The 2016 football season is certainly one to approach with optimistic curiosity and tempered enthusiasm. It is a tough schedule, but one with seven and a half home games and lots of opportunities.

“Hopefully, offensively we can take another step, stay healthy and have some success. With that, we’ll get this knocked out,” says Coach Rich Rodriguez.

When Adia Barnes ’98 was growing up in San Diego, she was as active as a kid can possibly be. 

The Pacific Ocean was only blocks from her house, and she’d ride her bike on the beach, steering between the waves and the sand. When she wasn’t at the beach she played every sport possible, from karate to soccer to skateboarding. 

The only sport that wasn’t available to her — at least not at first — was basketball.

“There was a public rec center across the street, but they had no girls basketball teams,” she says. “They had all boys teams.”

A new season is rolling. Sunlight glints off the steel bleachers at Hi Corbett Field. On this day, it’s a field of new dreams.

At third base, new head coach Jay Johnson touches his thigh, then the brim of his blue cap, signaling his players. A pitch sails into the strike zone. 

“Atta baby,” someone shouts.

“Get hot!” A ball rips foul. “Good hack!” 

It’s a Saturday night in mid-February and McKale Center is jumping. Actually, mini-McKale — the intimate venue created with the dropping of the huge black curtains, leaving just the bottom bowl of the arena available for seating — is electric with Wildcat fans. It’s Gymnastics Night and the Wildcats, under new coach Tabitha Yim, are putting on a show for the 3,000-plus on hand.

Stanford, Yim’s alma mater, is in town. She also served as an assistant coach at Stanford for five years before accepting the head coaching job at the UA. 

The Golden State Warriors won their first NBA championship in four decades in June, a victory distinctly influenced by Arizona basketball.

With head coach Steve Kerr ’87 and assistant coaches Luke Walton ’02 and Bruce Fraser ’88 orchestrating things from the bench, Andre Iguodala proved to be one of the series’ pivotal players with his defensive effort on Cavaliers forward LeBron James and his clutch baskets on the offensive end of the floor.

The Pac-12 is justifiably known as the Conference of Champions. That its teams excel in national competition is undeniable; what is sometimes overlooked is the gauntlet that Pac-12 teams have to run in conference play just to reach the national stage. 

During the week of the Pac-12 championships, the top three women’s golf teams in the country (not the conference, the country) were Washington, UCLA, and USC. Yet Arizona won the hotly contested Pac-12 championship (with upstart Oregon finishing second), and then, a few weeks later, Stanford won the national championship.

At the UA, student-athletes have access to a range of programs and support. Among them is the nationally recognized Commitment to an Athlete’s Total Success program, known as CATS, which offers individualized academic tutoring and other services. 

Success on the field and in the classroom seem to go hand-in-hand for some teams.

The UA women’s soccer team placed 12 members on the Pac-12 Conference All-Academic team after their season ended in November. 

Rich Rodriguez has embarked on his third season as head coach of the Arizona Wildcats — attempting to win in the super-tough Pac-12 with yet another rookie quarterback. Rodriguez’s squads have put together back-to-back eight-win seasons, complete with bowl-game victories in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl and the AdvoCare V100 Bowl in 2012 and 2013. 

The 'Cats may have lost Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Ka’Deem Carey to the NFL, but Arizona will have perhaps the deepest corps of top receivers in all of college football.

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