1982 Arizona Wildcats football
ConferencePacific-10 Conference
Record6–4–1 (4–3–1 Pac-10)
Head coach
Home stadiumArizona Stadium
← 1981
1983 →
1982 Pacific-10 Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team W   L   T W   L   T
No. 5 UCLA $ 5 1 1 10 1 1
No. 7 Washington 6 2 0 10 2 0
No. 6 Arizona State 5 2 0 10 2 0
No. 15 USC 5 2 0 8 3 0
Arizona 4 3 1 6 4 1
California 4 4 0 7 4 0
Stanford 3 5 0 5 6 0
Washington State 2 4 1 3 7 1
Oregon 2 6 0 2 8 1
Oregon State 0 7 1 1 9 1
  • $ – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll

The 1982 Arizona Wildcats football team represented the University of Arizona in the Pacific-10 Conference (Pac-10) during the 1982 NCAA Division I-A football season. In their third season under head coach Larry Smith, the Wildcats compiled a 6–4–1 record (4–3–1 against Pac-10 opponents), finished in fifth place in the Pac-10, and outscored their opponents, 311 to 219.[1][2] The team played its home games in Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona. Despite a winning record, the Wildcats did not appear in a bowl game, as they self-imposed a postseason ban due to NCAA violations prior to Smith becoming coach in 1980 (see below).

Memorable highlights of the season included a big road win at Notre Dame and a huge upset of rival Arizona State which denied ASU a chance to potentially play in the Rose Bowl.

The team's statistical leaders included Tom Tunnicliffe with 2,520 passing yards, Vance Johnson with 443 rushing yards, and Brad Anderson with 870 receiving yards.[3] Linebacker Ricky Hunley led the team with 173 total tackles.[4]

Before the season

Arizona completed the 1981 season with a 6–5 record, highlighted by a huge road upset victory over USC. The Wildcats entered 1982 with high hopes that they were contenders for the Pac-10 title, with fans crediting Smith for rebuilding the program.[5]

However, despite Smith rebuilding the team, the Wildcats have been embroiled in a scandal that happened in the late 1970s under Smith’s predecessor Tony Mason. Both the NCAA and the Pac-10 investigated and determined that Arizona operated a slush fund which involved Mason that paid players cash, which turned out to be fraudulent, and the Wildcats were put on probation as a result.[6] As NCAA sanctions were soon to be handed out, Arizona decided to self-impose a postseason ban for the 1982 season as punishment, which meant that they would become ineligible for the Pac-10 title and Rose Bowl appearance.[7] The NCAA would eventually ban the Wildcats from bowl games in 1983 and 1984, respectively.


1982 Arizona Wildcats football team roster
Players Coaches
Pos. # Name Class
TE 83 Mark Keel Sr
QB Tom Tunnicliffe
Pos. # Name Class
LB 46 John Kaiser Jr
Special teams
Pos. # Name Class
K 13 Max Zendejas Fr
Head coach
Coordinators/assistant coaches

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


September 11Oregon StateKZAZW 38–12
September 18No. 1 Washington
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
ABCL 13–23
September 25Iowa*
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
CBSL 14–17
October 9at No. 8 UCLAABCT 24–24
October 16at No. 9 Notre Dame*ESPNW 16–13
October 23Pacific*
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
KZAZW 55–7
October 30at Washington StateW 34–17
November 6at StanfordNo. 23USAW 41–27
November 13No. 16 USCdaggerNo. 20
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
ESPNL 41–48
November 20at OregonL 7–13
November 27No. 6 Arizona State
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ (rivalry)
USAW 28–18
  • *Non-conference game
  • daggerHomecoming
  • Rankings from AP Poll released prior to the game

Game summaries


Iowa at Arizona
1 234Total
Hawkeyes 0 773 17
Wildcats 0 1400 14
  • Date: September 26
  • Location: Arizona StadiumTucson, Arizona
  • Elapsed time: 2:35
  • Game attendance: 41,353
  • Game weather: 90° F, Partly cloudy, Wind 6 mph

See also: 1982 Iowa Hawkeyes football team

Arizona faced Iowa at home. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes on the road in coach Smith's first season in 1980. A late Iowa field goal in the fourth quarter decided the game, and led to an Arizona loss.[8]


See also: 1982 UCLA Bruins football team

Arizona visited UCLA and played at the Rose Bowl for the first time ever (UCLA began playing home games here this season after decades playing at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, sharing with USC). Both the Wildcats and Bruins fought tough and the game ultimately ended in a tie.[9] The Bruins would go on to win the Pac-10 and play in the Rose Bowl at home.

Notre Dame

Arizona at Notre Dame
1 234Total
Wildcats 0 0610 16
Fighting Irish 10 003 13

See also: 1982 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team

On the road at Notre Dame, the Wildcats and Irish battled back and forth and the game came down to the last play. With the score tied, Arizona got into Irish territory. Kicker Max Zendejas kicked a 48-yard field goal as time expired to win the game, and Smith and the Wildcats earned yet another win over a top-10 ranked team (Notre Dame was ranked ninth), as well as defeating the Irish for the first and only time in school history.[10] To date, this remains the last time that both Arizona and Notre Dame would meet on the football field.

