From his seat of power, Zook takes a stand

Florida's new coach makes fans stay on feet or be walked to the exit

Sports Plus

April 07, 2002|By Andy Knobel | Andy Knobel,SUN STAFF

Here's one thing you weren't going to hear last week from fans at the University of Florida's spring football practices:

"Down in front."

After all, nobody can sit.

Coach's orders.

A sign at Sanders Practice Field reminds spectators of new coach Ron Zook's rule.

As you are aware, Coach Zook has stated that this is a "WORK AREA." Therefore the coaches and athletes request that you stand while observing practice. If you are unable to stand due to a medical hardship, please alert the staff before entering the facility. Thank you, University of Florida football.

Where metal bleachers used to be, there's now a concrete slab.

Zook says he instituted the rule because he wanted to put his stamp on practices and to stress how much work needs to be done to repeat the success Gators fans came to expect under Steve Spurrier, who left the program to coach the Washington Redskins.

Most fans who attended practices last week did so without complaining.

But at least one refused to stand and was kicked out, which led to an item at the bottom of the CNN news crawl, tucked among news from the Middle East: "University of Florida ejects fan."

After a backlash when he announced the edict last month, Zook considered rescinding it. His players talked him out of it.

The rule stands. Just like the fans.

Mark Woods of the Florida Times-Union has the following prediction about how the Gators backers will feel about it by the end of the season:

If Florida wins the national championship, fans "will be more than glad to stand. Heck, if asked to, they will play Simon Says [which will be renamed Zook Says] and stand on their left foot with the index finger of their right hand touching their nose while singing "We Are the Boys" for two hours.

"Ten victories and an SEC title: The fans will stand by their man.

"Nine victories and no SEC title: The fans will stand.

"Eight victories: The fans will kneel.

"Seven victories: The fans will stage a sit-in outside the practice field, where they sing "I Ain't Gonna Stand For It" and "Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay," watching the Crimson Tide roll away.

"Fewer than seven victories: The fans will stage a sit-in at The Swamp. During games."

A new sign language

Fans at this month's Japan Sevens, a rugby championship for players with varying degrees of hearing loss, are allowed to sit, but the stands in Tokyo definitely will be a work area.

To help players respond to the referee's whistle, 2,000 fans will be given yellow boards to hold up whenever play is stopped.

"We believe this is the first time in the history of rugby that spectators will assist the referee in running the game," Japan Rugby Union official Koji Tokumasu said.

Listen carefully

Sometimes the paying customers are less helpful.

Dallas Morning News columnist Blackie Sherrod recalled a long-ago day when a Fort Worth relief pitcher named Gene Costello was being booed unmercifully. Manager Bobby Bragan went to the mound and said: "Don't pay any attention to these boos. They don't understand the game. You just had some tough luck."

Costello replied: "Aw, they're not booing me, Bobby. They're booing you for putting me out here in the first place."

Compiled from wire reports and Web sites.

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