Apathy has set in
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.