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Renovating and bashing
Rich Linde, 19 January 2008

-- Funding from the state legislature ($150 million)

The proposed funding approval from the State Legislature, which is under consideration, would provide half the cost of refurbishing and upgrading Husky Stadium. According to the latest plan, the other $150 million would come from private funds, for example, from donations, premium seating and naming rights.

The iconic landmark, Husky Stadium, is crumbling as we speak. Does the State Legislature want to see this local treasure bulldozed into Lake Washington? The fate of the landmark seemingly rests in its hands -- unless someone can come up with a better idea for funding.

The wobbly press box and sponsors’ booths are a disgrace to prominent people staring out front windows -- in this case an unenclosed press box that sits high in the air.

The background for a Fox TV broadcast emanating from the press box last season seemed cast from the Great Depression.

The electrical system is not up to code. There are exposed wires in the press area and elsewhere in the stadium.

Fans are literally shouldering the burden of missing handrails. As they walk down stairs in the lower bowl, older fans and the handicapped must rely for balance, if need be, on the shoulders of seated fans in lieu of handrails, which are required by code.

The lower bowl was built in 1920, when Woodrow Wilson was president and prohibition was signed into law.

An aside: If Warren G. Harding had been named Harry Harding we would have had four presidents in a row who had first and last names that were alliterations: Woodrow, Harry, Calvin and Herbert -- you know a memory gimmick for a quiz show, say.

The track is antediluvian at best, an eyesore on national television that presents an unrealistic image of this modern-day university and its athletics program. Removing the track and moving it somewhere else, while lowering the field, gets fans closer to the action.

Half of the cost of the new football stadium at the University of Minnesota was financed by Minnesota's State Legislature. So there is some precedence for the use of public funds elsewhere, along with the seismic work done on the Bank of America building.

Not raising the necessary public funds most likely means that a move to Qwest Field is imminent and that scenic backdrop fans across the country have grown to enjoy on certain Saturday afternoons will have vanished.

Unfortunately, repairing a generic flaw in the stadium can't be done with a simple change to a macro, like adding or changing a lower bounds check on a parameter. No negative numbers, please. Each specific flaw, such as an exposed rebar, must be repaired individually. 

The UW has a prominent, highly-respected football coach in Tyrone Willingham, who is the president of the American Football Coaches Association and one of just a handful of African Americans who are head coaches in college football. A fully modernized Husky Stadium would reflect, for one thing, on Willingham’s contribution to the community, especially so, if he can resurrect the glory of Washington by rebuilding the football team.

A winning football team next season translates into more private dollars for the rebuilding fund. The gods of football have blessed the Huskies with emerging superstar Jake Locker, so that expectation is not altogether impossible.

Really, though, the return to glory and the modernized stadium will go hand in hand, regardless of who the coach may be, since the stadium transcends any of Washington's present and former coaches.  

According to an AP article appearing on the UW website, "Money from King County hotel-motel, restaurant and rental-car taxes and tax credits in King County already are paying for new stadiums for baseball's Seattle Mariners and the NFL's Seahawks, plus remaining debt on the now-demolished Kingdome. "

The UW would like to use revenues from the expected three years remaining on the restaurant tax, which is scheduled to payoff construction bonds for Safeco Field in 2012. The tax expires in 2015 and is estimated to bring in $20 million per year. Likewise, the UW proposes to use funds from what is expected to be the early expiration of the 2 percent hotel/motel tax. This tax is paying off debts from the old King Dome. After the King Dome debts are paid off, the tax revenues are scheduled to fund Qwest Field until 2020. "After that, the UW would like to use it," the AP article says.

Preserving the iconic nature of Husky stadium is for everyone in the northwest to enjoy, not just the fans, the alumni and the donors to the university. Its unique beauty and on-campus setting is without parallel in the United States.         

Ensuring the viability of the northwest’s crown jewel should be a no-brainer to the State Legislature.

