|1976 Arizona Wildcats football|
|Conference||Western Athletic Conference|
|1976 record||5–6 (3–4 WAC)|
|Home stadium||Arizona Stadium|
|1976 Western Athletic Conference football standings|
The 1976 Arizona Wildcats football team represented the University of Arizona in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) during the 1976 NCAA Division I football season. In their fourth and final season under head coach Jim Young, the Wildcats compiled a 5–6 record (3–4 against WAC opponents), finished in a tie for fifth place in the WAC, and outscored their opponents, 283 to 273. The team played its home games in Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona. Young left Arizona to become head coach at Purdue after the season concluded.
The team's statistical leaders included Marc Lunsford with 1,284 passing yards, Derriak Anderson with 506 rushing yards, and Keith Hartwig with 1,134 receiving yards. Linebacker Obra Erby led the team with 174 total tackles.
Arizona finished the 1975 season with a 9–2 record and missed out on a WAC championship by narrowly losing to Arizona State in the finale. During the offseason, the Wildcats had to replace several starters from the 1975 team due to graduation. When the preseason began, Young still believed that the team would compete for the WAC title despite a rebuilding process.
|September 11||Auburn*||W 31–19|
|September 18||at No. 5 UCLA*||L 9–37|
|September 25||BYU||L 16–23|
|October 2||at Northwestern*||W 27–15|
|October 9||UTEP||W 63–12|
|October 23||at No. 8 Texas Tech*||L 27–52|
|October 30||at Utah||W 38–35|
|November 6||Wyoming||L 24–26|
|November 13||Colorado State||W 23–6|
|November 20||at New Mexico||L 15–21|
|November 27||Arizona State||L 10–27|
The Wildcats began the season with their home opener against Auburn. The game was a rematch of the 1968 Sun Bowl, a game in which Auburn won. This time, in front of their home crowd, Arizona was able to get past the Tigers for the win. To date, this remains Arizona's first and only win against an SEC team.
In their road opener, Arizona traveled to UCLA, who was ranked fifth at the time. The Wildcats struggled on both sides of the ball, and could only muster nine points in an ugly loss. The Bruins would be a future conference opponent for the Wildcats, as Arizona (and Arizona State) would join the Pac-8 Conference (which was then called the Pac-10) two years later.
Against UTEP, the Wildcats scored a season-high 63 points as the team played their best all game long.
Arizona traveled to Albuquerque to take on the New Mexico and was hoping to avenge their loss to the Lobos in the previous year that ended the Wildcats’ chances of an undefeated season. The Wildcats would fight hard and would ultimately come up short against the Lobos. It would be the last time that the Kit Carson Rifle trophy would reside in Albuquerque, as the Wildcats would regain it the following season and would hold possession of it until the rifle's retirement in 1997.
In the state's annual rivalry game, Arizona looked to get revenge on Arizona State after the Sun Devils defeated the Wildcats in the previous year to capture the WAC title. In this season, Arizona State (who was struggling all season long) would outplay a depleted Wildcat squad to earn yet another rivalry win and kept bragging rights for the state. The loss ended the Wildcats’ season.
|1976 Arizona Wildcats football team roster|
Days after losing the season finale to ASU, Young was hired by Purdue to become their new head coach, as Purdue was struggling to win games and Young wanting more money. It marked a return to the Big Ten for Young, as he had ties to the conference by coaching the defense at Michigan prior to being hired at Arizona in 1973. Arizona would hire Cincinnati coach Tony Mason to take over the program in 1977.