1989 Arizona Wildcats football
Copper Bowl champion
Copper Bowl, W 17–10 vs. NC State
ConferencePacific-10 Conference
APNo. 25
Record8–4 (5–3 Pac-10)
Head coach
Offensive coordinatorRip Scherer (2nd season)
Defensive coordinatorLarry Mac Duff (3rd season)
Home stadiumArizona Stadium
← 1988
1990 →
1989 Pacific-10 Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team W   L   T W   L   T
No. 8 USC $ 6 0 1 9 2 1
No. 23 Washington 5 3 0 8 4 0
Oregon 5 3 0 8 4 0
No. 25 Arizona 5 3 0 8 4 0
Arizona State 3 3 1 6 4 1
Oregon State 3 4 1 4 7 1
Washington State 3 5 0 6 5 0
Stanford 3 5 0 3 8 0
UCLA 2 5 1 3 7 1
California 2 6 0 4 7 0
  • $ – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll

The 1989 Arizona Wildcats football team represented University of Arizona during the 1989 NCAA Division I-A football season. The offense scored 248 points while the defense allowed 178 points. Led by head coach Dick Tomey in his third season, the Wildcats played to an 8–4 record (5–3 in Pac-10) and participated in the first Copper Bowl which, ironically, was held at their home stadium. The Wildcats defeated North Carolina State in the bowl game.

Before the season

Arizona had completed the 1988 season with a 7–4 record, but missed out on a bowl game (likely due to losing to ranked teams as well as fewer bowls at the time). Fans believed that Tomey was building the team to success and the Wildcats entered 1989 with high expectations.[1] The team earned a top-20 ranking in the preseason.


September 2StanfordNo. 18KMSBW 19–348,712
September 9at Texas Tech*No. 20PrimeL 14–2435,940
September 16No. 6 Oklahoma*
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
PrimeW 6–350,931
September 23No. 11 WashingtonNo. 23
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
PrimeW 20–1750,935
September 30at OregonNo. 17PrimeL 10–1639,631
October 14No. 22 UCLA
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
ABCW 42–751,562
October 21at No. 15 Washington StateNo. 22PrimeW 23–2136,090
October 28Pacific (CA)*No. 17
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
KMSBW 38–1446,449
November 4at CaliforniaNo. 15ABCL 28–2929,000
November 11No. 9 USCdaggerNo. 25
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
ABCL 3–2452,606
November 25at Arizona StateESPNW 28–1074,926
December 31vs. NC State*
TBSW 17–1037,237
  • *Non-conference game
  • daggerHomecoming
  • Rankings from AP Poll released prior to the game

Game summaries

Texas Tech

The Wildcats (ranked 20th) visited Texas Tech for their first road game of the season after winning against Stanford to start the year. The Red Raiders were fired up in front of their home crowd and outplayed Arizona with a rushing attack for the upset victory.[2]


Arizona battled sixth-ranked Oklahoma in a home showdown. The game was mostly dominated by the defenses of both teams and led to the Wildcats and Sooners each scoring a single field goal. Late in the fourth quarter, Arizona drove into Sooner territory, and drilled a field goal in the closing seconds for a 6–3 upset victory and avenging the Wildcats’ loss to the Sooners in the previous season.[3] This remains the most recent meeting to date between Arizona and Oklahoma.


Riding high on their momentum after upsetting Oklahoma, the Wildcats faced off against Washington (ranked 11th). For the second game in a row, Arizona took its opponent down to the finish. They held the Huskies in check throughout most of the contest and scored a field goal as time expired to get the win.[4] It was the Wildcats’ second consecutive win over Washington that ended on a winning kick and their first win over the Huskies at home. Also, it was the second consecutive week that Arizona won against a ranked opponent with a last-second field goal.


After losing at Oregon, Arizona hosted UCLA (ranked 22nd). The Wildcats’ offense was too much for the Bruins, and Tomey picked up his first victory over them.[5]

Washington State

The Wildcats traveled to Pullman for a top-25 showdown against 15th-ranked Washington State. Arizona did enough to narrowly defeat the Cougars.[6]


Arizona traveled to Berkeley to visit California and paid their respects in the wake of the earthquake disaster that rocked the Bay Area and the nation three weeks prior.[7] An emotional Golden Bears team would rally from behind and barely got past the 15th-ranked Wildcats.[8] The loss ended all chances of contention for a potential Rose Bowl berth for Arizona.


