Arizona Wildcats Return To Desert Swarm-Era Uniforms

The Arizona Wildcats announced this week that they will now wear their Desert Swarm throwback uniforms on a permanent basis, including a new road set that pays homage to the most-successful era in school history.

Under the guidance of legendary coach Dick Tomey, Arizona reached double-digit wins for the first time in 1993. The Wildcats’ defense limited opponents to less than 50 yards per game that season, which ended with a win over Miami (Fla.) in the Fiesta Bowl. When broadcaster Russ Francis likened Arizona’s style of defensive to the Persian Gulf War, the term “Desert Swarm” was born.

“It’s become kind of a standard at the University of Arizona as to how to play defense,” former safety Tony Bouie said. “When we first started being called the Desert Swarm, it was just a topic. It was just there. But it grew into an identity, and we accept it. It’s easier to play for an identity.”

In recent years, though, the Wildcats have had an identity crisis. They added gradients to their sleeves and numbers in 2013 that were meant to mimic a desert sunset and even had to modify the home set only one year in after the NCAA ruled the numbers illegible. 

Arizona then introduced new uniforms in 2017 that featured oversized numbers, wrap-around shoulder stripes and was paired with navy blue, white, red and chrome red helmets. Thus, it was especially notable when the Wildcats wore their Desert Swarm throwback uniforms for a game against Oregon State in 2019.

Those navy blue jerseys, which are the exact same as what Arizona unveiled this week, featured red and white stripes on the sleeves and a simple block number font. The helmet was white with a Block “A” on both sides an an assymetiral white and navy blue stripe down the center and on the sides of the white pants.

The new road uniforms, meanwhile, included a white jersey with the asymmetrical stripes on the sleeves. Like the teams in the early 1990s, the look is complete with solid blue pants that feature a “Cats” wordmark on the hip.

“I do believe in tradition,” first-year head coach Jedd Fisch said during Pac-12 Media Days on July 27. “I do believe in basics. I believe in being able to wear the same helmet for every game.”

The new uniforms will make their on-field debut when Arizona takes on BYU at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Sept. 4. The Cougars will be in royal blue from head to toe, which means the Wildcats will be in white jerseys. 

Photos courtesy of @ArizonaFBall on Twitter.