-- Two different views of Rick

While Rick Neuheisel’s virtual carcass is being beaten well beyond life after death in Seattle, the real Rick is sporting a new image, thanks to the Los Angeles Times. Bill Plaschke, formerly of the Post-Intelligencer, recently wrote that the “Old college try is working for Neuheisel,” that he took a shot at getting Ken Norton and now he’s going after Norm Chow. A couple of days before, Kurt Streeter of the Times wrote fondly about Neuheisel’s stint at Rainier Beach high school. [Streeter].

In other words, the LA Times is giving Neuheisel good copy, while Seattle’s media are still throwing mud at Rick – nothing new here as far as the Seattle media goes.

I remember when Rick first came to Seattle; it was a much different atmosphere then, compared to the one his fawning media in LA is presenting. The fraternity brawl, just off the front burner, was his fault, they said. Another blot on his record, one P-I reporter wrote. The quiet day visits were sensationally overplayed. Rick had yet to coach a game at Washington. Why all of the bashing back then? Answer: Follow the money.

Back in 1999, the leader of the piranhas, columnist Art Thiel, was overwhelmed by RN’s “million-dollar” salary, and he still is today, blaming Rick and Barbara Hedges for the escalation in college football salaries. The influential, venerable gent is lost in his Watergate metaphors -- stale leftovers from the seventies. [*]

We can go on and on about the local media here: Rick’s miraculous appearance and the eavesdropping; the Hamlet and Millen editorials; the double standard for Rick and job seeking; the inflated moneys postured in the auction stories; Brand’s early-on quotes about Rick; overplay of the Feel-Good episode; presenting just one side to the ambiguous gambling rule; an apparent collusion with the NCAA and its gumshoe operation, etc.

Even Rick's two-year stint at Rainier Beach high school was met with scorn by at least one Seattle columnist. 

"This is the same guy who NCAA audio tapes show repeatedly lied about his involvement in a big-time college betting pool. This is the guy who ducked whether he was interviewing for a pro football gig while still coaching the Huskies. This is the guy who got caught in mess after mess, fib after fib -- and bobbed and weaved and deceived his way out of it," a Seattle columnist wrote. [Jamieson].

The latest kerfuffle made over Rick -- reflecting somewhat negatively on his Seattle image -- concerns a former player, Jerramy Stevens.

“I, for one, have no interest in a return to those glory days of Rick Neuheisel Husky football, when UW tight end Jerramy Stevens pleaded guilty to misdemeanor hit-and-run after ramming his truck into a retirement home and leaving the accident scene,” writes Julie Muhlstein of the Herald Net.

“(John) Wooden put a high value on integrity; Neuheisel joins a high-stakes college sports betting pool. Wooden believed in firm discipline; Neuheisel didn't, at least not when Jerramy Stevens was involved,” writes blogger Seth Kolloen in the P-I this week.

Gosh, I thought Lambo recruited Stevens; I mean he’s not all Rick’s fault. ;-)

And what about UCLA sugar daddy Sam Gilbert and UW’s March Madness memo, Seth? 

Speaking of recruits, didn’t Rick sign Nate Robinson? Wasn’t he the sparkplug that energized the men's basketball team for several years?

There are lessons to be learned from the Neuheisel debacle, that is, how it should have been handled and what should have been done. Blaming Neueheisel for the current state of affairs at Montlake is counterproductive. As usual, the unique Seattle sports media, one of a kind in the country, isn’t helping UW return to its glory days.


These references below represent diametrically opposing views of Rick:

[Jamieson]. Jamieson, Robert L., "High school should have passed on Neuheisel," The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 25, 2003.

[Streeter]. Streeter, Kurt, "Neuheisel's comeback had a rather humble beginning," The Los Angeles Times, January 13, 2008.

[*| In addition to Rick's salary, the Huskies agreed to payoff in three installments an $800 thousand home loan Neuheisel secured when coaching at Colorado. His initial salary of $870 thousand per year was augmented by $100 thousand in incentives -- which he ended up earning for two years.

Malamute can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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