To boo or not to boo

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

The issue of booing one's own team came up again in Week 1 of the Big East.

Pittsburgh fans booed quarterback Bill Stull early in the Panthers' 38-3 win over Youngstown State. Rutgers fans voiced their displeasure at their team's performance in the first half of a 47-15 train wreck loss to Cincinnati.

This is nothing new. Last year, Rutgers fans booed quarterback Mike Teel as he and the team scuffled to a 1-5 start. West Virginia fans booed during the Syracuse game when the team kept throwing short passes with quarterback Jarrett Brown, who -- it was revealed later -- had an injured shoulder. Heck, there has rarely been a home game in the last two years when Louisville fans haven't booed their team or coach Steve Kragthorpe at some point.

The Pittsburgh situation on Saturday was particularly interesting, because the boos came so early and the Panthers were winning. Fans have been frustrated with Stull ever since he struggled down the stretch last year, culminating in an awful 3-0 Sun Bowl loss to Oregon State.

"Fortunately, Billy's a fifth- year senior, so he's been around enough that I can talk to him and he can deal with it pretty good, though it affects everybody," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "If that's a freshman, a young kid who's 18 years old, it could have an effect on him.

"These kids are trying to do the best they can. I understand the fans' side of it; they're paying money and they want to see a winning performance. That's all part of it, and I understand that. In our game, I think it was like the second pass or something [when the boos started]. I thought that was a little bit early for that type of reaction in the first game. I do think it's different when a guy is making $10 million as compared to not."

In the past, I've heard from fans who said they were just booing the coaching staff, not the players. But that's like carpet bombing a city and saying you're only trying to take out one evil guy. There's a lot of collateral damage from booing, as it is an indiscriminate form of expression.

Then again, college football has become a big business, and schools are charging lots of money for tickets and other services. Do fans have a right to expect performance for the cash they've laid out, especially in these tough times?

What do you think? Is it ever OK to boo a college player on your home team? If so, under what circumstances? Or should we leave that for the guys making a salary?