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Fans waver on support for Smoker

October 28, 2002

Football fan support continued to seesaw at Saturday’s loss to Wisconsin in Spartan Stadium.

Some students carried signs and wore shirts with written jabs at junior quarterback Jeff Smoker, who was nowhere to be seen after head coach Bobby Williams suspended him indefinitely Thursday for violating unspecified team rules.

Rumors continued to circle campus, Internet chat rooms and talk radio stations about Smoker’s suspension and personal life, while football officials and Smoker himself kept quiet on the issue.

But amid boos from the crowd as the team rolled to a 42-24 loss - its fourth in five games - some fans stayed positive about the team and blasted those fans who seem fair-weather.

“I think it’s unfortunate,” said Joe Mescher, co-director of Bobby’s World, the student football fan section. “Maybe that’s not the right word - it was inappropriate. Bobby Williams has had a tough season, and Smoker has had a tough season, but the true measure of a fan is someone who will offer some constructive criticism. I think those people are fair-weathered, and to jump ship does nothing for the team, nothing for the university.”

MSU Trustee and football insider Joel Ferguson agreed and said he couldn’t comment on people who react to rumors with harsh signs or shirts.

“What can I say about people who don’t know what’s going on?” he said.

But not everyone was so quick to defend the Spartans, Smoker or Williams. Journalism freshman Tony Servitto said Smoker’s suspension reflects a lot more than just losing a captain and quarterback - it showcases the team’s lack of discipline.

“I don’t know what Smoker did, but it is a result of a lack of discipline from the coaching staff,” Servitto said.

“I don’t think they will be able to compete for the rest of the season, but this will be learning experience for the future quarterback.”

But Ferguson and Mescher both say the Spartans have a fair chance of topping Michigan on Saturday. Ferguson pointed to strong play by sophomore quarterback Damon Dowdell, who filled in for Smoker before leaving with a sprained ankle in the fourth quarter.

“We used Dowdell’s roll-out and running ability, and I also thought that the fans who stayed there got into the game. They got pumped up,” Ferguson said.

But not all of those Spartan fans are talking so optimistically.

“Smoker’s suspension reflects the season as a whole,” said Daren Brauer, an education freshman and a member of Bobby’s World. “Things have just come unglued, and this is just icing on the cake to an already unsuccessful season.

“He was a poor captain to begin with if he put himself in situations where he could get suspended.”

Kelli Cynecki can be reached at cyneckik@msu.edu. Krista Latham can be reached at lathamkr@msu.edu.

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