1979 Arizona Wildcats football
Fiesta Bowl, L 10–16 vs. Pittsburgh
ConferencePacific-10 Conference
Record6–5–1 (4–3 Pac-10)
Head coach
Home stadiumArizona Stadium
← 1978
1980 →
1979 Pacific-10 Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team W   L   T W   L   T
No. 2 USC $ 6 0 1 11 0 1
No. 11 Washington 5 2 0 9 3 0
Arizona 4 3 0 6 5 1
Oregon 4 3 0 6 5 0
California 5 4 0 6 6 0
Stanford 3 3 1 5 5 1
Arizona State 3 4 0 6 6 0
UCLA 3 4 0 5 6 0
Washington State 2 6 0 3 8 0
Oregon State 1 7 0 1 10 0
  • $ – Conference champion
  • † – Arizona State later forfeited 5 wins (3 in conference) due to NCAA sanctions[1]
Rankings from AP Poll

The 1979 Arizona Wildcats football team represented the University of Arizona in the Pacific-10 Conference (Pac-10) during the 1979 NCAA Division I-A football season. In their third and final season under head coach Tony Mason, the Wildcats compiled a 6–5–1 record (4–3 in Pac-10, third), lost to Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl,[2] and outscored their opponents, 244 to 243.[3][4] The team played its home games on campus at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona.

Arizona's statistical leaders included Jim Krohn with 1,094 passing yards, Hubert Oliver with 1,021 rushing yards, and Tim Holmes with 319 receiving yards.[5] Linebacker Sam Giangardella led the team with 112 total tackles.[6]

Mason was dismissed as coach in April of 1980 in the wake of an alleged corruption scandal involving the program.[7][8][9]

Before the season

The Wildcats completed the 1978 season with a record of 5–6 in their inaugural year as a member of the Pac-10. With many players returning for the 1979 season, Mason believed that Arizona would be ready to compete in the Pac-10 and attempt to contend for a bowl appearance.[10]


September 1Colorado State*W 33–17
September 8at Washington StateW 22–7
September 15California
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
L 7–10
September 22Texas Tech*
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
T 14–14
September 29San Jose State*
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
W 38–18
October 13Oregon
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
W 24–13
October 20Stanford
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
L 10–30
November 3at No. 3 USCL 7–34
November 10at San Diego State*L 10–42
November 17Oregon Statedagger
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
W 42–18
November 24at Arizona StateW 27–24
December 25vs. No. 10 Pittsburgh*
NBCL 10–16
  • *Non-conference game
  • daggerHomecoming
  • Rankings from AP Poll released prior to the game


1979 Arizona Wildcats football team roster
Players Coaches
Pos. # Name Class
QB 5 Jim Krohn (C) Sr
  Hubert Oliver
Pos. # Name Class
Special teams
Pos. # Name Class
K Brett Weber
K Bill Zivic
Head coach
Coordinators/assistant coaches

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

Game summaries

Colorado State

Arizona began the year at home against Colorado State, who was a former conference opponent for the Wildcats in their later WAC years prior to leaving after the 1977 season. The Wildcats easily defeated the Rams to start the season with a win.[11]

Texas Tech

The Wildcats met Texas Tech for the ninth consecutive season. In a back and forth battle, both teams settled for a tie (overtime did not yet exist at the time). It was the first tie in the series since 1936.[12]

San Diego State

Arizona traveled to San Diego to face the Aztecs. It was the second consecutive game that the Wildcats played in California (they had lost at USC the week before). San Diego State had replaced Arizona as a member of the WAC before the season.

The Wildcats were no match for the Aztecs as they gave up six touchdowns in an ugly loss.[13]

Arizona State

In the rivalry game against Arizona State, the Wildcats did not have to deal with former ASU coach Frank Kush, who was dismissed earlier in the season due to an incident that involved on of his players.[14] Kush had dominated the Wildcats since he became coach in 1958, which led to the Sun Devils gaining the upper hand in the rivalry.

In the game itself, both teams were tied in the closing seconds. Wildcat kicker Brett Weber attempted a potential game-winning field goal, but missed it as time expired which would have ended the game in a tie. However, ASU was penalized for going offsides, in which it gave Weber a second chance. Weber then successfully converted the kick to give the Wildcats their first win in Tempe since 1961.[15] Weber's kick was known to Wildcat fans as “The Kick”.[16] The win guaranteed the Wildcats of a winning record for the first time in the Mason era.

Pittsburgh (Fiesta Bowl)

Main article: 1979 Fiesta Bowl

See also: 1979 Pittsburgh Panthers football team

In their first bowl game since 1968, Arizona took on Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl. Late in the game with the Wildcats trailing, they attempted a late rally but ultimately came up short.[17][18] The Wildcats never led at any point during the game. They would not return to the Fiesta Bowl again until 1994.

Season notes

After the season

Despite the Wildcats losing in the Fiesta Bowl, the future seemed bright for the program. However, in the spring of 1980, during the offseason, Mason was let go after it was determined that he allegedly committed recruiting fraud by misusing money for paying players.[20][21] After conducting a national coaching search, the Wildcats hired Tulane’s Larry Smith to lead the team.[22]


  1. ^ "2017 Media Guide" (PDF). thesundevils.com. ASU Athletics. p. 127. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  2. ^ "'Cats come up short in Fiesta Bowl". Arizona Daily Star. December 26, 1979.
  3. ^ "1979 Arizona Wildcats Schedule and Results". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  4. ^ "Arizona Football 2016 Media Guide" (PDF). University of Arizona. 2016. p. 107. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  5. ^ "1979 Arizona Wildcats Stats". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  6. ^ 2016 Media Guide, p. 86.
  7. ^ "Grid coach at Arizona forced out". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). wire service reports. April 7, 1980. p. 1C.
  8. ^ "Mason resigns from Arizona post". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. April 8, 1980. p. 19.
  9. ^ "Mason out as UA football coach in wake of alleged fraud scandal". Arizona Daily Star. April 7, 1980.
  10. ^ "UA football looks to win more in '79". Arizona Daily Star. May 12, 1979.
  11. ^ "Cats top ex-WAC foe Colorado State in season opener". Arizona Daily Star. September 2, 1979.
  12. ^ "Arizona, Texas Tech tie each other after defensive battle". Arizona Daily Star. September 23, 1979.
  13. ^ "Aztecs cruise to victory over Arizona". The San Diego Tribune. November 11, 1979.
  14. ^ "Wildcats relieved by no longer having to face longtime ASU coach". Tucson Citizen. November 23, 1979.
  15. ^ "'Cats nip ASU on freshman's field goal". Arizona Daily Star. November 25, 1979.
  16. ^ "The Kick: Wildcats sink Sun Devils with field goal on final play". Arizona Daily Wildcat. November 26, 1979.
  17. ^ "Pittsburgh has Fiesta in desert, defeats Arizona in bowl". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. December 26, 1979.
  18. ^ "No Fiesta celebration for Wildcats as they fall short against Pittsburgh in bowl". Arizona Daily Wildcat. January 14, 1980.
  19. ^ "No, Texas Tech is not joining the WAC as a result of scheduling Arizona each year". Arizona Daily Wildcat. October 20, 1976.
  20. ^ "Mason resigns amid recruiting incidents". Tucson Citizen. April 7, 1980.
  21. ^ "UA football coach Mason out after allegations of fraud". The Arizona Republic. April 7, 1980.
  22. ^ "UA picks Tulane's Smith as new football coach". The Arizona Republic. April 28, 1980.