Monday, October 25, 2004
Site to stay up for rest of season
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The webmasters got their wish. Florida finally decided to fireronzook.
It was a verb, it was a noun, it was a Web address -- www.fireronzook.com. Soon after he was hired to coach the Gators, Ron Zook became forever linked to the Web site devoted to his ouster.
In a sense, it was funny and original -- a grassroots attempt to disseminate a message about a coach that two University of Florida alumni couldn't stand.
But it was also cruel, and it took the nasty and personal nature of the ubiquitous Internet-driven rants against coaches to a new level.
"It's a great day for any Florida fan," said Mike Walsh, one of the Web site founders. "But my reaction wasn't what I thought it would be. I thought I would leave work and go have champagne.
"But I was bitter. I was bitter that we were right. I was bitter that we wasted 2½ years with Zook. I was bitter that a bunch of Florida grads could see that he had no qualifications while athletic director Jeremy Foley, who gets paid a lot money, couldn't," he said.
As often happened after big Florida losses, the Web site was almost impossible to access Monday; there were just too many people trying to get on.
Walsh and a few of his friends decided to create the site when Zook was hired, and it was up and running two days later.
"I was devastated when they hired him," said Walsh, a salesman in New York who graduated from Florida in 1996.
The founders sold T-shirts, underwear and bumper stickers to help fund the site, which they said they formed to give a voice to the common fan.
"Once it became obvious Zook wasn't qualified, the site took off," Walsh said.
Walsh believes team and school officials -- maybe even Zook -- were aware of the site and read it occasionally to gauge public perception.
"It put pressure on him and the administration," Walsh said, adding that he plans to keep it running for the rest of the season.
He said the site was never anything personal, although much of the content on the site was devoted to ridiculing Zook and Foley.
"The bottom line is he got himself fired. We just knew he would," Walsh said.