1976 Arizona Wildcats football
ConferenceWestern Athletic Conference
1976 record5–6 (3–4 WAC)
Head coach
Home stadiumArizona Stadium
← 1975
1977 →
1976 Western Athletic Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team W   L   T W   L   T
BYU + 6 1 0 9 3 0
Wyoming + 6 1 0 8 4 0
Arizona State 4 3 0 4 7 0
Utah 3 3 0 3 8 0
Arizona 3 4 0 5 6 0
New Mexico 3 4 0 4 7 0
Colorado State 2 4 0 6 5 0
UTEP 0 7 0 1 11 0
  • + – Conference co-champions

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.[1][2] 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.[3]

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.[4] Linebacker Obra Erby led the team with 174 total tackles.[5]

Before the season

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.[6]


September 11Auburn*W 31–19
September 18at No. 5 UCLA*L 9–37
September 25BYU
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
L 16–23
October 2at Northwestern*W 27–15
October 9UTEP
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
W 63–12
October 23at No. 8 Texas Tech*L 27–52
October 30at UtahW 38–35
November 6Wyoming
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
L 24–26
November 13Colorado State
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
W 23–6
November 20at New MexicoL 15–21
November 27Arizona State
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ (rivalry)
L 10–27
  • *Non-conference game
  • Rankings from Coaches' Poll released prior to the game

Game summaries


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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

New Mexico

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.[10] 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.[11]

Arizona State

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.[12] The loss ended the Wildcats’ season.


1976 Arizona Wildcats football team roster
Players Coaches
Pos. # Name Class
Pos. # Name Class
Special teams
Pos. # Name Class
K Lee Pistor
Head coach
Coordinators/assistant coaches

  • (C) Team captain
  • (S) Suspended
  • (I) Ineligible
  • Injured
  • Redshirt

After the season

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.[13] 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.[14]

Season notes


  1. ^ "1976 Arizona Wildcats Schedule and Results". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  2. ^ "Arizona Football 2016 Media Guide" (PDF). University of Arizona. 2016. p. 107. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  3. ^ "Young to leave Cats for Purdue". Arizona Daily Star. December 1, 1976.
  4. ^ "1976 Arizona Wildcats Stats". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  5. ^ 2016 Media Guide, p. 86.
  6. ^ "Wildcat football will look a lot different this fall". Arizona Daily Wildcat. August 27, 1976.
  7. ^ "Cats take down Tigers in opener". Tucson Daily Citizen. September 12, 1976.
  8. ^ "Arizona gets mauled by UCLA". Arizona Daily Star. September 19, 1976.
  9. ^ "Wildcats win big over Miners, 63–12". Arizona Daily Star. October 10, 1976.
  10. ^ "Kit Carson Rifle remains in Albuquerque as Lobos top Wildcats again". Albuquerque Journal. November 21, 1976.
  11. ^ "Arizona, New Mexico to retire Kit Carson Rifle". Arizona Daily Star. December 20, 1997.
  12. ^ "Devils earn another win against Wildcats". The Arizona Republic. November 28, 1976.
  13. ^ "Young hired by Purdue; Cats look for successor". Tucson Daily Citizen. December 1, 1976.
  14. ^ "Cats hire Cincinnati's Mason as football coach". Arizona Daily Star. December 16, 1976.