A Letter to Coach Neuheisel
Malamute, 1 January 2003
It's four in the morning,
the day after the Sun Bowl, and I've got the jimjams. The whole, damn season has gone down the tube,
blown up in smoke, backfired, hit me in the face. Whatever.
You had Joe Tiller on the ropes, out on his feet, and you
backed off, coach. The two James's--Owens and Don--wouldnít have done that; they
would have put him down for the count. The other James, Lambo, would have
kicked his butt. A fourth, Phelan, never believed in the quality of mercy. He
put it to us in '46, and that was when he was at Saint Mary's, a Catholic
To wit, letting John Anderson try that long field goal was
a game turner, a momentum shifter that surrendered field position. I mean,
Tiller had negative yards up 'till then, and you had a 17-point lead. You gave
him a mouth-to-mouth recess.
Even John says a fifty-something is a crap
shoot for a kicker.
Instead, you let Anderson end up on a sour note, as he
misses a short field goal from the dreaded right hash. Why didnít you let him
try it from the 19, with 58 seconds remaining? You know, a better angle for
John. You ever try to hook a drive over a 12-foot hedge so that ball will split
loblolly pines, 6 yards apart, set at a 28 degree angle from the tee?
Announcing Snow's hiring from the Sun Bowl was a
complete meltdown in communication. Give me a break, Coach. No more imagery.
Snow from the sun is an oxymoron, and Hundley is already snowed and an
Okay, you went with Cleman in the first half
to pay him back for his hard work-- but he missed some big holes. Not a good way for him to end up, coach.
But you knew that he would struggle beforehand. Going into the game, Tiller was
tied with Tressel in Total Defense.
I know you weren't even around in '57, but tell your kids about Jim Owens and the "Death March." That'll scare the hell
out of 'em. Tell 'em about Johnny Myers, Bill Kinnune and Ron McKeta. They
never taped sprained ankles in those days or took themselves out of the fray.
Next time you're in El Paso, drive your kids over to
Junction and show 'em how Bear operated in '54. While you're there, pick up
some goatheads, ship 'em back to Montlake, and sprinkle them on those fancy practice fields
Owens led Bear's assistants at Junction, and he could spit
a stream of tobacco farther than Gunny Highway on bivouac with a company of
His gruff demeanor was as pointed and heated as a cactus
plant melting in the broiling desert.
Bursting into the players' Quonset hut that first morning
at Junction, Owens barked, "The last one of you ******heads to the practice
field is going to be runnin' wind sprints 'till Christmas."
"What are we going to do, Coach Owens? Practice in the
dark?" a sleepy-eyed player asked.
"Nah," said Owens, "but we're going to practice until
dark, you dumb****."
Likewise, I know that you feel like wiping that "simile" off Ted
Miller's face at times, but listen up. He'll tell you about the importance of a
running game, which if executed properly, will give his buddy Thiel a kick in the split
infinitive and shut him up.
And don't take any more orders from that woman, hear?
I know she wants your studs to hit their
books--and you get paid for that--but I've never seen a booklover, unless he's a
tight-end book-ending a line, block a 300-pound tackle.
And some more advise. I know boosters can't drop a sack of
money from an airplane on top of a kid's north forty nowadays, but there's still time
left, time to pick up a 5-star running back and two 5-star linemen, one on defense and
one on offense. Can you do that from home?
Right now, Iíll settle for some four stars, a six pack and
eight hours' sleep.
Still your pal,
Editor's notes: Malamute's lexicon follows. God, help me.
The quotes by Jim Owens (Washington, 1957-1974) were taken from "The
Junction Boys," by Jim Dent, Thomas Dunn Books, 1999.
Ted Miller and Art Thiel each write a column for the Seattle Post
Phil Snow (UCLA) has been hired as Washington's
co-defensive coordinator to assist coach Tim Hundley, who is most capable and
hardly an "oxymoron."
Senior tailback Braxton Cleman played most of the Sun Bowl for the Huskies.
Cleman should be an inspiration to us all.
Jim Tressel is the head football coach at Ohio State. Purdue and Ohio State
led the Big Ten Conference in Total Defense. Joe Tiller is the head football
coach at Purdue.
"That Woman," I believe, must refer to Barbara Hedges,
Washington's most able, capable Athletic Director. Coach Rick Neuheisel salary
is adjusted upwards for having a high, player graduation rate.
John Myers, Bill Kinnune and Ron McKeta were part of Jim Owens' championship
Rose Bowl team that beat Wisconsin, 44-8 (1960).
The four James's--Jim
Lambright (Lambo), Jim Owens, Don James, and Jim Phelan--were former football
coaches at Washington.
Goatheads, prickly curved thorns, layered the otherwise
barren practice field at Junction, Texas.
"The Bear" refers to the late Paul "Bear" Bryant who coached Texas A&M from 1954 to
1957. Jim Owens and Tom Tipps, one of Owens' assistants at Washington, were assistant
coaches for Bryant in 1954 when they took 111 players to Junction, Texas and
conditioned them in 114 degree heat, allowing them no water during practice. In
1957, Jim Owens and Tom Tipps brought their experiences at Junction to the Husky practice field.
Those practices held on the Washington campus (at Montlake) were called "The
Death March" by a local reporter.
Clint Eastwood played a marine corps gunnery sergeant, Gunny Highway, in the
movie, "Heartbreak Ridge."