Similar to the 1981 win over USC, fans greeted the Wildcats with celebrations at the Tucson airport when they returned home hours after the game concluded.[11][12]


USC at Arizona
1 234Total
Trojans 3 21177 48
Wildcats 10 10714 41

See also: 1982 USC Trojans football team

On homecoming weekend, the Wildcats hosted USC. Arizona had upset the Trojans in the previous year and were looking to make it two wins in a row against them. However, USC capitalized on the Wildcats’ mistakes throughout the game, including returning three interceptions for touchdowns, which set an NCAA record, and Arizona never recovered afterwards, despite rallying in the fourth quarter and ultimately coming up short as the Trojans held on for the win.[13][14][15]

Arizona State

See also: 1982 Arizona State Sun Devils football team and Arizona-Arizona State football rivalry

Going into the rivalry matchup against Arizona State, the Wildcats looked to spoil the Sun Devils’ chances for a possible Rose Bowl berth (ASU needed a win or tie against Arizona to punch their ticket to Pasadena). Arizona would blitz ASU all night, and the Wildcat defense recorded a pair of safeties and the offense connected on two long touchdown passes to help the Wildcats upset Arizona State and denied the Sun Devils a berth in the Rose Bowl. It was the Wildcats' first win over ASU at home since 1974 and the victory also began a reign of dominance against the Devils after being dominated by ASU throughout most of the previous two decades.[16][17][18][19] After the game, fans rushed the field and tore down the Arizona Stadium goal posts by celebrating the Wildcats knocking their rivals out of the Rose Bowl.[20] The win gave Arizona a sixth win of the year and became bowl-eligible. However, the Wildcats had self-imposed a bowl ban prior to the start of the season.[21]

Awards and honors

Season notes


  1. ^ "1982 Arizona Wildcats Schedule and Results". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  2. ^ "Arizona Football 2016 Media Guide" (PDF). University of Arizona. 2016. p. 107. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  3. ^ "1982 Arizona Wildcats Stats". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  4. ^ 2016 Media Guide, p. 86.
  5. ^ "UA football looks to compete for Pac-10 title in '82". Tucson Citizen. May 17, 1982.
  6. ^ "UA football program still dogged by scandal". Arizona Daily Star. July 10, 1982.
  7. ^ "UA football self-imposes bowl ban for season as NCAA sanctions near". Arizona Daily Star. August 2, 1982.
  8. ^ "Cats come up short against Iowa". Arizona Daily Star. September 26, 1982.
  9. ^ "Wildcats miss chance late, ties UCLA in first visit to Rose Bowl". Tucson Citizen. October 10, 1982.
  10. ^ "Another upset: Cats down No. 9 Irish on last-second FG". Arizona Daily Star. October 17, 1982.
  11. ^ "Tucson goes wild again after Wildcats win over Notre Dame". Tucson Citizen. October 17, 1982.
  12. ^ "Wildcats return to Tucson airport amid fan celebrations after big upset win over Fighting Irish". Arizona Daily Wildcat. October 18, 1982.
  13. ^ "Trojans top Arizona on INT returns". Los Angeles Times. November 14, 1982.
  14. ^ "Turnovers doom Wildcats in loss to Trojans". Arizona Daily Star. November 14, 1982.
  15. ^ "Wildcats late rally falls short against USC; UA can't overcome INTs in loss". Tucson Citizen. November 14, 1982.
  16. ^ "UA wilts ASU Rose bid, 28–18". Arizona Daily Star. November 28, 1982.
  17. ^ "Scratched out: ASU chokes on Rose hopes with a little help from Tucson". The Arizona Republic. November 28, 1982.
  18. ^ "Wildcats thwart Devils' shot at roses in big upset win". Arizona Daily Wildcat. November 29, 1982.
  19. ^ "A rivalry game and a victory: How the Wildcats took down ASU". Arizona Daily Star. November 28, 1982.
  20. ^ "Cats knock Devils out of Rose Bowl, Tucson goes crazy once more". Tucson Citizen. November 28, 1982.
  21. ^ "Win over ASU was UA's bowl game despite self-imposed ban". Arizona Daily Star. November 29, 1982.
  22. ^ "Wildcat football can compete with powerhouse schools on the field". Arizona Daily Star. July 23, 2012.
  23. ^ "Mad Max: Wildcat kicker Zendejas was a 'Road Warrior' in 1982 season". Arizona Daily Star. December 2, 1982.
  24. ^ "Wildcats throw ASU's Rose Bowl dreams in the trash after upset win". Tucson Citizen. November 29, 1982.
  25. ^ "Desert Wars: How Wildcats denied mighty Devils' shot for roses". Arizona Daily Wildcat. November 29, 1982.
  26. ^ "NCAA could punish Arizona football soon, could affect future of program". Arizona Daily Star. January 18, 1983.
  27. ^ "Recapping the Wildcats season using 1982 films". Arizona Daily Star. December 5, 1982.