Sark's feet to the fireRich Linde, 12 January 2009
the newness of having a new head coach on board has been with us for a
little over a month, the question of goals and a timetable for reaching
them emerges through all the hoopla and euphoria of Steve Sarkisian’s
a new football coach is like buying a new car. It seems to drive better
than the old one and it looks shinier, but can it live up to all the
hype we saw on TV and heard from the dealership? In this case, the
Trojan football factory.
It’s time to look under
the hood, to see what we’ve got and make some projections.
Fortunately for our new model (the 2009 Sarkisian), the old car was
totaled -- that is, the 2008 Willingham -- to wit: the Huskies are
coming off a 0-12 season and finished 100th or higher among the 119 teams
in 25 of the FBS’s statistical categories.
introductory news conference, with that in mind, Sarkisian said “There
is only one place to go but up.”
says he knows Husky football and knows what Husky Stadium can be. “I
know it's something that's attainable for us. It's going to happen
quickly, it's going to happen fast, it's going to take the support of
players in this state should never leave. This is too good of an
institution; this is too good of a program for any kid to want to leave
so there is no question. So we're going to put a wall up around the
state of Washington, around the Seattle and surrounding areas. We're
going to keep them here. And when we get out of here, we're going to do
a good job identifying the top talent on the West Coast and go after it
and go get it."
and second goals:
building a wall around the state and bettering Willingham’s recruiting
5-star quarterback Jake Heaps and other State of Washington blue chippers
to the 2010 recruiting class is an achievable goal and one that will
provide a measure of Sarkisian’s progress relative to building a wall
around the state.
ranks Willingham’s recruiting classes as follows: 2005: 55; 2006: 35;
2007: 29; and 2008: 14. The 2009 class, Sarkisian’s class, is currently ranked
77th in the nation. See Bob Condotta's article
on this topic.
recruiting rankings will be an early indication that an improving won/lost record
is in the works or vice versa.
The third goal:
Along the road to
Sarkisian's success at
Washington, an improving set of statistics will be a necessary goal.
See the statistics from last season.
They can't get any worse than that.
looking for a benchmark.
improving won/lost column is Sarkisian's last measure of performance.
getting the Huskies back to a bowl game? The Huskies’ last bowl
appearance was in the 2002 Sun Bowl, when they had their last winning
Is there a Rudy
story in conference lore for Sarkisan to emulate, to
give us fans hope for a return to a winning season and a bowl
Jim Owens took over a 5-5 UW team from Darrell Royal. He parlayed it
into a 10-1 team in 1959 and a winner in the 1960 Rose Bowl. Besides
taking over a better team, in relative terms, than Sarkisian is inheriting, Owens had the
“death march” and the limited substitution rule to pave his way.
the early Owens’ era out as a paradigm (do you have a pair of dimes for
a quarter cup of coffee?)
Don James took the reins from Jim Owens and went 6-5, bettering Owens’
5-6 record from the previous year. James’s Washington team beat Michigan
in the 1978 Rose Bowl, 27-20. His illustrious career was helped along by
NCAA scholarship reductions that began in 1973, not to say James
couldn’t have done it on his own.
James’s record out as a comparator, as Cal, Oregon State, and Oregon are
all more formidable competitors now than during James's time.
looking around the league for another model?
Sarkisian, Cal’s head coach Jeff Tedford was a former offensive
coordinator that provides another potential role model.
his first year at Cal, Tedford went 7-5, which was a marked improvement
over the previous year when the Bears finished 1-10 under Tom Holmoe.
The Bears hadn’t had a winning season since 1993, and Tedford was named
Pac-10 coach of the year in 2002. In his amazing story, Tedford is now
59-30 overall at Cal, has a 5-1 bowl record and is 36-23 in the Pac-10.
Tedford’s magic at Cal seems like a miracle more than a Horatio Alger
story, I won’t hold Sark to Tedford’s unbelievable standard. Obviously,
the Holmoe cupboard wasn't completely bare.
there is Mike Riley at Oregon State who has posted a record of 46-28
over his last 6 years with the Beavers. In 2003 when he came on
board for his second stint with the Beavers, he inherited an 8-5 team
from 2002, which hardly qualifies as a schlock. However, he is credited
for laying the groundwork for the success of the Beavers during his
previous stint at OSU during the 1997 and 1998 seasons. From 1971
through 1998, OSU had 28-straight losing seasons. The Beavers posted a
winning season in 1999, when they went 7-5-0 under Dennis Erickson.
Erickson went 11-1 in 2000 and finished with 5-6 and 8-5 seasons in 2001
rule was in full effect in the Pac-10 beginning with the 1994 season,
and is the reason Erickson and Riley's successes wouldn't be appropriate
table below lists coaches in the Pac-10 who produced a winner after
taking over a perennial loser. Column 1 lists the name of the coach and
the year he took over; column 2 lists the school's record in the year
before he took over; column 3 lists the number of years before producing
a winner; and column 4 lists the reason the coach's record either is not or
could be a fair
comparator for Sark's situation.
||NCAA rules change; Death March
||OSU, Cal, UO weren't factors; NCAA
|M. Stoops, 2004
||Himself; most apt comparator
But…there is a more apt benchmark in the Pac-10 that could
directly apply to Sarkisian and become a timetable for getting to a bowl, and that is Mike Stoops’ success story at
his first year with the Wildcats in 2004, Stoops went 3-8, the ‘Cats
having gone 2-10 the previous year, a year when John Makovic was fired
at mid-season.. Stoops’ subsequent W/L record (2005: 3-8; 2006: 6-6; and
2007: 5-7) is capped by a winning season in 2008 (8-5) and a victory
over BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Wildcats’ previous bowl appearance was in 1998.
On December 23,
Stoops was given a contract extension through the 2013 season by UA
athletic director Mike Livengood. His previous contract ran through
Sarkisian’s (Washington’s 2008 record) and Stoops’ (Arizona’s 2003
record) starting points are nearly the same as shown by the table below.
|Sark/Stoops' starting numbers
||UW -- 2008
||UA -- 2003
|Pass Defense Efficiency
five-year record at Arizona is a fair comparative and the one I’ll hold
Steve Sarkisian’s feet to the fire with. In other words, I'm giving Sark
five years to get to a bowl. (*)
comparative note: Arizona started off with three OOC patsies this year:
Idaho (2-10); Toledo (3-9); and New Mexico (4-8). Arizona lost to New
Mexico, 36-28, but won the other two. In Stoops’ other years at UA, he
posted three wins over Northern Arizona and one win over Stephen F.
Austin. Over that span of time (2004-2008) Arizona lost two games to
Utah, one to Wisconsin, one to Purdue, one to BYU, one to LSU and
another to New Mexico, this in 2007.
Sarkisian, likely, will have a tougher OOC schedule to hurdle. He will
face LSU, Notre Dame and Idaho in 2009, for example.
Stoops first recruiting
class at Arizona (the 2004 class) was ranked 64th in the nation by
scout.com. After that his classes were ranked as follows: 15, 19, 49,