Apathy has set in

Brad Allis

They did. On the very next snap Utah scored. I am not sure which touchdown it was, maybe it was the second, possibly the third. I know it was not the fifth, because I had left the game by then, but so had 20,000 other fans.

Most of the fans left a long time ago. I might even argue many of the fans left a few coaches ago.

I sat in Arizona Stadium and noticed something was missing…anger. Anger, passion, excitement. The fact is, no one seems to care much about Arizona football. When things were bad in the past, think John Mackovic, people were mad. People came to the stadium to boo.

Arizona is a bad football team and no one seems to care. Nearly a decade of the Athletic Department and football program ignoring the public has come to roost. Kevin Sumlin has done little to inspire or motivate a fanbase. Rich Rodriguez had some good one-liners, dressed like James Bond and did a dance at the 50-yard line but closed off the program to the average fan.

Dick Tomey had bag lunches at the student union and trotted out interesting kid after interesting kid to the media. Mike Stoops had fall camp open to the public and knew how to market his kids to the public. We liked Tedy Bruschi, we liked Antoine Cason, we like Spencer Larsen.

Who do we like now?

We got to know kids and coaches. We knew about Tedy Bruschi and his mullet riding around campus on a Honda scooter. We knew about Jason Johnson’s grandfather being a record setting college coach. We knew about the goofiness of the Gronkowski brothers. We knew about Steve McLaughlin playing in rock bands or Adrian Koch serving in the military. We knew about Spencer Larsen’s faith and that Willie Tuitama and Terry Longbons literally stopped a crime near campus.

Quick, tell me one thing about JJ Taylor or Collin Schooler.

Coaches were characters. Players were larger than life, yet relatable. Who didn’t love Richard Dice or Brandon Sanders? Darrell Brooks was a PR dream who could speak on anything from a crushing defeat, to an upset win, to the death of a freshman he barely knew.

Today we get secrecy and mistrust. We have a half empty stadium. Heck, even when RichRod was on his way to 10-wins and the Fiesta Bowl, tickets were easy to get. You had a wide-open brand of high scoring football and people were still not coming to the games the way they did for the .500 teams of Mike Stoops. Some of that was the easier nature of watching game in the modern era where everything is televised, but a lot was the overall presentation.

Whether Kevin Sumlin is the coach or not, things need to change. The gameday atmosphere is not great. Long commercial breaks made longer with the same silly sponsored games and awkward endzone presentations.

The marketing of the program has been strange. Let us get to know the players and coaches. Open more things up, not close off more things to the public. The veil of secrecy is one thing if you are competing for a Pac-12 championship, but right now the program is barely competing for bowls.

Let us watch practice, at least in the preseason and occasionally in the spring. Even under Mackovic 20-100 fans would come out and watch practice at the old fields on Plumer Ave.

Let the media meet the players. Let’s create characters and legends. Why do people love old players like Chuck Cecil, Jay Dobbins, Keith Smith and Rickey Hunley? Sure they were great, but we also felt like we knew them. We could relate to the walk-on from Helix High. We saw Dobbins play down the street at Sahuaro. We knew all about Smith’s baseball career.

Mostly, make things seem like fun. We need coaches and administrators who make it seem like they are happy to be here. We want to see the coaches in the community. We want to see the coaches embrace the fans and the city.

We want to feel like they care about Tucson like we want to care about them.

Until then, you’ll get what you had Saturday night. When the Wildcats failed to go for it on fourth and short near midfield about three people in our sections booed. The rest had no reactions. Apathy had set in. 

Comments (12)
No. 1-11
Steve Buchanan
Steve Buchanan

Editor

The rumblings and disappointment among Arizona football fans is reaching the Mackovic levels. Apathy is the correct verbiage.

wildcat4evr
wildcat4evr

Why in the world did Dave Heeke get an extension? Name one thing he has done ...one thing! I agree it is on Sumlin this secrecy - but it is on Miller too and especially on IMG. The athletic department needs to quit thinking what they are doing is working..it is not! They have a "formula" from 12 years ago and they wont change it. Heeke has no guts to open up ALL coaches and players to the media and the public. The AD smugness and "corporate" emails every Wednesday hide the fact they have lost the Tucson public.

Rockdoc
Rockdoc

i had no idea we would be in such a rut for so long. how many coaches, ADs and building have we gone thru? its painful to wait all week knowing i am afraid of what i will see on gameday. the few games we won i thought, maybe, finally? but something didnt seem right. now it seems like i am gonna have to wait another few years and hope. how sad will it be if no one is around to remember how we used to be.

kansas west? or beardown

Gary Randazzo
Gary Randazzo

Editor

Another factor worth considering is the role of IMG as the UofA's leading marketing provider. Since IMG, there has definitely been a push toward national over local. I totally get it, but in a true college town like Tucson, with a ton of local flavor, you can't lose sight of what's happening in your own backyard. It feels like they have.

mrzipityduda
mrzipityduda

Ever notice that almost all photos of Sumlin: looks like he has something foreign in his stomach??

mrzipityduda
mrzipityduda

Brad..yeah it did star with Coach " O" cause I was there when it was stared or stopped. I WOULD RECOGNIZE GG..but no others. As to that thought, we all knew Bruschi, Hunley.etc. . Sad but true. I miss those days.

Gary Randazzo
Gary Randazzo

Editor

It's a great topic, Brad, and something you and I have discussed in our years covering UofA together. I remember there was a media outlet that was snapping wide angle photos at practice and putting them online for everyone to see, including Arizona opponents. There's a media guy in the paper up North that has burned so many bridges the Athletics Department simply stopped talking to him. Other incidents that made the media look bad that it simply became easier for the Athletics Department to close things off, like under Rich Rod. Then there's basketball where Sean Miller decided that in order to gain national attention, it was only the national media worth talking to (ironically, ESPN burned him, so maybe there's a lesson there).

Regardless, closing off the football program to the fans and media is never a good idea. It's an endless cycle of the coaching staff and Athletics Department "controlling" the message, so things sound like the program is improving in the off season and next year is going to be better than the last, without anyone actually seeing or experiencing or reporting on specific player improvements. Then, the actual games start and nothing on the field looks like what the Program has been saying for months.

It basically leads to one big mistrust of the Program, and gives a green light for the media and fans to become skeptical. It's like crying wolf. You can only really do it once before the media and fans start to ignore you. The general public has been sold a false bill of goods for so long now, no one is buying anything.

Wineknow
Wineknow

"Most of the fans left a long time ago. I might even argue many of the fans left a few coaches ago." Absolutely classic

mrzipityduda
mrzipityduda

In a way, Miller hasn't done much to present the kids to the public. The reason they are ever-present in the media is: They are good and in small numbers, so we are able to see their faces. Miller has closed off practices. I remember going to McKale and watching practices weekly. and there were always over 50-60 people there watching. It was fun. It got you attached. Before I die I am going to ask CSM to let me into practice. Just because of one player,. that we know of, was confronted by money-grubbing agent doesn't mean that that will happ[en again. Oh sure, it will happen again....but not because he stopped the curious fans from being inside watching their team. PS..You said it all Brad....

Wineknow
Wineknow

WOW - GREAT perspective Brad! I had not considered that aspect, but you are totally right. Schooler would be front and center...

Ct33
Ct33

Need to clean house in Tucson.


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