MONDAY, MARCH 17BLOODBATH AT MCKALE: Coach O is coming back, but Coach B is out of here! UA Athletic Director Jim Livengood fires women's basketball coach Joan Bonvicini on the heels of three straight losing seasons. (Are you paying attention, Mike Stoops?) Bonvicini, whose team went 10-20 this year (4-14 Pac-10), was 287-223 in her 17-year UA career.
ON THE RADIOACTIVE ENVIRONMENT BEAT: Congressman Raúl Grijalva introduces a bill to prevent uranium mining near the Grand Canyon's South Rim. The Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act of 2008 would block mining on roughly 1 million acres in the Kaibab National Forest.
TUESDAY, MARCH 18TODAY, THERE'S GONNA BE A JAILBREAK: Three female inmates facing minor charges slip out the back door of the Pima County Jail while working in the jail's commissary. On the lam: Jennifer Kay Bachie, 28, who had been in since Jan. 6 because she failed to appear in court on a marijuana-possession charge; Jessica Lynn Hubble, 32, who had been in jail since Jan. 20 on charges related to possession of drug paraphernalia; and Katrina Francine Ochoa, 24, who had been in jail since Feb. 24 because she violated probation stemming from charges of trafficking in stolen property.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19NABBED: One of our Pima County Jail escapees, already weary of life on the run, turns herself in. Jessica Hubble calls police from a fast-food restaurant on the westside and waits for them to take her back to jail. She now faces escape charges.
THURSDAY, MARCH 20LEND US YOUR EARMARKS: Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords releases her list of earmarks for the upcoming fiscal year. On her $120 million list: $43 million for the urban streetcar to run between the UA and downtown Tucson, $7 million to study commuter rail between Tucson and Phoenix, and $14.5 million for a fire/crash-rescue station at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Our favorite: $2 million to upgrade the UA's aging aerodynamic wind tunnel, which is "used for testing by university faculty engaged in (Department of Defense)-funded research as well as by Fort Huachuca and defense contractors in Arizona such as Raytheon, Boeing Mesa, Honeywell and Advanced Ceramics Research." The firms are now forced to outsource all their wind-tunnel research to other states with more advanced wind tunnels.
DEADBEAT FEDS: Gov. Janet Napolitano sends her annual letter to the U.S. Justice Department complaining that the state didn't get enough money to cover the costs of incarcerating illegal immigrants through the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. Napolitano estimates that the feds owe the state $448,565,761.83 dating back to 2002. The figure includes nearly $9 million in interest charges.
STILL LEADING THE NATION: The U.S. Census Bureau brings us the news that Pinal County was the fastest-growing county in the United States, if you don't count two Louisiana parishes, St. Bernard and Orleans, where residents are returning after leaving in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Pinal County grew by more than 11 percent between July 2006 and July 2007, according to Census estimates.
In raw numbers, Maricopa County leads the nation. Our northern neighbor added 102,000 new desert-dwellers.
ONE AND DONE: The Arizona men's basketball team's season comes to a merciful end with a first-round defeat the NCAA tournament as the West Virginia Mountaineers crush the Wildcats, 75-65. The big question remaining for the Wildcats: How can interim coach Kevin O'Neill gracefully exit as Lute Olson returns?
FRIDAY, MARCH 21ROAD CLOSED: The State Transportation Board drops the ludicrous plan for an I-10 bypass through the San Pedro Riparian Area. Transportation Board members agree to continue talk about other options for transportation corridors, even though there's no money for any of these projects.
ON THE HIGH-ENERGY ELECTROMAGNETIC RAILGUN BEAT: Congressman Raúl Grijalva releases his list of $474 million in earmarked funding requests for the upcoming budget year while acknowledging that most of them won't get approved. Among the big-ticket items: $174 million for rebuilding the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, $43 million for that downtown Tucson urban streetcar and $10 million for a Raytheon program to develop a defense system against handheld missiles launched at passenger planes. Our favorite request: $9.5 million for "development of a 'National' High-Energy Electromagnetic Railgun Test Range and Evaluation Center."
Grijalva's office reports: "There is a critical need to establish a National High-Energy Hypervelocity Electromagnetic Railgun Test Range and Evaluation Center to demonstrate and validate recent scientific and technical breakthroughs in the development of EM launch technology and provide full-scale testing for hypervelocity electromagnetic railguns and novel kinetic energy projectiles for DoD direct fire, non-line of sight and space launch applications, demonstrating revolutionary new electromagnetic launch capabilities."
SATURDAY, MARCH 22NABBED, PART II: Pima County Jail escapee Jennifer Bachie is captured by Tucson police after they're tipped off by an anonymous call to 88-CRIME. Bachie had caught a ride in a white pickup when police pull the vehicle over near Fort Lowell and Oracle roads.
Sgt. James Ogden of the Pima County Sheriff's Department tells The Range that the remaining escapee, Katrina Francine Ochoa, "might as well turn herself in, because it's just a matter of time before we catch her."
AQUAMANIA: The UA swim team helps boost the spirits of disappointed UA fans by capturing its first national title in the NCAA Swimming Championships in Columbus, Ohio. UA Coach Frank Busch is honored as coach of the swim meet.