The Arizona Wildcats will be in Tempe Friday night to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils on the basketball court.
When the game is over and they head back to Tucson, though, the school’s presence will remain.
A guest of Doug and Wolf’s on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday as part of Newsmakers Week, Arizona Athletic Director Greg Byrne said the greater Phoenix area is critical for the school.
Even though Arizona State University, the school’s rival, considers the location home.
“Oh I’m sure they like it,” Byrne said with a smile.
In all seriousness, the goal is not to infringe on ASU’s turf as much as it is to reach one of the broadest bases of Wildcat fans in the country.
“Obviously our rivals are right here and there are a lot of fans and a lot of support here,” Byrne said. “We get that, we understand that and respect that.
“At the same time, too, we have a lot of alums, we have a lot of recruits, we have a lot of future students and current students who are from the area. It would be irresponsible if we weren’t up here on a regular basis.”
So, along with billboards saying “This is Wildcat Country” being placed all over the Valley, Byrne and the Wildcats have also brought football practices and various alumni events to the area. And in 2016, the Wildcats will face off with BYU in a football game at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Byrne added that there have been talks with other schools to agree to a basketball series, with one of the games being played in Phoenix, but haven’t found anything that makes sense.
“That’s something we’d like to do in time,” he said.
It’s all part of building the brand. Byrne, who earned his bachelor’s degree in 1994 from the school he’s now a rival of, said it’s important for the Wildcats to remain aggressive in trying to reach out to the Phoenix-area market.
“We will continue to be aggressive in Phoenix and Maricopa County,” he said. “It’s good for our university, it’s good for everything that we’re a part of up here.
“And I think there’s a lot of fans that enjoy it and appreciate it.”