Mike Stoops is a likable man. Wildcat Faithful are hospitable, level-headed fans. And the Ducks have nary a bone to pick with a seemingly harmless Arizona team.
Since Mike Stoops rode his Sooner Schooner into Tucson five years ago, he's far from ingratiated himself to much of the Pac-10 Conference. Between his standoffish personality, sideline tirades, and numerous press conference gaffes, the Arizona coach has alienated himself from much of the "Conference of Champions" patrons…and Oregon's no exception.
But is he really that bad?
Sure, he gave his brother (Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops, whom Oregon has its own history with) game film on Oregon prior to the 2005 Holiday Bowl, disregarding conference allegiance in an effort to up his sibling's chances for victory. And yes, he seemingly rejoiced earlier that same year when his team - during a 28-21 loss to the Ducks – injured both Kellen Clemens and Dennis Dixon, saying afterwards, "…at least we took out two of their quarterbacks." Furthermore, he, his team, and his fan base did behave poorly and seemed to revel in Dennis Dixon's injury during last season's infamous Thursday night upset, the same upset which derailed Dixon's Heisman's opportunity and imploded Oregon's National Championship dream.
Maybe he's just misunderstood?
I wonder if cross-state-rival Arizona State "misunderstood" him when he stated at a post-signing-day press conference earlier this year, that ASU had "…obviously turned into a JC." Alleging the Sun Devils had loosened their academic requirements in an effort to qualify more student athletes, specifically a couple who had reversed field and deserted Arizona for greener pastures in Tempe.
Alright, it's possible that Pac-10, and more specifically Oregon fans, have a reason or two to think anything but highly of Mr. Stoops and his Wildcat following, but aside from the aforementioned incidents, his record versus the Ducks may also contribute to the level of hatred pointed squarely towards Mikey. Since Stoops' arrival in November of 2003, he's led the Wildcats to an overall record of 22-32 and conference mark of 15-24. However, he's amassed a 2-2 record versus Oregon, including a 37-10 rout of the Ducks at Autzen Stadium during the 2006 campaign, the first of consecutive victories over the Ducks. This season, Stoops' Arizona squad comes to Eugene with a 6-3 record, including a 4-2 mark in conference. The Wildcats are battling with Cal, OSU (sorry Beavers, I have little faith in your ability finish), and Oregon for second place in the Pac-10, and are bowl-bound for the first time since the 1998 Holiday Bowl. In other words, this game means a lot. A lot towards conference placement, a lot towards Bowl positioning, and a lot towards respectability and redemption for a team and fan base still stinging from recent run-ins with the Wildcats.
One needn't stray any further than eDuck's message board to see evidence of Oregon Fan's hatred for ‘Zona. A recent post on Wildcatscoop.com which made light of Dennis Dixon's injury during last season's game, was linked on eDuck and quickly elicited an angry response from the locals. And rightfully so.
But how does this all relate to the game?
Many will argue that athletes shouldn't need outside motivation for a game of this magnitude, but we're talking about 18-22 year-old kids…and it does. Oregon should want this game, no Oregon should really want this game! They've been beaten consecutively by Arizona, had players and dreams extinguished by Arizona, and been disrespected and belittled by Arizona, it's coach, and it's fan base since the arrival of Bob's brother Mike. And you've got to draw the line somewhere.
What's with all the hate? Simply, history. History of defeat, history of humiliation, and recent history of disappointment.
Hate may be a strong word, but strength is what Oregon will need to beat Arizona, and there won't be any shortage of it in Autzen Stadium this afternoon.
Game Day: What's With All The Hate?
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