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Monday October 23, 2000

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It's all about the fans

Headline Photo

By Chris Martin

Arizona Daily Wildcat

RICHLAND, Mich. - As I sat in the "Big House" yesterday, it became strikingly clear why Midwestern football is so much better than West Coast football.

The reason is not the quality of football. It's not the style of play, nor is it the players themselves. It is the atmosphere and fans.

While Arizona struggles to get more than 50,000 people to show up for games against Washington, UCLA and Oregon State, football teams back East routinely sell out games regardless of who's on the docket that weekend.

Penn State versus Wellesley College. Sold out. Ohio State versus Sacred Heart Junior High flag football team. 100,000 people.

More than 111,000 people showed up yesterday to watch Michigan defeat Michigan State in Ann Arbor, Mich.

That is twice the capacity of Arizona Stadium, and I bet the "Big House" could have sold 150,000 tickets if the venue could fit that many people.

That would never happen in Arizona, and especially not in California.

If UCLA isn't playing for the Roses on Jan. 1, then they will never play in front of a packed house.

It's kind of embarrassing.

Arizona fans only show up for football games when Arizona State is in town or games that have Rose Bowl implications.

Here's a little clue for all you fair-weather fans: EVERY GAME HAS ROSE BOWL IMPLICATIONS!

Let's take the Arizona-Washington State game from more than a week ago. Y'know, the one that went three overtimes?

That was probably the most exciting Arizona game all year - too bad less than 50,000 people actually saw it live.

As for the atmosphere, I know it is a little hard to tailgate here at Construction U. But, c'mon fans, be a little creative.

Don't fire up the BBQ and buy the keg of Coors if you're going to sit in your living room and watch the game.

Take that beer buzz and sit in the stands. Make the difficult 5-10 minute walk from the dorms. Hop in the back of a pickup truck and drive from Jefferson Commons. Be fans.

The football program is doing its part. A hungry team with a cast of relative unknowns have captured the imaginations of an entire conference. Too bad not many UA fans seem to care.

If Wildcat fans gave the football team the support the men's basketball team gets, then Arizona Stadium could be one of the toughest places to play in the Pac-10.

Take Oregon's Autzen Stadium - despite holding just over 41,000 fans, the venue is among the toughest places to play in the Pac-10. Is it the building? No. It's the informed, crazy, die-hard fans that fill the place every week.

There are wards of nuns more intimidating than the fans at Arizona Stadium.

So get rowdy, get loud and go have fun. You have five days to make plans for Saturday when UCLA comes to town.

If UA wins, they become bowl eligible.

The game could also have Rose Bowl implications because Oregon is still not a lock to take the Pac-10 crown.