah, ASU, BYU and University of New Mexico. The team would finish at a respectable 17-10 and 5-5 in conference, and they finished No. 3 in the WAC. It wouldn’t be enough to make it to the NCAA tournament, though. Arizona would go on to beat ASU twice that year to start a four-game win streak against their rivals to the north. 

In 1969, there weren’t nearly as many Arizona sports as there are now. Softball and volleyball were not on campus yet and women’s basketball was still a club sport. Other club sports, like hockey, weren’t started until years later. Rugby and lacrosse were both on campus, however, as club sports. Rugby was started in '69, and since then, the Wildcats have become one of the best collegiate rugby teams. Lacrosse was also started in the 1960s, but they have been a club sport ever since. 

Over the last 50 years, Arizona has won many national championships across all kinds of different sports. No one knows when the next championship or legendary moment may happen, but be sure to always enjoy Arizona sports and what it took to get to where they are now.


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