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From the booth: Fans need to cut Cats some slack


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Ryan Casey
staff writer
By Ryan Casey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, October 4, 2005
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The Arizona football team is 1-3 heading into its game against Southern California. So what?

Two years ago, the Cats probably would have also been 1-3 with this schedule, but instead of losing games by three points, seven points and 28 points, respectively, they would have lost by 35, 42 and 66.

What happened to all the fan support? It seemed to just drain away after Saturday's game, on a day when the team had just its first rough outing of the season.

When the water gets choppy, do Arizona fans abandon ship? Apparently.

I think I heard the phrase "we suck" (in this case, those fans including themselves with the team) about 50 times in the span of an hour following the game. Where's the justification to that statement?

Often the response is based solely on the team's record, with fans expecting overnight results: In this case, instant improvement from last year's 3-8 record.

Well, guess what, people? Wildcat football isn't FedEx. These things take time.

Please, for once, stick with a team through thick and thin. Don't head for the lifeboat simply because you think a 1-4 wave is headed our way.

Remember the NAU game? The student section was packed a good 30 minutes prior to kickoff.

Now think back to the Oregon game two years ago. Coming off a 59-13 drubbing at the hands of Louisiana State, the students at that mid-September game were few and far between, with total attendance barely cracking 40,000 fans, of which a few thousand were decked out in Ducks green and yellow.

Eight games later, only 39,201 fans saw the Cats get trounced by USC - the No. 2 team in the nation at the time.

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Call yourself a fan when you show up for two games and turn on your team at the first sign of weakness? Give me a break.
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Now what do those numbers, combined with the knowledge that 111,128 (99 percent capacity) attended the first two games at Arizona Stadium this season, tell you?

One thing: This campus only supports a team when it's doing well.

Can every "die-hard" men's basketball fan out there honestly say that if the Cats didn't make the NCAA Tournament annually, that if our program more closely resembled USC basketball than UNC basketball, they would still be fighting for tickets? I don't think so.

It's sad, but it's true: This is the mindset of sports fans here at the UA.

Sure, everyone would love to have the luxury of knowing you're going to smoke every team you play, but Tucson isn't Los Angeles, nor does it pretend to be.

Embrace our team for what it is: a program on the rise. What? A 1-3 record doesn't indicate improvement? Again, think long-term, not instant gratification.

Though it may not seem like it to some, Arizona football head coach Mike Stoops' squad continues to improve with each passing game (Richard Kovalcheck's three interceptions against Cal not withstanding) and next season will see the installation of what promises to be another excellent recruiting class.

Now, more than ever, people are calling for the destruction of freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama's redshirt.

Please, enlighten me, what is a freshman -

albeit one hailed as this team's savior - going to do for this team that Kovalcheck can't?

It wouldn't accomplish anything, save to lessen how long Tuitama has under center before the fans begin calling for his head after one poor performance.

More probably, it would lead to Kovalcheck's transfer, a la former Wildcat quarterbacks Nic Costa, Ryan O'Hara and Kris Heavner.

Trust me, the Wildcats don't want that. It's why they're in this position in the first place. If Costa, O'Hara and Heavner were still with the team, Tuitama's redshirt would be safely secured in a steel vault, untouched by the coaching staff for the duration of the season. If Kovalcheck were to falter, one of his three probable backups would be fully capable of stepping in.

There's another piece to the puzzle no one else is considering - Adam Austin.

People seem to think that because he's just a former walk-on, he must not be any good.

Really? I guess those 1,500 snaps he took in spring practice were of no benefit. Austin is fully capable of leading this team, should Kovalcheck go down to injury or after a continued string of poor performances. So we see why Tuitama needs to remain on the sidelines this fall.

The extra year the redshirt gives a player is time to mature, develop, and in Tuitama's case, work on becoming the star he is predicted to be.

The Wildcats need their fans to quit crying for Tuitama and stand behind their team. It is absolutely pathetic that at the first big sign of faltering, the attitude surrounding this team goes sour.

If you really love your Wildcat football, you are in those stands no matter the circumstances. In two weeks, for homecoming against Stanford, those stands had better be packed like they were for NAU (a Division I-AA opponent) and Purdue.

Attended the NAU game? Great! And Purdue? More power to you.

Call yourself a fan when you show up for two games and turn on your team at the first sign of weakness? Give me a break.

Once this team starts winning again, that bandwagon may have left without you.


Ryan Casey is a journalism junior and the sports director at KAMP Student Radio. His radio show can be heard Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on 1570 AM or at www.kamp.arizona.edu.



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