By Connor Doyle
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday December 2, 2002
One of the sayings John Mackovic was most fond of using, before everyone became familiar with his affinity for "You're a disgrace to your family," was that a season could be divided into four quarters, much like a football game.
Interestingly enough, Arizona's swan song against ASU this year mirrored its season. The first two quarters Friday were promising, but by no means a harbinger of anything great ÷ much like the preseason and first four games of the year.
And then the second half happened. What had been a tough, motivated Arizona defense became softer than (insert your favorite clichˇ). The offense, which out-gained ASU by 40 yards through two, lost all of its steam. Quite simply, the team crumbled ÷ just like it did in Pacific 10 Conference play.
This season was probably just Arizona's turn to take the lumps. At least the personal accomplishments of seniors Bobby Wade, Lance Briggs and Jason Johnson ÷ all three among the best at their respective positions in program history ÷ should have provided some salve to the gaping wound that was this campaign. Despite the losses, these three players enjoyed a fantastic season.
But Mackovic ensured even that little silver lining was stolen from the players. That will be his enduring gift to his seniors: What little joy the season could have provided was snatched from them.
After his final game as a Wildcat, Briggs stood out in the middle of the field until he could be sure there would be no incidents like last year's fight.
"I was guarding the A," said Briggs, referring to the painted logo on the 50-yard line of Arizona Stadium. It was his final attempt to preserve whatever dignity this program has remaining.
Neither Briggs, Johnson nor Wade will be back next season to guard the A. But the man who is most responsible for that lost dignity will likely still be on the sidelines.
As long as Mackovic is the head coach at Arizona, the story will not be the possible revival of a once-prominent program, but instead, the possible return of the problems that led to a near-mutiny.
That is why Frank Kush is no longer the coach at Arizona State. That is why Bobby Knight no longer coaches at Indiana, and why Nolan Richardson is no longer with Arkansas.
Once the coach becomes the story, something is seriously amiss.
And, in case some didn't notice, the coach is the story at Arizona.