Boo birds not bringing the Cats down

The Wildcat football team is at a real low point. The team is struggling, losing by steep margins and the fans are not happy. The season is 1/3 over and the fans have already started booing the coaches and second-guessing decisions. To make matters worse, the fans are staying away in droves. The players notice the fans lack of support, but these young men are handling the adversity differently.

It wasn't long into the Oregon game before the student section directly behind the bench started calling for Clarence Farmer, who was sitting on the bench in favor of Mike Bell. Bell, who was great against UTEP, but was struggling against the Ducks and fans wanted the fiery Farmer. As the Oregon lead increased, so did the vitriol of the chants. By halftime the students started getting nasty and between curses they were calling for Mackovic's head.

The coaches and the players all noticed, but had different reactions.

"When you are going against Coach Mackovic, you are going against all of us," said Clay Hardt.

Farmer said he heard the chants, but that he didn't pay much attention to them. His position coach Jay Boulware had a different reaction.

"I feel bad for Mike (Bell)," said the running backs coach. "Here he is doing exactly what we ask of him and the fans are calling for another guy. It may be nice for Clarence, but it isn't fair for Mike."

The players called for fan support in the preseason and when optimism was high they hoped the fans would be on board. Across the board the Wildcats invited the fans to come out and support them and felt that the support would help. The crowd was great for the first few games, especially the student section, and those around the program noticed.

"The student section was packed," said Nic Costa after the UTEP game. "They were very loud and that was exciting."

"You notice it when the fans are behind you," said Brandon Phillips before the beginning of the season. "Hopefully we can play well enough to get them in the stands."

Things did not remain that positive and soon the negative comments started pouring in. The students were all over the coach and at the conclusion of games the fans congregated by the locker room to shower Mackovic with insults and calls for him to resign. It was a similar scene to what Dick Tomey faced during his embattled years. But unlike Tomey, who at times acknowledged the cat calls, Mackovic ignored the insults and made a bee-line for the tunnel.

Mackovic has felt the heat from the fans before and if it bothers him he won't let on.

"The least we talk about what bothers me or doesn't bother me, the better off we all will be," said Mackovic. "It's not about me personally."

It may not bother Mackovic, but it has bothered some of the players. Ryan O'Hara called the vocal fans "a bunch of drunk college students" and other players have suggested that negative fans should just stay home.

Most players don't let the fans bother them, but they vehemently disagree with the stance of the fans.

"Their statements and their opinions don't matter much," said Hardt. "They aren't close enough to the situation to know what we are going through and what our coach is going through."

"I know during the game I don't pay much attention to it," Hardt continued. "I hear it, but it's in one ear and out the other. Half the time I feel the people who are saying that don't have a clue on what's going on."

Some players understand exactly where the fans are coming from. They may not like what they are hearing, but they can sympathize with what the paying customers are frustrated about.

"It happens when you are losing," said Kris Heavner. "If we get ahead they will get behind us."

"Everybody has their own opinion," said freshman running back Chris Henry. "It's a free country. Everybody can go and do and say whatever they want to. I'm the type of person who feels if you want to say something, go ahead and say it."

Most players claim they are ignoring the chants and boos, but several have confessed they are using the negative reaction as a rallying point.

"In a way we can use it as a positive," confessed Henry. "A lot of people are saying negative stuff and that makes us want to prove people wrong more and more. Everybody now is even closer than we have been. Now we only have ourselves. We are all that we have because the fans, I don't want to say they are not behind us, but they are not happy right now. It just doesn't seem like they are behind us, so we have to rally ourselves."

With what happened last season many would assume the players are ready to cut their losses with their embattled coach. Not so. For the most part the players have come out in support of Mackovic while the majority of Tucson is against him.

"We have to be able to defend our coach," said Henry. "Everyone is behind him. These fans are not, but they are not a part of the program. You have to be a part of the program to understand where coach Mackovic is coming from." "He's hanging in there with us," Heavner added. "He's keeping us going, keeping us motivated. Doing everything he can. He's doing great."

Just as the team has not written off their coach, they have not written off the fans. Henry says that the reaction on campus has been mixed.

Hardt feels that a fast start and a chance to win could have a positive affect on the masses.

"I hope so," Hardt answered when asked if a good showing could shut up the boo birds. "I hope so."

Discuss this story on the FOOTBALL MESSAGE BOARD

Wildcat Authority Top Stories