By Michael Schwartz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 8, 2005
It's fourth-and-three, the opposition trails the Wildcats by three points with the ball right around midfield and there's just under one minute left.
Who does Arizona football head coach Mike Stoops call on to make the game-saving play? Darrell Brooks? Antoine Cason? Marcus Smith?
Nope. The 12th man in the stands.
With the first of six home games this season coming Saturday against NAU, it's up to Arizona fans to show the nation that the Wildcats are ready to have a winning college football program.
It's been a long time since 1998, when the Wildcats went 12-1 and beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, but the time will soon come when Arizona football becomes a national power - and they will need help from you, the student section.
In that time, the Zona Zoo program has been created for reasons other than extra chances to win men's basketball tickets; it's also to provide an ear-splitting home-field advantage at every home football game, from NAU to UCLA.
While the atmosphere at Arizona Stadium still reminds no one of Arizona Cardinals games at Sun Devil Stadium, where the opposing team's fans often outnumber and drown out the lonely Cardinals fans, the Wildcats' home never makes the list of the nation's most intimidating venues.
According to a Sports Illustrated on Campus report published last year, Louisiana State students line up at 8 a.m. to wait for prime seats; Texas A&M students fill half of an 80,000-seat stadium; and Notre Dame students pack the stands as if it were their own graduation.
Closer to home, Pacific 10 Conference teams often use artificial noise to prepare for the rowdy fans at Oregon's Autzen Stadium, and Southern California's fans spend the entire day preparing to verbally abuse their opponents.
Zona Zoo officials have said they're excited to have sold around 10,000 Zona Zoo passes this year, with a goal of around 12,000 after selling 9,000 last year.
While it's great that the football program is expanding, why should fans be excited that only a quarter of the student body wants to go to its games?
Another 5,000 passes would likely sell out Arizona Stadium and put more rabid college students in the seats.
While fans waste their time complaining about the elderly folks who bought up all the good basketball seats before they became the hottest tickets in town, relegating students to a single mediocre section, now's your chance for the best seats in the house for another major sport.
Even if fans sell out Arizona Stadium with a bigger student section, students need to line up earlier for games.
While collegians around the Southeastern Conference spend all day waiting for prime seating, Arizona fans can meander in a half-hour before kickoff and sit pretty much wherever they choose.
I know this because I never spent more than a half-hour waiting for the game to start and always sat in the first five rows last year, no more than a few feet from the 50-yard line.
Now's the time to jump on the Arizona football bandwagon, before there's no room left.
That means you need to act like a real fan.
At a true football school, students would pack the stands even if their team had gone 9-26 the past three years, blown a winnable road game to start the season and was about to oppose Division I-AA NAU.
They would not show up late and leave in the third quarter, even if the home team trailed by more than three touchdowns, as many have in the past.
While losing seasons might cause them to call for the head of their coach, they would flock in droves when a young, promising leader took the helm.
As we all wait for our beloved Wildcats to become a national power, it's time to look at ourselves and ask why SI on Campus did not rank Arizona in its "Top 25 Best College Football Weekends."
We have it in us. Just look across the street at how rowdy Wildcat fans have packed McKale Center the past two decades with so much demand for seats that a student ticket lottery had to be instituted.
Until we do our part, we don't deserve a winning football team.
When the Wildcat defense needs to make a stand, we need to make the stadium shake, to energize the defense and prevent the rattled opposing offense from communicating.
Scream your lungs out, heckle the opponent's star, paint your body, make signs and do everything within the guidelines of taste to make Arizona football a winner.
If you do that, it will make tearing down the goalposts (or at least trying) all the more meaningful.
Michael Schwartz is a journalism sophomore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.