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A rabies checker
Richard Linde, 1 October 2008

Looking ahead, I took a realistic look at the Huskies' prospects for the season some time back, spurred by Ivan Maisel's (ESPN) optimistic forecast for the Dawgs. (See my article, "Depth Issues," 1 June 2008).

I wrote back then, "For several years now, carpetbaggers carrying some sort of crystal ball and tons of arrogance have bestowed their unbridled optimism on the Huskiesí upcoming season. As the season spirals south, the resulting tailspin fuels discontent, disappointment, and disenchantment among the fans."

Note, that last August, the Pac-10 media wonks predicted an eighth-place finish for the Dawgs. Good for them.

A few of the wonks called the Dawgs' schedule the toughest in FBS football. Right on.

So a 0-4 start for Tyrone Willingham -- with a lack-of-depth, too-much-youth, dire forecasts and rough schedule, these all in mind -- should come as no surprise to anyone, except to the wonks who called for a win over the "tall Tree Cards" last week.

Losing that one game shouldn't have made so much difference to those in the media about Ty's future, regardless of Jake Locker's broken thumb.

But...Coach Jim Harbaugh seems to be working the miracle at the Tree, we all hoped Ty would bring to the Evergreen State. Harbaugh had a losing mentality to change, while Willingham had unrealistic expectations left over from the Don James era to surmount as well as the cultural stuff.

Willingham never had the full synergy of the fan base, the players, the assistant coaches and the administration all working for him at one time. Instead, at one time or another, the fans were fractionated, one or more key players were sulking, a couple of assistants were slipping in performance and the administration was caught up in the stadium remodel.

Willingham brought law and order to Montlake as a first step in repairing the football team; he was rewarded with grousing and grumbling on the Internet.

He's the nicest coach I've ever met at UW, so maybe I'm biased.

Example 1: Determining that both my wife and me needed directions, he introduced himself to us, and then he and his wife escorted us to the main lobby of a large hotel that we were wandering about in. On the way to the front desk to register, we chatted about golf and the Huskies.

Example 2: An impromptu, unsolicited visit to our breakfast table the year before and talk about the upcoming season.

Example 3: Always gracious at Picture Day and the band function held at the Don James Center.

Almost everyone agrees that Willingham will likely get the ax at season's end. School president Mark Emmert gave him one year to get his act together, which to most experts meant taking the Dawgs to a bowl game. Willingham was a liz-franc injury away from doing that in 2006.

Willingham must win 6 of the season's remaining 8 games for his team to become bowl eligible. If Jake Locker returns for the Apple Cup, I see a win there. But that's all.

With Willingham's future as Washington's coach hanging by a thread, recruiting could take a resounding blow due to uncertainty.

Scout.com ranks Washington's 2009 recruiting class 71st in the nation, listing just 6 recruits.

Now, four-star DT Deandre Coleman is considered a soft commit and is looking elsewhere. The defensive line desperately needs an infusion of studs.

But recruiting will most likely suffer whether Willingham is fired now, resigns now or is let go at the end of the season. Making a decision on him at this time just to salvage recruiting seems untimely. AD Scott Woodward says Willingham gets to finish the season, and then we'll see.

What happens if there are some blowouts along the way, with evidence of the team quitting on the coaching staff?

What happens if there is a booster insurrection, a rebellion of rabid ex-supporters making the current one seem tame? What if boosters over at dawgman.com begin to froth at the mouth as loses mount. Rabies is contagious and we could have a whole dot-com filled with frothing circuits spilling into the Internet, its gateways and IMPs. *

Locker's nonchalance on the sidelines after he was hurt against Stanford was not a good sign. Perhaps, he was happy to leave the debacle behind on the field. The Post-intelligencer quotes him as saying, "I think you guys know me and the fact that, yeah, it sucks being injured and not be able to play, but to sulk and feel bad for myself and be a negative vibe is not going to help anybody -- especially those guys that are in the game and that I was out there with."

Some defensive lapses in the last two games are also troubling. 

Not even Gil Dobie (58-0-3) could survive a player mutiny (which school president Henry Suzzallo said he started), nor could a former Lieutenant Governor, John Cherberg. Jim Owens was luckier with the outcome of his mutiny...I think.

At Washington, itís the bottom line that is hurting Ty the most: a 0-4 season and 11-29 overall.

Keith Gilbertsonís losing record (7-16) has hurt him, too, and, unconsciously, with many fans, that record is being added to Tyrone's record. No bowl since 2002 is all certain fans see.

Both Gilbertson and Willingham stepped into calamitous situations. What happened to Gilby -- and now apparently to Ty -- is not fair.

But life is not fair and fans are fickle. It is hard to feel too sorry for Tyrone, though. Along with his salary for the year, Tyrone will receive a buyout at the end of the year that will exceed that of what most hardworking Americans make in a lifetime.

Last Sunday, I had my eye on coach Lane Kiffin during the Raiders/Chargers game. I wonder? Can he write a rabies checker to combat the frothing integrated circuits infecting those of the Internet?

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* IMPs, packet-switching nodes, used to front the hosts on the old ARPA network. Nowadays they're called routers. IMP=Interface Message Processor.

Richard Linde, aka Malamute can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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