Football keeps optimism during ups and downs

By William Kennedy

For Macalester football and its new coaching staff, 2006 has been a season of firsts. A 50-6 win against Principia College on Sept. 9 was the program’s first win in two full seasons.
However, a 0-10 loss at Beloit College on Sept. 2, and a 0-52 stomping by Carleton last week were firsts of a different nature for Head Coach Glen Caruso. “Before the Beloit game, I’ve never been shutout in 22 years of football,” he said. “And I’ve never been beaten 52 to nothing, it’s a new experience.”
As these early season results suggest, the news has not been completely positive for the down-and-out program which assumed poster child status for Macalester’s recommitment to athletics. For Caruso however, these difficulties are just part of the process of rebuilding a team.
“I understood how much of a hole we were in and how far we had to climb to get as competitive as I would like,” he said. “We are going to turn this program around; it’s not going to happen over night, but it is going to happen.”

Despite suffering the first two shutouts of his career, Caruso and his staff appear to be making good on that promise. One important indicator is that first win which had eluded Mac for so long. Anyone will admit that Principia, a Christian Science college with an enrollment of 600 students and a football team smaller than Macalester’s, is an easy match; but for the Scots, after so many consecutive losses, any victory is a good sign.

“Four years from now will we be happy with a one and two start? No,” Caruso said. “But right now we’re ecstatic.”
The Scots, at the very least, have reason to be optimistic. The team’s roster has grown substantially, with about 50 students suiting up this season. That number is nowhere near the 100-man squads that most college programs have, but it’s moving toward the pragmatic goal of around 85 active players that Caruso has set for Mac football.
Watching the Scots practice, one can see the impact of improved organization and motivation as the team works efficiently and enthusiastically through their drills.
“In the locker room people are expecting more of themselves and more of teammates,” Peter Christenson ’07 said.
That attitude has translated to the games, where the Scots look like a rejuvenated team. “[The] kids play a full 60 minutes whether up by 50 or down by 50,” Caruso said of his team.

That alone is an accomplishment. If however, the ultimate goal is for the Scots to become a competitive program and eventually return to the MIAC, the team has a log way to go. The loss to Carleton, an improved, but still low ranking MIAC team, makes it clear that Mac is not ready to compete against its comparably sized, traditional rivals in the area.
Caruso and his team accept that patience will have to play a role as Mac football strives toward respectability.
“I don’t like losing,” Christenson said. “It’s hard but you’ve got to learn your lesson and go for the next one.”

Stoicism like this will be necessary for the Scots as losing will likely be a reality for some time. Teams like Carleton may roll up the score on Mac throughout the season, but regardless, Caruso looks to the future with his habitual optimism. “Even the worst day on the football field beats the best day anywhere else,” he said. “You only get so many opportunities to play and when it’s all said and done you’re playing football and that’s a great thing.”

The Scots will play next at 1 p.m. on Sept. 23 against the University of Chicago as they look to claim their second win of the season.