By Brian Savitch
KEVIN KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
A section of fans at Arizona Stadium shakes keys in anticipation of a kickoff. One of the only Arizona football traditions, the jingling of keys prior to every kickoff seems to be a mystery to fans, players and even longtime employees of the school's athletic department.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday October 1, 2002
The story, or lack thereof, behind the shaking of the keys
Ryan Slack focuses his attention elsewhere,Jim Livengood thinks it's the greatest thing in the world and Clarence Farmer thinks it's not loud enough.
It's key shaking: Probably 75 percent of the fans do it during every kickoff at UA home football games, but the tradition's origins are murky at best.
Not even Livengood, Arizona's athletic director, knows how it started.
But the long-running Arizona football tradition has been one of the program's only legacies.
It seems for each handful of key-ringers, there is a different story or reason behind it.
Phoebe Chalk, the associate athletic director for public relations, said she knows what it means.
"It's time to go home, the game is over, the team we're playing is losing," Chalk said. "I remember that they used to do it when I was a student here, and if it creates a lot of noise and gets people going, then it works."
But even Chalk isn't certain about the origins of this tradition.
"I believe the students started it years ago and that's all I know," she said.
Even the Wildcat football players aren't quite sure where the tradition started or came from.
Farmer, the Wildcats' junior tailback, said he is rather shocked with Chalk's meaning.
"Are you serious?" he said. "Well I'm gonna keep that in mind and pass that on to some of the teammates and let them know what it actually means. We'll go ahead and put that into our game plan for next week and get pumped up behind it."
"I have no idea how it started," said UA sophomore kicker Ryan Slack, who grew up in Tucson. "But I know it used to be stomping the feet and then it went to the keys."
Slack remembers the first time he had to kick off the ball with nearly 50,000 keys jingling at the same time.
"My first time when I went out and kicked, it really got into my head, but I'm used to it now and it's exciting to be out there," Slack said. "I try to get some of it out of my thing.
"When you hear everybody in the stands just going crazy and everything, it just gets you a little more pumped up and all the adrenaline's going and you really get a lot more behind the ball."
So does the jingling of the keys lead to more points?
Livengood thinks so.
"I've been here nine years now, and I've never even thought about it," he said. "I haven't a clue about when or who or how it started, but I do know that it's the greatest thing in the world and the difference between whether we score or not."
But Farmer wants more out of the fans in Arizona Stadium and has some crazy ideas of his own.
"I think they need to bring the cowbells out," Farmer said. "You know we just want it to be as loud as possible. The keys are cool, but I think a cowbell or a jug with some ice cream or something like that would be a whole lot better. I'm not underestimating the keys, keys are good, I enjoy them, just more noise before the kickoff."