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Jedd Fisch: "Champions have to behave like champions before they become champions."

Unburdened by a 1-11 debut season, Jedd Fisch and Arizona are living in the future.

It's not as difficult as one might think to recruit coming off a 1-11 season. Or at least not that difficult so long as it's your first year as a head coach.

In 2013, PJ Fleck went 1-11 at Western Michigan. That February, he signed the highest-rated recruiting class in MAC history.

Jedd Fisch pulled off something similar this past winter. On the heels of a 1-11 season, Arizona's 2022 recruiting class didn't set a Pac-12 record, but it may well have been the best class ever signed by a 1-11 Power 5 team. The Wildcats finished third in the Pac-12 and 22nd in the nation, ahead of Peach Bowl champion Michigan State. The 23-man class was entirely 4- and 3-stars, with five future 'Cats in the former group, including 4-star wideout Tetairoa McMillan, the highest-rated recruit in program history. And that doesn't even count the nine transfers, seven of them from Power 5 schools. 

The 2022 class scored as Arizona's best since 2006, per the 247Sports Composite ratings. 

So good was Arizona's class that opponents started negative recruiting Arizona. Negative recruiting! Arizona!

"I've heard a lot of coaches tell our recruits that we're an off-season team," Fisch said at Pac-12 media day on Friday. "I would say this: we have had a great off-season, and I appreciate them recognizing that."

While no one would ever recommend a 1-11 season, if you are going to go 1-11, your debut's the time to do it. A 1-11 debut season is an indictment on the past. It's evidence for a verdict that's already been rendered. A brand-new head coach is living in the future.

"I believe that everything is in front of us," Fisch said. "Champions have to behave like champions before they become champions. We've asked our players to behave like 'em, and now it's our job and it's our goal to be better this season than we were last and continue to build off of our off-season."

On that front, Fisch brought in guest speakers to explain, live and in the flesh, how champions behave. "We brought Bill Belichick into Tucson, Sean McVay to Tucson, Steve Spurrier to Tucson, to talk to our players," he said. It didn't stop there. Fisch's staff boasts 150 years' worth of NFL experience, and they put it to use over the offseason.

"Our players have heard from Zach Taylor, from Jim Nagy at the Senior Bowl, from LeCharles Bentley at the NFLPA, (former Jets GM) Mike Tannenbaum and (former Browns GM) Mike Lombardi over the last seven weeks," he said. "We believe our guys need to know and hear what it's like to be a pro, what the program should look like."

Another resource Arizona has leaned into: cash. Fisch said Arizona has spent $15 million over his tenure on facilities, and on Thursday Arizona's NIL collective -- Friends of Wilbur and Wilma -- was classified as a 501(c)(3). Arizona is also one of a handful of schools (two, Fisch claimed) to pay Wildcat athletes $5,980 per year for good grades, as is now permitted per the Supreme Court's decision in the Alston v. NCAA case. 

Given all that, Jedd Fisch is the most excited 1-11 head coach the world will ever see. (Well, except for maybe Fleck.) He used the word "excited" seven times in his opening statement alone. After his 1-11 debut, Fleck went 8-5 in Year 2. By Year 4, he won the MAC and played in the Cotton Bowl. 

"We're excited about all these things that have occurred between November 26th and today," Fisch said. "When we get started on Wednesday in training camp, it's now time to build off of those successes."