Off-the-beaten-path storylines: Arizona Wildcats vs. Grambling State Tigers

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Random thoughts while wondering if Arizona will ever have a coach who will be around maybe not as long as legendary Eddie Robinson’s 55 years at Grambling but someday reach perhaps 20 years at least? …

— The late, great Robinson coached at Grambling — winning nine black college national titles — from 1941 to 1997. In that same time frame, Arizona was coached by, get this, 11 different coaches. Miles CasteelBob WinslowWarren WoodsonEd DohertyJim LaRueDarrell MudraBob WeberJim YoungTony MasonLarry SmithDick Tomey.

Tomey lasted the longest at 14 years, the only coach in Arizona history with double-digit years other than J.F. “Pop” McKale (who coached the football team for 16 seasons). Tomey could have been the football version of Lute Olson (24 years as the hoops coach) but he was forced out in 2000. What affected Tomey the most was his inability to build on the momentum of the 1994 Fiesta Bowl win over Miami and the 12-1 season of 1998. …

Tucson News Now

— Arizona wide receiver Vyron “Shun” Brown Jr., who earned a cat claw helmet sticker in our feature this week because he tackled a BYU kickpff returner inside the 20 last week, has a Grambling background. His father Vyron Brown Sr. played at Grambling as part of Robinson’s last recruiting class. The elder Brown later served as an assistant coach at his alma mater.

Shun Brown told Tucson News Now’s David Kelly (see video above) that he grew up in Shreveport, La., thinking he would become a Grambling Tiger someday.

— In a CollegeAD.com article I wrote last week, I touched on the subject of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) such as Grambling needing to play Division I opponents as “money games”. Some might view them as detrimental because of lopsided scores, including three blowouts last week between HBCU teams and Power 5 opponents.

Maryland beat Howard 52-13. Miami crushed Florida A&M 70-3. Duke blanked North Carolina Central 55-0. That’s a combined total of 177-16.


Last season, in the first week of such games, HBCU teams lost by a combined score 492-92 to Power 5 opponents. The paydays range from $500,000 to $1 million. Last year’s openers cost Big Ten teams a combined $12.9 million, according to ESPN.

Without these games, however, many of the HBCU programs will be forced to either disband or play at a club level, robbing the student-athletes of playing a full schedule of college football at a respectable level. Arizona may rout Grambling tomorrow night but the Tigers will experience a game against a Pac-12 opponent under the lights in a 55,000-seat stadium. The bottom line: The final score does not always matter when discussing a college student’s experience.

The sad part is not the blowouts but the trend of Power 5 teams not scheduling FCS opponents in order to strengthen their schedules for the College Football Playoff. That will lead to less opportunities for HBCU schools and other smaller colleges from these money games that keep their athletic programs somewhat afloat.

Arizona has played only one other HBCU program in its history, against South Carolina State in Rich Rodriguez’s first season of 2012. The Wildcats won that game 56-0.

— This game — and most likely next week’s against Hawaii — gives Rodriguez the opportunity to play more guys and keep his starters healthy for when No. 8 Washington comes to Tucson on Sept. 14 for the Pac-12 opener. Anu Solomon affected by a knee injury this week in practice likely means he won’t play as a precautionary measure and Brandon Dawkins will go against Grambling.

Fans who are critical of Solomon’s performance should not use this week and next as a barometer for what Dawkins can do running Rodriguez’s offense. The next two opponents are nothing close to what Arizona will see in the Pac-12. The tendency for many fans — and media for that matter — is to go way overboard on something that should come with a burning question. If Dawkins looks like a Heisman winner in the next two weeks, don’t get carried away, in other words.

This is Solomon’s offense, and his team, as a fourth-year junior. I believe Rodriguez and Solomon’s teammates — including Dawkins — appreciate that. It’s up to Dawkins to get a better grasp of the offense and make it a more difficult decision for Rodriguez to go with him instead of the veteran starter in Solomon.


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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