Obviously, most players won’t go on record with their feelings on the situation. Many fear being labeled as a malcontent or a whiner. Others fear repercussions from the coaches left on the staff. Those who have spoken out don’t single out Mackovic the person, but the situation that is Arizona football.
The players who have spoken out are not surprising. Nic Costa, who was openly critical of Mackovic last week, felt it was time for his coach to go. Costa expressed his displeasure in the lines of communication over the past few weeks and poor communication seems to have been a factor in the decision to remove Mackovic.
Mackovic’s feud with running back Clarence Farmer was a matter of public record. Farmer told reporters he wanted as little contact with his coach as possible and has often not commented when asked about Mackovic. Surprisingly, Farmer was not very outspoken about the move, choosing to not lash out on Mackovic.
“It's a fresh start,” Farmer said of the new era. “We'll see."
Other players, mostly young players, were upset with the decision. Many Texas players came to play for the former coach of the Longhorns. Several pointed to the fact that their high school coaches were just as demanding as Mackovic.
“I’m very disappointed that this happened,” said Matt Padron. “The reason I came to play football at Arizona was to play for an offense like Coach Mackovic’s. From a tight end standpoint I don’t know what my situation is going to be in the offense.”
Other players did not know what to make of the situation. Many defensive players had little contact with the offensive minded head coach and did not know what to make of the situation.
“I’m not pleased, I’m still shocked,” said Andre Torrey. “He was a nice guy and I know he’s a good coach. I also know that we have had some struggles since he’s been here. Our athletic director made his decision and hopefully it will be the best for the team. As a defensive player I deal with (Mike) Hankwitz a lot, I would only see Mackovic once in a while. It’s really going to be the same for me.”
Some players admit to run-ins with Mackovic, while others have been absolutely clueless about the controversy. Players who have played on both sides of the ball have had a unique perspective on Mackovic and have seen how he is to players on either side of the ball.
“I started out as a defensive player and they had so many injuries so he asked me to help out on the offensive side of the ball,” explained Akin Akinniyi, a linebacker who recently moved to fullback. “I was able to be coached by Coach Mackovic on a one-on-one basis. I’ve never really had any run ins and problems, so I guess I’m just oblivious to really what has gone on with other players. Coach Mackovic has a great football mind and I was really looking forward to being coached by him, but sometimes things don’t go the way you think they will.”
One player who had his share of problems with Mackovic has changed his view. Senior Clay Hardt was involved in last season’s player revolt and has had his share of run-ins with Mackovic. However, as recently as last week he supported Mackovic and called him a “changed man.”
"I've learned so much from him. I think he's learned a lot from us, too,” Hardt said. “It's just sad that it happened a little late."
Some players noted that the change in Mackovic was not always a good thing. There were those who felt that he seemed too worried about the affects of the revolt that he wasn’t the same coach and in turn was not as effective.
“In certain situations where any other coach would jump at something, he’d maybe hop,” Akinniyi confessed. “Like say someone misses a block and misses it again and misses it a third time, any coach would be like ‘Hey, what’s going on? Let’s get it going.’ Even get in his face and try and get him a little fired up. Coach Mackovic wasn’t too quick to join in that type of stuff and I think a big part of that was because of what happened last November.”
Whether players wanted him out or not, many are happy that the speculation and drama is over. While the specter of a new coaching staff is looming, they feel relaxed that they don’t have to worry about the status of their now departed head coach.
“Well it’s happened a few times in the past so we’re used to dealing with it, to coach’s so-called drama,” said Torrey. “It’s just another small bump to step over. We’re doing a good job getting past it. It definitely served as a bond since what we went through last November. Above us there is a sort of drama, so we’ll have to handle our own business.”
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