PHOENIX — Last month, Arizona announced a three-game football series with Brigham Young University that includes a neutral-site game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale in 2016, and UA athletic director Greg Byrne said Thursday the Wildcats could keep coming back if the game goes well.
“If it works well, we’ll give it another try,” Byrne said. “It’s got to make sense to where it doesn’t hurt Tucson, but it makes sense for us from a recruiting standpoint, which this does, (and) from a fan standpoint.”
Byrne said scheduling games in the Phoenix area must not detract from the team’s schedule in Tucson.
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The 2016 BYU game might not turn out to be Arizona’s first venture into the Phoenix market. The Las Vegas Review Journal reported Thursday that UNLV is in talks with UA to move this season’s Sept. 7 game, scheduled for Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, to University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. The move would involve a substantial financial payoff to UNLV, whose athletic director, Jim Livengood, preceded Byrne at Arizona.
Since Byrne arrived in 2010, UA has tried to strengthen its foothold in the Phoenix market. That was the goal of Thursday’s visit to Chase Field, part of the “Arizona Road Tour.”
“Phoenix is such a critical market for us,” Byrne said. “It’s our second largest alumni base. A lot students (from the Phoenix area) come down to UA, we recruit heavily in all our sports. We’ve got a lot of Wildcat Club members and season ticket holders (in Phoenix). We want that to continue to increase. Obviously there’s a lot of competition in the Phoenix market, but we think we’re part of that, and we’re going to try to be up here as much as we can be.”
Byrne also addressed a number of other topics in a session with local media. A couple highlights:
• On the ongoing independent investigation of Pac-12 basketball officiating after the Sean Miller/Ed Rush controversy: “I’m encouraged about where we’re going with this, that there’s an independent inquiry being done. We’re talking about the integrity of the game, and that’s very important. Not only is it important for our fan base (and) for the University of Arizona, but it’s important for the rest of the Pac-12 schools. I appreciated the fact that commissioner (Larry) Scott and Ed Ray, who’s the president of Oregon State and the chair of the CEOs, asked for this independent inquiry, and we’re interested to see what it says.”
• On the potential to go from a nine-game football schedule in the Pac-12 to eight: “I don’t see that happening. I think we’ll be with nine.”
• On UA’s forthcoming new uniforms, which are set to be revealed soon: “We’ve got a great partnership with Nike, and they’ve done some great things for us. We had to jump through a couple hoops on this thing because we’re doing a couple unique things, but we should have them announced here pretty quickly.”