Going to the game tonight?
A “yes” answer to that question is a given among fans of a major college football program that is thriving, especially the season opener when hope abounds (or at least it should).
Arizona’s program is in intensive care hoping to get out of its coma soon.
The battered-and-bruised Wildcats the last two seasons have gone 10-15, the 10 wins matching what was accomplished in the magical 2014 season in which Rich Rodriguez coached his team to a Pac-12 South title.
Now, Rodriguez is certainly on the hot seat, likely needing at least six wins to keep his job.
In a poll at this site in May that had 410 respondents, 34.5 percent indicated a “moderately hot seat” for Rodriguez, while 31.5 percent selected his seat to be “warm”. Almost one out of five, 22.7 percent, believe his seat is searing hot and that he is fighting for his job this season.
Only 10.5 percent believe his job is secure.
“We all have something to prove,” Rodriguez said at the outset of fall camp last month.
“We talk about hard edge and all that … and I don’t want to say that we’ve lost (it) but there’s another level we have to get to,” Rodriguez added.
Are you going to Arizona’s opener against NAU tonight?
I posed that question on my Facebook page yesterday because plenty of Arizona followers are my friends there.
I wanted to gauge the reaction to see why people will not make it to Arizona Stadium. Previous commitments? In a wait-and-see mode with the Wildcats? Fed up? Another late start (8 p.m.) make you say “Forget this” (G-rated version).
Thirty-one people responded with comments. Here are the results:
Going to the game: 10
Out of town, can’t make it: 6
Upset about the program, not going: 5
Too late of a start, not going: 3
Working, can’t make it: 3
Not a fan, no interest, not going: 2
Can’t afford it: 1
Can’t go because of health reasons: 1
This is obviously a very informal poll but it indicates where Arizona is right now as a program.
The Wildcat followers are showing a lot of indifference and apathy.
“We gave up our season tickets because the product — entertainment, basically — does not justify the cost,” writes Sarah Sammetinger Hammond, who believes the Wildcat Club membership fee, the premium fee to get in the north end zone seats and the cost of the other seats is too much.
“And looooooong games (4+ hours) and middle of the day games (not this year, but in the past) in the searing heat. If we see some Ws (wins), we’ll look for tickets from scalpers later in the season.”
“Not going (no tix) however I’m not on the Rich Rod Bandwagon,” Joe Camacho wrote. “Every year we start off 3-0 and look great till we get into league play. We will probably never be a ‘football’ school, but at least make us a contender.”
Arizona’s athletic department senses these type of sentiments from disgruntled fans and is trying to win over fans until the Wildcats start winning. The Rob Gronkowski bobblehead giveaway promotion tonight is an example.
Minor-league baseball teams create such promotions to get fans in the seats in the dog days of summer.
Arizona’s program, although it has yet to kick off the season, finds itself in that kind of predicament — desperate for fan involvement.
The only cure for that is winning, which might be hard to do with 12 true freshmen listed on Arizona’s two-deep depth chart released Monday heading into tonight’s opener with NAU.
Winning will keep the seats full and make Rodriguez’s job secure.
Empty seats are more than an eyesore. They signal a potential, dare I say likely, change in command.
FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.