As Sam Sees It<br>

Football season has begun and the first year of the new century promises to be a pivotal one for many Arizona teams. The gridders may not have gotten the attention they might have here had the Arizona Diamondbacks not been involved in a tight baseball pennant race. That will soon change as the regular baseball season ends on Oct. 1.

The team most under the gun is undoubtedly the Arizona Cardinals. Coach Vince Tobin is in the last year of his current contract. It may well take a winning season and possibly even a play-off appearance to save his job. (My hope is that he stays regardless. He is a good coach and lack of stability on the coaching staff has always been a major problem for this franchise.) That winning season would be quite an accomplishments given the injuries to key players suffered in exhibition games and the hold-outs by others that are all too prevalent with the Cardinals.

Quarterback Jake Plummer has been compared to the legendary Joe Montano. It is time to prove whether such comparisons are justified or just a pipe dream. Last season was certainly less than spectacular for the "Snake".

The most important date for the Cardinals, though, will be Nov. 7, Election Day. That is when the voters will decide whether to fund a new stadium for the team. In fact, they will be deciding whether Arizona will have an NFL team during the first half of the new century. If the stadium issue fails, the Cardinals will leave. Don't hold your breath waiting for an expansion team replacement either. They won't be coming any time soon, if at all.

The Arizona Wildcats enjoyed a great season in 1998 and were supposed to be national championship contenders last year. They didn't even qualify for a bowl game with a 6-6 record. Coach Dick Tomey may need to win to keep his job. His task, though, will not be as difficult as Tobin's.

The Arizona State Sun Devils were supposed to be championship contenders in 1998 and failed to even produce a winning season. Last year was better, but not by much. Now Coach Bruce Snyder may be finding his tenure threatened. The Devils have a legitimate All-American and one of the premier players in the land in tight end Todd Heap. They also have serious problems at the key quarterback position. How they solve those problems will go a long ways toward defining Snyder's success.

On the high school scene, Matt Gracey looks and sounds like a high quality football coach for the Winslow Bulldogs. He doesn't have to win a state or even a regional championship to prove it. The Bulldogs should have a winning season, though, that includes a trip to the play-offs. Look for this group to show improvement throughout the season and watch out next year.


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