It has been an off season to remember for the University of Arizona football program, headlined by the return of notable people as well as the uniforms longtime Wildcat fans have been accustomed to.
After an abysmal stint under head coach Kevin Sumlin that ended in a 70-7 embarrassing defeat against Arizona State to cap off a no win season, it was time for a new era in the Arizona football program as Sumlin was fired the next day.
There were a number of notable candidates interviewed to be the next Wildcats head coach, but Jedd Fisch won the job, and it's been history ever since.
“We’ve worked extremely hard over the course of the last seven months to not just change the culture, but create our own culture,” Fisch said in his Pac-12 football media day conference back in July. “We talk about from the very beginning on an expectation of really taking a mindset of becoming a pro.”
That shouldn’t be too difficult as Fisch has helped bring in a coaching staff to the football program that is filled with NFL experience, both as players and coaches at the professional level. That includes helping bring back Wildcat legends Chuck Cecil and Ricky Hunley to the program, as well as Tedy Bruschi back to the program.
Fisch has also made it his mission to connect and curate relationships with current and former Arizona legends including Steve Kerr and Adia Barnes, the people Arizona Wildcats fans care most about, not just in the football program but many other sports as well. He ended one of the practices early to fly out and watch the women’s basketball team play Stanford in the national championship. He has attended numerous Wildcat tennis matches and baseball games. Fisch has made it his mission to connect with everyone involved in Wildcat sports as well as in the Tucson community.
“I believe that I didn’t just sign on to be the head football coach,” Fisch said. “I signed on to be a great ambassador to the University of Arizona and to the University of Arizona athletics… For me, this is what we do. If you want to just coach football, just go to the NFL, stay in the NFL. If you want to embrace a college community and you want to embrace pageantry and you want to embrace social media and you want to embrace the idea of bringing 70,000 people or 60,000 people or as many people as we can put in there, then go coach college.”
What was once a program left in shambles by Sumlin has turned into a team Arizona football fans have a reason to look forward to with a coach who has shown he clearly cares about the fan base and the support.
One of the notable changes Fisch has made within the football program this off season has been the importance of recruiting, especially within the state of Arizona. That goes for not just high school players, but also collegiate players transferring from other schools.
“We believe Tucson is a special place,” Fisch said. “We have brought in a lot of transfers that had been at other universities from around the country that have come to join our program. We brought a lot of people back to the state of Arizona. We believe it is our job to recruit Arizona better than it has ever been recruited.”
One of the notable steps Fisch took when he was first hired to be the Wildcats next head coach was to connect with the local Arizona high school football coaches and players. He wanted to show every Arizona high school football coach his commitment to the Wildcats football program, and it clearly worked with has turned into a notable recruiting class for the Wildcats. Arizona currently ranks No. 4 in the conference for the 2022 recruiting class that includes a pair of four-star recruits.
Fisch spent the previous three seasons working under the coaching staffs of Bill Belichick and Sean McVay with the Patriots and Rams at the NFL level. That type of experience learning under those minds can only benefit the football program here at Arizona, not to mention the connections Fisch has to be able to allow those coaches he has worked for to talk to his team and give them that motivation they can’t get anywhere else.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate in the NFL and in college to have worked for some of the best coaches,” Fisch said. “Certainly in the NFL, most recently coach Belichick, coach McVay and coach [Pete] Carroll. All three of them have not only influenced me but helped me and will help our football team. Coach McVay and coach Carroll have already talked to our guys, but with coach Belichick, I talk with him extremely often.”
Fisch listed mental and physical toughness as the No. 1 attribute he brought with him to the Wildcats program after working under Belichick.
“I will say that the No.1 thing that I brought to our program is mental and physical toughness and the idea of doing what’s best for the team if it’s not what’s best for you is being mentally tough,” Fisch said. “Our team knows that, we talk about that and we try to give our team the opportunity to be a smart, physical and tough football team and I certainly credit coach Belichick for that message.”
It is safe to say Fisch has done everything right for the better of the program this offseason in a variety of different ways. It is now time to see what the team can do on the field this season coming off a winless campaign last year.
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