Coach's Corner: Mackovic discusses tragedy

A solemn John Mackovic left the field and addressed the media. It was September 11th, 2001. The day of one of America's greatest tragedies. Despite the terrible aftermath of the terrorist attacks, the Arizona Wildcats decided to practice in an n attempt to retain some semblance of normalcy. Coach Mackovic discussed his reasoning behind the decision to practice and what kind role does college athletics play in America.

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Mackovic began by making a statement.

MACKOVIC: "Today's events dwarf playing football or anything else. That was a big part of my message to the team. The thing I want them to know and learn from this is that they are going to be the leaders of tomorrow. Young people who are in college today will be in leadership positions and it won't be long off. Hopefully they can learn something through this, understand it and make a difference.

"We're very saddened by the many losses of lives and injuries and destruction that we have felt in our nation's capital and in one of the world's greatest cities. They are our brothers and sisters who we don't even know. They are our brothers and sisters and we hurt for them.

"In spite of that we felt there were other issues that we had to address and one of those was getting back on the field. Hopefully this will give us some other things to work for. College athletics are about more than winning and losing. I took the time to discuss these things with them. I thought it was an appropriate thing to do. Certainly today took everyone by surprise."

QUESTION: Do the coaches have any say in whether games would be played this weekend?

MACKOVIC: "I don't have any idea. Since we're not playing, no one has asked or anything. I know we canceled the Pac-10 teleconference. I happened to be in Raleigh, North Carolina the night John F. Kennedy was killed. We had a Friday night game and we played the game that night. I remember playing and no one wanted to play. Maybe by Saturday we'll get over the initial shock and be interested in continuing. Although I would suspect that many games on the East Coast are not going to be played."

QUESTION: Any thoughts on not practicing today?

MACKOVIC: "We gave it some consideration. I think our Congress said it best as have so many of our leaders, and that is ‘nothing is going stop America'. We are a strong land. We are strong people. No one is going to stop us from moving ahead. Practicing is not a stand of indifference, rather a show of strength that we know who we are as a country. I think these young men can get something from the message and from coming out here and doing some things together."

QUESTION: If you had a game this week, would it be harder or easier for the team to practice?

MACKOVIC: "I think today would be hard for anyone. I made sure that we didn't put on pads today. I think it will be difficult for most teams. If we had a game we would have practiced, but it still would have been light."

QUESTION: Has it hit the players or coaches very hard?

MACKOVIC: "I'm sure that there will be names that surface that people on this team know. When they print a list with all those names we'll find a name that we know. I have a lot of friends on the East Coast. A lot of businessmen, guys that I went to college with at Wake Forest. A lot of West Pointers."

QUESTION: Was it a good practice, or was the mood too somber?

MACKOVIC: "What our guys got out of it was a sense of belonging. What it means to be a part of a team. We always talk about what college athletics should mean. A lot of people just get down to the basics and say ‘aw, it's just about winning and losing.' But it is more than that. It means more than that to me and it should be more than that to everyone involved. I think maybe we have a different feeling about togetherness."


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