Schu Strings: Two losers

With the dismissal of Clarence Farmer, it sort of acts of the culmination of a two-year feud. A feud that ultimately damaged both parties, perhaps beyond repair.

It's no secret that former Arizona head coach John Mackovic and former Wildcat running back Clarence Farmer were less than thrilled with one another. It probably has a history that goes beyond the ESPN program "The Season," but that's certainly where the rest of the nation got its first glimpse of this tenuous relationship.

Mackovic chastised Farmer, the star running back, with frequency, and he didn't like it. So much so that Farmer decided to speak his mind. And from there on, as they say in the movies, this time it's personal.

Feuds make for good copy. It's the Gunfight at the OK Corral, Rommel and Patton, the US against the Evil Empire, The Rock vs. Triple H. As a result, feuds tend to split the loyalties of outside factions, so much so that it leads to taking sides. And in the outside world, it was Farmer who wore the white hat.

A favorite among students, throughout the early portion of Arizona's troubling '03 season, chants of "FARMER" would reverberate throughout mostly vacant Arizona Stadium. It seemed obvious to most that Farmer wasn't playing because his coach was carrying out a one-man vendetta to keep him sidelined. Where's the maturity in that, especially from someone who should know better? From someone close to 60 years old.

But it's not that simple. Never is. Farmer was as much a pariah as Mackovic. The day after Mackovic was fired, Wildcat running back Akin Akinniyi spoke with the media, and in one regard it was a telling synopsis of what was taking place behind the scenes. Akinniyi mentioned that he felt Mackovic had a hard time doling out discipline after last November's revolt. He singled out situations where players would continually flub drills during practice, and felt Mackovic seemed unable to do anything that might be construed in a negative light. He was basically a hands-off, lame-duck coach running out a tattered string.

The Farmer situation fits right into this perceived inability to discipline. During the off-season, Farmer was pretty vocal about his dislike of the current situation, and his dislike for Mackovic. Now I've never been a football coach, never even really managed anything, but this outsider believes that had he been in a situation of power, those kinds of comments would have led to dismissal on the spot. I don't care how many yards he can gain. I don't care about his pedigree. I don't care about his breakout freshman season. I don't need that kind of influence on the roster. If I'm John Mackovic, I don't need Clarence Farmer. But John Mackovic couldn't pull the trigger because John Mackovic's weapons had been put in the proverbial locker of bad publicity.

When Mackovic was finally released, most figured the cancer had been removed. The new regime had no ax to grind, no reason to stay the course. This should have been a new lease on life for the team's most talented running back. Against UCLA, Farmer's only good game of the year, it appeared that's just what was in store. Farmer had 25 carries and bowled over the statistically best defense in the conference. Things were looking up.

Farmer hardly touched the ball again. He sat pine at Cal, and was booted off shortly thereafter.

Suggesting one thing. Farmer couldn't get it right. It's not as if interim coach Mike Hankwitz has been hard to figure out. If he's been one thing, it's consistent. If you don't perform, you sit. He benched freshman quarterback Kris Heavner. He benched place kicker Bobby Gill. With Hankwitz, you know where you stand. And still, Farmer couldn't find it within himself to toe the company line, and as a result, the company decided to make the inevitable decision.

Because of his tenure with Arizona, whatever Mackovic had has probably been forever soiled. Farmer is younger, and has an opportunity for second life in the NFL. But there's no question his antics in Tucson will be closely studied. At the very least, his attitude will play a role in draft status. Instead of the near-sure first-rounder who played for the UA as a freshman and sophomore, Farmer is now a risk with a bad knee and questionable character traits. He'll have a hard time proving the NFL otherwise.

In the battle between Clarence Farmer and John Mackovic, there were no white hats. No black hats. No winners.

Just two losers.

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