By JAMES KELLEY
In 2005, I visited relatives living in America’s armpit (Texas) and one of them asked how the University of Arizona football team was doing.
They laughed when I told them UA’s record was 3-8, but I explained the school was beginning an extensive rebuilding program. It took four years for the Wildcats to get back to a bowl game.
That’s where the Pima Community College football team is now.
The Aztecs didn’t have anything like the Wildcats’ infamous player revolt, but their program had fallen much further.
PCC didn’t beat a real football team from 2005-2009 and the last head coach wasn’t much better than John Mackovic at UA. Bill Laslett held 15-minute practices and his 2008 teams were outscored 509-37.
In 2009, new head coach Pat Nugent started the rebuilding process with a 0-10 season. The Aztecs were outscored 352-138, narrowing the gap a bit.
This year they went 3-8 and were outscored just 280-220.
Pima was three plays from being 6-5, substantial improvement.
A losing football team usually crumbles at the end of the season, but Pima lost at Eastern Arizona College only after a failed two-point conversion.
When Pima played Eastern at home in September, the Gila Monsters went all Hernán Cortés on the Aztecs, winning 42-14.
Had quarterback Daniel Nicholas, the 2007 Tucson Citizen Player of the Year, not quit the team right before the season started, it is not hard to imagine the Aztecs in a bowl game even though just four conference teams go bowling.
Sure, new Canyon del Oro High School varsity head coach Dustin Pearce hasn’t lost since replacing Nugent, but this isn’t a Boise State University situation.
University of Colorado hired Dan Hawkins in 2006 after he did well at Boise State, then fired him a few weeks ago because of his subpar performance at Colorado. Meanwhile, replacement coach Chris Pederson turned Boise State into a superpower.
Nugent rebuilt CDO from a 0-10 season en route to winning five coach of the year awards.
In addition, Pearce has Ka’Deem Carey running the ball for him. Even I could win a 4A state title if I had Carey, and I rarely punt (in video games).
The Nuge has Pima headed in the right direction.
It won’t be long before UA and Pima go bowling in the same year for the first time ever.
Follow us on Twitter for sports news and scores