Appreciation Day a morale boost for UA fans, players

By Kyle Kensing
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 22, 2005

Supporters of Arizona football congregated at Arizona Stadium on Saturday for the program's annual Fan Appreciation Day.

An estimated 7,000 people attended the event, which included an hour-long autograph session on the Arizona Stadium field and later an intrasquad scrimmage.

"It's a great chance to meet the coaches and players face-to-face and tell them good luck, show our support," said Derryl Friberg, 26.

Fans were given posters upon entering the field, where they were permitted one hour with players and coaches for autographs.

"(The event) means a lot. We get to interact with the fans and show them our appreciation," said sophomore tailback Chris Henry. "The fans mean everything. Without them, we wouldn't really be playing for anything."

Games, including an inflated jumping castle, were available for children, and the Eller College of Management's Sports Marketing organization catered to spectators' various needs.

"We're here to make sure (the crowd) stays happy," said sophomore Bert Thomas, who helped distribute posters for the college and assisted at its Pepsi promotional booth.

Saturday was one of a limited number of public appearances the team has made since its dramatic and triumphant conclusion to the 2004 season.

Arizona defeated in-state rival and then-nationally ranked Arizona State 34-27 on Nov. 26 to reclaim the rivalry-based Territorial Cup for the first time since 2001.

"It's our first taste of football," Friberg said. "We've been waiting 10 months, since the day after Thanksgiving, for football to begin again."

The buzz among those in attendance was largely positive, with the word "bowl" on many fans' lips.

When asked what they foresaw in Arizona's future, marketing freshman Paul Morisseau and Thomas each said "7-4," a record that would ensure the Wildcats their first bowl game trip since 1998.

Other fans agreed that this Wildcat team could be the one to break the seven-year postseason drought.

"The team plays with so much more fire and heart in the past two years than (it did) in previous years," said Chaz Elsten, 26.

"We were in almost every game (last season)," he said. "Hopefully this year we can make those big plays to win some of those games."