On homecoming day, the Wildcats hosted ninth-ranked USC and former Arizona coach Larry Smith. Arizona was no match for the Trojans’ big talent and only managed one field goal against them in a loss and Tomey was outcoached by Smith yet again.[9] USC clinched the Pac-10 title and Rose Bowl berth with the win and prevented Arizona from getting a perfect home record.[10]

Arizona State

See also: Arizona-Arizona State football rivalry

To conclude the regular season, Arizona took a trip to Arizona State for the rivalry game. In an attempt to change their fortunes against the Wildcats, the Sun Devils wore gold jerseys in the game, making their uniforms all gold.[11]

However, in the game, ASU's uniform change didn't help any matters, as the Wildcats overcame an early deficit and dominated the second half on their way to yet another win to extend their dominance over ASU.[12][13]

Wildcat players reacted to Arizona State's gold uniforms by calling them “bananas”.[14] After the game, perhaps due to the loss, ASU decided that they would likely never wear the gold jerseys again for the foreseeable future, although they would wear them one last time in 1990 in a loss to USC.[15] In 2021, ASU would bring back the gold jerseys in a home win over Colorado and would completely wear all-gold against USC later that year.[16][17]

NC State (Copper Bowl)

Main article: 1989 Copper Bowl

See also: 1989 NC State Wolfpack football team

The Wildcats played in their first bowl game under Tomey. In the inaugural Copper Bowl that was held at their home stadium, Arizona faced NC State.[18] In front of a raucous crowd that mostly Arizona fans, the Wildcats narrowly got past the Wolfpack in a low-scoring affair.[19][20] The game was played on New Year's Eve and on the final day of the 1980s before turning to the 1990s. Also, the Copper Bowl was Arizona's first bowl win in the Tomey era.


Further information: 1989 NCAA Division I-A football rankings

Ranking movements
Legend: ██ Increase in ranking. ██ Decrease in ranking.
— = Not ranked. RV = Received votes. т = Tied with team above or below.

Team players drafted into the NFL

Player Position Round Pick NFL Club
Chris Singleton Linebacker 1 8 New England Patriots
Anthony Smith Defensive end 1 11 Los Angeles Raiders
Glenn Parker Tackle 3 69 Buffalo Bills
John Nies Punter 6 154 Buffalo Bills
Donnie Salum Linebacker 10 250 Atlanta Falcons


Season notes


  1. ^ "Wildcat football prepares for '89 season, hopes for more success". Arizona Daily Star. August 22, 1989.
  2. ^ "Texas Tech's ground game too much for UA". The Arizona Republic. September 10, 1989.
  3. ^ "Arizona stuns No. 6 Sooners". Arizona Daily Star. September 17, 1989.
  4. ^ "Wildcats edge Washington on last-second kick for second consecutive year". Arizona Daily Wildcat. September 25, 1989.
  5. ^ "Wildcats rout UCLA". Arizona Daily Star. October 15, 1989.
  6. ^ "Wildcats edge No. 15 Washington State". Tucson Citizen. October 22, 1989.
  7. ^ "Wildcats prepare to visit Cal, pay tribute to quake victims". Arizona Daily Star. November 1, 1989.
  8. ^ "Cal comes back to drop No. 15 Wildcats". Arizona Daily Wildcat. November 6, 1989.
  9. ^ "No. 9 USC takes down Arizona, seals Pac-10 title". Los Angeles Times. November 12, 1989.
  10. ^ "Trojans wrap up Rose Bowl berth; UA lacked big play, not big heart". Arizona Daily Star. November 12, 1989.
  11. ^ "ASU to go all gold vs. UA". The Arizona Republic. November 23, 1989.
  12. ^ "The Wildcats continue their dominance". Arizona Daily Star. November 26, 1989.
  13. ^ "Wildcats good as gold, again". The Arizona Republic. November 26, 1989.
  14. ^ "ASU uniforms looked like 'bananas' in Wildcats' win". Arizona Daily Wildcat. November 27, 1989.
  15. ^ "ASU football considering retirement of gold jerseys after loss to USC". The State Press. October 30, 1990.
  16. ^ "ASU unveils gold jerseys for home game against Colorado". The Arizona Republic. September 22, 2021.
  17. ^ "Gold rush: ASU to don all-gold vs. USC". The Arizona Republic. November 3, 2021.
  18. ^ "Home Bowl: Wildcats to play first Copper Bowl game at Arizona Stadium". Arizona Daily Wildcat. December 13, 1989.
  19. ^ "Wildcats win Copper Bowl, 17–10". Arizona Daily Star. January 1, 1990.
  20. ^ "Wildcats edge NC State in inaugural Copper Bowl on home field". Tucson Citizen. January 1, 1990.
  21. ^ "1990 NFL Draft Listing". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
  22. ^ "Wildcats can't afford to schedule tough non-conference football opponents due to high costs and fears over losing big". Tucson Citizen. May 18, 2004.
  23. ^ "UA hopes new logo will convey image of more than just athletic prowess". Arizona Daily Star. February 15, 1989.
  24. ^ "UA has new logo on Arizona Stadium midfield". Tucson Citizen. September 1, 1989.
  25. ^ "Copper Bowl will not be considered a home game for Wildcats". Arizona Daily Star. December 30, 1989.