under the radarRichard Linde, March 5, 2007
foreseeable future is there an historical pattern that would indicate
Washington is about to return to its once prominent position as a
dominant player in college football?
Washington football program peeked in 1991, when it shared the national
championship with the Miami Hurricanes, and since then has deteriorated,
except for a win in the 2001 Rose Bowl. Since 1997, Washington has
posted a 53-54 record, including the 2000 season when it went 11-1-0.
Over the years, the Huskies have always been at a disadvantage when
competing with the California schools for athletes. A few quality players like Hugh McElhenny, Don Heinrich, Marques Tuiasosopo, and Sonny Sixkiller
came along and made a positive impact on the program. They were
difference makers, when all else was equal.
Other than these exceptional athletes, NCAA rules changes, more
than any other factor, have either helped or hurt the Huskies over the years
when competing with the California schools.
example, Jim Owensí early years were aided by one-platoon football;
whereas, unlimited substitution in the early sixties had a negative
effect on his career, as did the racial unrest of the late sixties.
Scholarship limitations helped Don James temporarily end what seemed to be the the
total domination of UCLA and USC. James was concerned about the addition of
the Arizona schools to the conference in 1978, but he managed to survive
Further reductions in scholarships gave the three other Northwest
schools a boost in the early nineties, ending the Huskiesí previous
Table 1. NCAA Rules' changes and their correlation with Washington football
||Welch, Odell, Root (&)
||Cherberg, Royal, Owens
||Unlimited substitution; no limits on scholarships
||95 scholarships (#)
||Mostly 85 scholarships (*)
||James, Lambright, Neuheisel
||NCAA investigation, lawsuit
& Notre Dame's firing of TW
(*) 1992=92; 1993=88; 1994-2007=85 scholarships.
Due to the illness of Howie Odell, Reggie Root (an assistant coach) took over
as head coach in 1948 and coached one year.
For a period of time, the Pac-10 limited the scholarships to 90.
Except for the last four years, there
is a strong correlation between Washington's won/lost record and the NCAA
scholarship and substitution rules in effect. These rules provisions either
mitigated or worsened the effects of the population advantage that
California schools enjoyed at UW's expense.
Needless to say, Don James and Jim Owens, both
outstanding coaches, took advantage of the NCAA rules benefiting the Huskies
and brought UW to prominence with their aid.
Being on probation for NCAA Bylaw violations has hurt the Huskies,
as well. The major violations occurred in the mid-fifties and early
nineties. The 2003 imbroglio, involving former coach Rick Neuheisel,
enervated the program and is the main reason for the Huskies' 14-32
record of the past four years.
the foreseeable future, Washington will be at a disadvantage when
competing with the Arizona and California schools for top quality
among the four northwest schools for better athletes has never been more
there any hope for the Huskies?
Upgrading the facilities could give recruiting a boost.
top-notch head coach could make a significant difference -- like Jeff
Tedford did at Cal. Iím not sure
about Jim Mora Jr., though, not at this time. In the past, Mora
expressed interest in the Washington job on a local radio station.
Although Head coach Tyrone Willingham (7-16) doesnít seem to be the
answer to restoring the Huskiesí football fortunes in the minds of many people, we
all need to wait and see. He is running a clean program and is keeping
the NCAA infractions people at bay. He has control of the local media,
which, for the most part in the past, has been hostile to having a
big-time college football milieu in the Seattle area.
Seattle media which used to wag the dawg (pun on the movie) are in the
unfamiliar position of being wagged. Thatís significant and a huge plus
for the Willingham persona, his football program and, concomitantly, the
publicís view of his program.
With the hiring of Willingham, the University of Washington chose the
conservative path leading back to renewed success on the gridiron. After all, Notre Dame had just fired him,
and he was an enigma since the reasons for firing him were never made
Considering the scandal rocked program in 2003, the super-clean
Willingham was the correct choice for the head coaching job,
even though the program
was facing long odds because of its inherent and worsening recruiting liability. (*)
2003, the athletics program at Washington was beset by an NCAA gambling
investigation, its basketball violations and the "Dr. Feel Good" scandal
that rocked the women's softball team. Because of its
prominence, the football program took the heat for all three scandals in
the collective mind of the public. One Seattle columnist managed to lump
the medical school's problems in with the whole kit and caboodle
involving athletics. The public's perception of the UW
athletics program is still under repair.
a Jeff Tedford or an Urban Meyer at that time of either Keith
Gilbertson's (July, 2003) or Willingham's hire (December, 2004) would have been lamentable.
Washington would have been better off hiring a coach from the
netherworld, vis-ŗ-vis its most vocal critics, because of the money
required to bring in a high-profile coach. You don't replace a $1.4 million coach (Neuheisel) with a
$3 million coach at a troubled public university, which is bearing close
scrutiny from the
media and which is facing potential lawsuit settlements on the behalf of
two former coaches. Not back then and certainly not now.
Washington had -- and still has -- no other choice than to fly under the radar with the
scrupulous, low-key Willingham.
to some pertinent questions posed by anonymous Internet posters:
Washington football program capitulated to the whims of the upper
Yes, in a way, it has. But that's okay. I firmly believe that school
president Mark Emmert and athletic director Todd Turner are committed to
restoring Washington to its former status as a big-time player in
there any hope for restoring the football program to its former status?
Of course there is. Somewhere down the line the time will be right to
bring in a coach with a proven record if need be, not to say that
Willingham can't be the answer. Making improvements to Husky Stadium
will be huge.
to the fans to support the Huskies in the interim years and to support
the university with their financial contributions. Anonymously grumbling
and complaining about the football program over the Internet will only
make matters worse.