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Harboring some notions
Malamute, 20 February 2009

What I’ve been reading on the Internet has inspired some thought, some of them being sanguine. But any optimistic thoughts I have about a quick-turnaround for the 0-12 Huskies are always tempered by a glance at last season’s statistics. So how long to we have to wait for the Huskies to restore their past glory on the playing field?

For example, how long will it take for UW to just break even?  

The notion: It depends on whom you talk with, but it could take Washington from 3 to 5 years to produce a break-even season (.500). ESPN’s Ted Miller writes "there's not reason UW fans can't hope to get back to .500 within three years.'' Let’s see that would be in 2011. It took Mike Stoops three years to bring Arizona back to playing.500 ball and five years to get to a winning season (See the Arizona benchmark)

Will hard work produce a quicker turnaround?

The notion: Steve Sarkisian seems to be putting a greater emphasis on recruiting, working hard and building depth, all of which is a big cultural change from last season. If the coaching staff works hard, along with the leaders of the team, so will the younger players.

Unfortunately, toiling into the wee hours of the morning is not enough. The Huskies need an infusion of playmakers, war daddies and a couple of first-round draft picks. It will take several years and some signature wins for that to happen.

The notion: Sarkisian will bring emotion to the playing field once more. Sarkisian and Nick Holt will attempt to change the losing attitude that has infected the Huskies, while restoring some pride, arrogance and swagger to the team.  

But playing with emotion has its limits and depends, to some extent, on the overall talent on the team.

You can only out-tough another player and bluff him so much before reality sets in. Say that a kid begins a game emotionally higher than a kite and gets knocked on his rear by some guy who is bigger, faster and stronger than he is – ends up seeing double on the play -- and then plays hurt and emotionless after that, trying to keep his body from receiving any more gut-wrenching pain, I mean who can blame him for sloughing off. That scenario needs to end at Washington.

The Huskies need to do the bullying and not the cowing. To this end, the Dawgs need to get bigger, stronger, and faster and build more depth. These are goals that have been set by Sarkisian. They all will be met over a period of time.

The notion: Intense practices should whip the players into shape.  (My experience at Olympia in 2003).

Certainly, newly hired offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto is an intense coach, so to speak. But so was Keith “Gilby” Gilbertson at the practices I saw. Neither of them assumed the role of a good-cop/bad-cop, that is, they never worked as a unit to whipsaw a player. The two of them mostly played the bad cop role, but neither of them resembled a military boot camp instructor. A contingent of players loafed during the gassers, but most of them were nursing an injury or soreness. Nothing close to resembling the Jim Owens’ death-march era transpired. I didn’t like the bear crawls after practice. I felt they were degrading and humiliating.

Here’s part of what I wrote at one of the Olympia practices back in 2003, “Phil Snow, Bobby Kennedy and Dan Cozzetto all seem to be the most vocal of the assistants. Snow has a slight edge over the other two, in my mind. ‘Practices under Snow are like Spinal Tap's amplifiers -- they have been turned up to 11,’ Ted Miller (Seattle Post Intelligencer) wrote in one of his columns."

In the 2002 season, the Huskies rushed for 77.0 yards per game; in 2003, under Cozzetto, the Dawgs rushed for 119.5 yards per game.  

Gilbertson was always ready to quip after practice, providing someone gave him a straight line and that the practice had gone well.

The notion: Open practices will reenergize the fan base, the players and the media.

Opening up practices to the media will encourage more positive stories about Sarkisian and his attempt to raise the Dawgs from the clutches of Cerberus, the three-headed dog in Greek Mythology. For example, the contingent of Polynesians that Johnny Nansen and Sarkisian are putting together at Washington would make for a positive story once the Polys are all in place. As a unit they bring an esprit de corps to the team that will have some payoffs in improved defensive-line play for example.  (See "The Polys are back on the defensive line.")

The notion: For Husky football to survive as we know it, Husky Stadium, the Crown Jewel of the Northwest, must be brought up to meet current safety standards and be in compliance with the ADA. Lowering the field and building a new press box are part of the planned renovations, the estimated cost of the whole project being $300 million. Deferred maintenance on the aging stadium is estimated to be $100 million over a ten-year period. The renovation will spur the local economy by creating new jobs.

The odds of acquiring the necessary funding seem long indeed when considering the wretched economy and the fact that in many people’s minds moving the Huskies to Qwest Field is a viable alternative. They point to UCLA's success at the Rose Bowl as an example of moving a team's location.

Of course, I don't want to see Washington lose Husky stadium and move to Qwest Field, a move that could put the solvency of the athletics program in jeopardy. The iconic nature of the stadium must be preserved at all costs. But, as a life-long fan of the Huskies, I'm prepared to accept the worst-case scenario and still support the program.

The notion: Past history at Washington has its lessons.

The NCAA’s role and incompetence in Washington’s debacle can’t be emphasized enough, and vice versa. Add two vendettas, an eavesdropper, a snitch, an imprudent coach and two fish wraps and you have the formula for Washington’s implosion.

Had the NCAA abided by its own rules, UW would still be among college football’s elite teams. And UW’s defense of itself and its coach would have survived the ensuing media assault. It would have been hilarious watching the media argue among themselves about the ambiguity of the NCAA gambling rule, as it was strewn recklessly about the Internet in various forms.

Richard Linde can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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