Storm to Aztecs: Pima’s colorful football history

By James Kelley

2005 Aztec Press file photo by Audra Bastie

There are two basic things every Pima Community College sports supporter knows: PCC sports is headquartered at the West Campus and its teams are the Aztecs.

At least that is the case now.

Pima’s youngest sport, football, also has its wildest history. In less than a decade, PCC football has been a national championship contender and has won just one game since 2004.

Football began in 2001 amid much fanfare but with humble roots. The Storm, as they were known, were based at East Campus. The team practiced at a local park and played games at Santa Rita High School.

The head coach, Jeff Scurran, had previously been the head coach at two local high schools, Sabino and Santa Rita.

Scurran eventually raised funds for a $500,000 synthetic turf practice field that was built at East Campus.

The Storm’s colors were navy blue and light blue, as opposed to the orange and black used by other Pima teams at the time. The East Campus even had its own athletic director, to oversee football, men’s golf and women’s golf.

The Storm began with a bang, upsetting the defending national champions, Glendale Community College, in the school’s inaugural football game. Otherwise, 2001 was rough for Pima, at least by the Storm’s standards, as they went 4-6.

In 2002, Pima went 7-3 and in 2003 they went 6-5.

Pima’s best year came in 2004 when the No. 11 Storm (8-3) beat No. 4 Kilgore College in Kilgore’s backyard at the Pilgrim’s Pride Bowl in Mount Pleasant, Texas. Scurran resigned after the bowl game because PCC’s recruiting focus shifted to in-state players only.

Pima’s football dark ages began in 2005, when the football team moved to the West Campus and became the Aztecs. PCC officially went 0-9, abandoning the season after losing games by scores of 83-0, 62-0 and 70-7.

In 2006, 2008 and 2009, Pima went 0-10. In 2007, the Aztecs won a pre-conference game 63-2, against a semi-pro team. Pima lost its next game 56-14.

Pima has produced players who have transferred to high-level universities, including Michigan State University, University of California, East Carolina University, Southern Methodist University and University of Northern Colorado.

The Storm and Aztecs haven’t barnstormed all over the county to gain fans, but it feels that way. Pima has played home games at Santa Rita, Amphitheater High School, Tucson High School and Tucson Electric Park. Now the Aztecs have made TEP their home.

Since the glory days of Scurran, Pima has had three coaches.

Current head coach Pat Nugent was hired as PCC’s first full-time coach in January 2009. Nugent won four coach-of-the-year awards as head of the Canyon del Oro High School program, turning a team that was 0-10 into state finalists.

PCC still hasn’t won since 2007, beaten a college team since 2004 or won a Western States Football League game since October 2004, but in 2009 those losses were much closer games. Fans hope Nugent can return Pima to respectability.

All that is left of the Storm is the East Campus field, which is now used for Pop Warner and flag football. Trash cans at the field remain decorated with the Storm lightning bolt logo.

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