Blogs / Features
Jose GarciaMultimedia Journalist/Historian firstname.lastname@example.org
No. 2 in 100: AZ football makes the switch to leatherAug 28, 2012
It took some time and lobbying for Arizona’s big school football programs to finally say goodbye to their square wheel — a rubber football.
Before they played with the leather footballs they use today, Arizona’s big schools actually used rubber footballs up until about 1979. Big school coaches and players wanted to use leather footballs way before 1979 but were rebuffed by administrators who wanted to keep equipment costs down, said former Tempe McClintock and Phoenix Mountain Pointe coaching legend Karl Kiefer.
In the 1970s, a leather football cost about $8 more than a rubber football.
“It was ridiculous,” Kiefer said. “It was like playing in a playground with a rubber ball. We wanted to go to the big leagues.”
Arizona’s small schools in the rural areas reached the big leagues before the big schools did.
Because of bad weather conditions, the rural schools opted to use leather pigskins first. When wet, a rubber football was slippery, and when it was cold the rubber felt like a brick.
Other states also started using leather footballs before Arizona did, and the rubber footballs also kept college recruiters away from Arizona, Kiefer said.
“Stat wise we couldn’t stack up,” Kiefer said. “You had a higher completion rate throwing leather. You could also kick and punt it farther.”
To help them make the switch to leather, the big school coaches united and voiced their opinions.
Big schools had been using rubber balls since the first big school championship in 1959. But in the late 1970s the Arizona Interscholastic Association finally allowed the coaches to make the switch.
“It was a big achievement,” Kiefer said. “It changed Arizona football. We were more respected for our athletes.”
Throughout the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years aia365.com will celebrate the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s 100th anniversary by unveiling 100 of the top moments and people who helped shape the landscape of high school sports in Arizona. If you would like to recommend a story idea for this project, you can e-mail it to me or post it on our Facebook page.