Wildcat fans shocked by firing of football coach

Wildcat fans shocked by firing of football coach
Fans at Bob Dobbs, a popular U of A hangout. (Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - "No it hasn't tarnished their image in my mind," said Richard Gonzales, a long-time University of Arizona fan. "It breaks my heart to see this."

Gonzales has been through this before as a defense attorney for Tony Mason, a U of A football coach who was caught up in a much publicized fraud case in 1981.

Mason was found not guilty, but the case received national attention and strained the university's reputation.

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"When I read about the dismissal it bothered me," said Gonzales. "But as more facts are coming to light, I can see where the athletic director and president really had no choice."

At a table lunching on a burger with onion rings at U of A hangout Bob Dobbs, four men, representing nearly 200 years of Wildcat fan experience sit and talk about the events of the past 24 hours, including Jay Gonzales, a 40-year season ticket holder.

"To me nothing has changed," said Jay, who will not be giving up his season tickets. "Absolutely, I still can't wait for next football season," he said.

He's not being flippant but as a fan, being more realistic.

"Athletics at this level have been full of this stuff forever," he said. "What you're finding is now more of it is coming to light like everything else because of the atmosphere that we're in."

He said a lot of coaches have done what "Rich Rod" has done over the years and while it does not justify it, "they didn't get caught or it got swept under the rug."

The takeaway from the conversation is the university will get over it, much the way it has in the past. However, wounds take time to heal and there is a price to pay.

"Because I think this is going to be the norm now and I don't think it will be bad," Richard said. "I think it will be positive, but in the short term it is not good for us,"

That is because one of the biggest costs will be to the university -- its most prized possession -- its image.

"Whether these charges are true or not we'll find out in court later, said Jay. "But just the whole environment and atmosphere, they don't want to have that."

But he added the university "put its foot down" and to have the confidence to say "look maybe he doesn't deserve to be fired for what he's doing football wise but this is not the way we run things here."

In the final analysis, the one conclusion that is most important to the long time fans at the table, and the one which should not be forgotten in times.

"It's not about trashing a reputation," said Larry Lucero, a long time fan and government relations director for TEP.   "I think this is a moment when you make a choice as to whether you're going to strive to improve how it is we conduct ourselves, or do we maintain the status quo which is unacceptable,"

He also pointed out the university is an institution of higher learning and "that should be the primary focus here."

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