A research projectFrom warriors both young and old,
"Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air."
These words raced through my mind as I sloshed through a bog, clutching my laptop, on my way to research a 1992 witch-hunt. Making my way through fog and filthy air, I was caught in a hurly-burly, with a cacophony of sounds surrounding me. To buttress my flagging resolve, I shouted out that line from
"Macbeth," which seemed appropriate enough, for in those twisted times, fair was foul, and foul was fair. As if summoned by my words, a craggy old witch appeared before me, Go no farther, King Malamute, for those who take the name of a dog, lie buried in this bog. I took by the throat the circumcised dog, and smote him, thus.
Wasnt that last line from "Othello?" I asked. If I werent careful, we would be bogged down in iambic pentameter and mixed metaphors. Hovering slowly, just above the spongy ground, she chanted this foreboding verse.
"This battlefield echoes eerily with sobs and moans,
Who wear the purple and the gold.
The battle theyd lost, they could ill afford,
The pen is mightier than the sword.
Their leader lies fallen, near to death,
Wounded by one as treacherous, as was Macbeth.
Enter not, for historys but, a sordid plot."
A jerk of my head brought me to my senses, having fallen asleep in my chair. In a half state of consciousness, the virtual walls of the historical archives seemed to close in on me, the witchs foreboding words still in my mind. Id had a nightmarea dot-com nightmare. I shook my head, trying to clear the cobwebs. Yes, my coffee was still hot; Id slept but a moment. I could hear my wife on the phone in the next room. I looked up at the Beanie Baby, Nanook, who was sitting on top of the monitor. He nodded in approval, a sad look on his face. I had a story to write.
Failing to heed the apparitions warning, I continued to rifle through the archives at the
Los Angeles Times web site. These stories caught my attention:
"Drug Ring has Husky Connection"
"Huskies Pressure Accuser"
"Huskies Investigated by the Secret Service"
"Husky Players Sold Prescription Drugs"
"Players Claim They Need Guns"
If these words had been headlines on the theater marquees around town, they would have been nothing less than film noir.
These stories were published in The Los Angeles Times during a fifty-three day period after the Husky ship sprung a leak on November 5, 1992. A shot fired from a Seattle Times trebuchet caught the Husky ship broadside, a salvo stating that Billy Joe Hobert, Washingtons starting quarterback in the 1992 Rose Bowl game, had received unsecured loans from a nuclear engineer (who had no connection to the university or its athletic interests) totaling $50,000. Searching the archives, I found thirty stories printed during this period mentioning Billy Joe Hobert by name.
In a short period of time, The Los Angeles Times unleashed a spate of stories about Husky players receiving thousands of dollars in cash from boosters, along with money garnered from the selling of prescription drugs and cocaine. In addition it was alleged that players had used illegally altered cellular phones, that one booster had tried to bribe an accuser (later recanted by the Times) and that Husky players said they needed guns.
None of these allegations were part of the Notice of Charges filed against the Huskies that led to the final sanctions (reference Sam Farmers book, "Bitter Roses," Notice of Charges, page 313).
He was your greatest coach,
I ended up writing a 3200-word tome, "Tabloid Times" which has been published on this site. In that end, I read a number of articles that were printed in the
Times in 1992 and 1993, along with Sam Farmers excellent book. Much of the damaging information collected by the Times (e.g., concerning the summers job program in Los Angeles) came from five players who had had a falling out with the University. Several of them had filed lawsuits against the university and eventually lost them.
On August 22, 1993, Don James resigned his position as Washingtons head coach, saying: I have decided I can no longer coach in a conference that treats its players and coaches so unfairly. We have suffered for nearly 10 months from media character assassination. By looking at the penalties, it appears we are all guilty, based in large part upon statements of questionable witnesses.
The manner in which the press covered these storiesmuch of it in tabloid fashionundoubtedly affected the harshness of the sanctions levied against Washington. Most poll-driven politicians will tell you that it is easier to meet the demands of an outraged public than to change public opinion. The motives of the conference schools levying these penalties are another issue and certainly questionable. I suspect that many of the foundations supporting college footballs elite programs of today would crumble under the same scrutiny Washington endured.
Because of Washingtons success this past season, researching the 1992 scandal was not as painful as I expected it to be. Writing the tome,
"Tabloid Times," strengthened my purpose and my resolve, my loyalty to the Husky cause. Thanks to my research, I will always know that Don James is a man of integrity and honesty. A no-nonsense guy, he said, Ive told any person that ever hired one of my football players that if they didnt work, fire them.
Mixing Shakespeares verbiage with her own, the witch in my dream might have chanted:
a mortal above and beyond reproach.
All that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.
God will be your final judge.