Forth: 'Showdown In Tucson'
Nov. 23, 2000
With the events that took place last week with the Arizona State football team, many people have been asking me what the state of the football team is. Losing your head coach and assistants is a huge blow to a program. For many players at this institution, their worlds have been turned upside down in a matter of days. All season this team has known that if we did not win a certain amount of games the staff would be fired. The inevitable occurred last week after a devastating loss to Stanford. All season our new athletic director, Gene Smith, has said he would wait until the end of the season to make a decision regarding the staff. My guess is that three straight losses changed the mind of our athletic director and a change was felt necessary. The timing of this decision is in question with many of the players on our team, considering the season is not over yet. ASU has one game left, which just happens to be the biggest game of the year against our hated rivals from Tucson.
Playing at Arizona State for the past five seasons, I have developed a close relationship with many of the football coaches at this program. Football student-athletes spend a great deal of time with their respective coaches throughout their career. You consider the amount of time that is spent in the meeting rooms, the practice field, and in video study in your coach's office. Your coach almost becomes a father figure in your life. There have not been many opportunities in the young lives of a football player to play under the guidance of one person for five consecutive years. I have been fortunate in the past five seasons to play under one head coach and one position coach. The benefit to having this consistency in coaching is that your coach knows what to expect from you. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of your game and has the opportunity to watch your skills evolve over the years.
In my opinion, the coaching profession at this level is a very difficult industry to work in. Consider what a collegiate coach has to do. His job is in the hands of a group of 18-to-22 year olds. If they don't perform week in and week out, the coach's job is in jeopardy. The coaching staff is responsible for preparing the team for the coming weeks game. It is the player's responsibility to go out and play and execute those plays called by the coaching staff. It is unfortunate that when a team is unsuccessful, the coach is always blamed, rather than players. Regardless of how a player plays throughout the season, their scholarship will still be honored in the coming years.
The answer to the question regarding the state of the football team is 'rejuvenated.' Although the firing of our staff was unexpected in its timing, it has alleviated the doubts and questions that have been looming over this program the last few weeks. Our coaching staff has taken the decision extremely well and is able to joke about it in a roundabout manner. The new mentality of the team is to have fun. By fun I mean to enjoy the game of football. We want to go out as winners this season and have the opportunity to play in a bowl game. The staff gave this team some much needed time off at the beginning of last week. The time gave some players an opportunity to heal some injuries and a chance to take some time off from one another. The absence of football for a few days has made the payers here hungry to go out and play another game. This week we have come to practice ready to learn and ready to work.
A lot of players in this program have never taken the field against the University of Arizona. This game may not have some of the same traditions as other games across the country, but it is still played a lot differently. This rivalry game is played a lot faster, harder, and with more intensity than any other. Originally from southern California, I didn't quite understand the magnitude of this rival game when I first arrived at ASU, but I quickly learned. ASU and the U of A are two schools that hate everything about one another. There is nothing I like about their program, university, or city. I am sure their players have that same mentality about the Sun Devils. This year marks the second consecutive season that the two teams will be battling for the right to play in a bowl game. In my career at ASU, I have accumulated a 2-2 record versus the Wildcats and would love to leave this program with a winning record versus our in-state rival. What makes this game extra special to me is that it might be the final time I play in a football game.
Football has been a way of life for me the past fifteen years. My career started way back in the fourth grade when I played for our local Pop Warner team. In the first few seasons that I played, I may have been the most uncoordinated player on out team. There was a minimum limit of plays in which every kid had to participate, which was something like six. I was a six-play player for the first few years that I played. I wasn't until the seventh grade that I had a little growth spurt and started developing some athleticism. I have never looked back since that time and have had the opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream of mine to play at this level. It is tough to imagine life without football in it. In a conversation with Coach Snyder earlier this week, I told him that there weren't many more opportunities I will have to put a helmet on and compete in the sport that I have grown to love. This has been a lone reason why the Arizona game has become so important to me. I want the opportunity to play in one last game before I call it quits on a sport that is the best in America. To go out a winner would put an exclamation point on a career that, for me, has produced so many fond memories.
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