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Surreal photo haunts C-Dub's pillorying
Rich Linde, 4 February 2008

A controversial four-part series, entitled "Victory and Ruins," has recently found the front pages of the Seattle Times. Published eight years after the fact (January 2008), it describes what the Times now perceives as a winning-at-all-costs mentality associated with the 2000 Husky team that won the Rose Bowl in 2001. The Times alleges that Rick Neuheisel and AD Barbara Hedges accepted most of what was a "disturbing level of criminal conduct and hooliganism by the players on that team." Hedges and Neuheisel demanded a modicum of accountability from their athletes, the authors (Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry) assert.

The first chapter in the series concerns former tight end Jerramy Stevens, who "convicted of assault and accused of rape...received a raft of second chances." The second chapter of the series pillories LB Jeremiah Pharms, saying that this "key UW linebacker played the entire season after his bloody print was tied to (a) shooting." The third chapter of the series savages the memory of fallen Husky hero, Curtis Williams, who according to the Times played against Idaho with a warrant out for his arrest. The Times describes episodes of spousal abuse and shaky academic performance. The fourth chapter describes LB Anthony Kelley's dilemma at UW, one of discovering the joy of learning while having "to buck a football program that emphasized eligibility, not education."

The surreal photo below, taken in May 2002, questions the pillorying of fallen Husky hero Curtis Williams.

This series should be taken as a critique of big-time college football, with the Huskies' football team of 2000 serving as a model. Uncertainty at Washington, as illustrated by coach Tyrone Willingham's perpetual hot seat and now Neuheisel's return to college football, provided the timing for the series -- eight years down the pike. Not surprisingly, liberal columnist Art Thiel of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer immediately followed the series with an article entitled, "Big-time college sports' misdeeds have many enablers."

Unfortunately, in perpetuity, a defenseless Curtis Williams carries the Times' dirty water. His marital problems, previously not widely known before, provided the sensationalism needed for the series. If he had been alive today, a quadriplegic and on a ventilator part time, would the Times have tarnished his memory? Of course not, the ensuing public outrage would have reverberated throughout the Times' building for years. If Curtis were with us today, would the Times have written his side of the story? The effects of such an interview likely would have severely jeopardized his physical and mental health. Outrage would have driven its authors into Union Bay. My guess is that the whole series would have crumbled without C-Dub's unknown story. His death ensures his side of the story will never be known.

The Times says, "We struggled mightily with that matter. Williams died a tragic death that affected the entire community, and we hesitated to cause additional pain. But the story about how his coaches and community institutions handled his criminal problems was one we felt needed to be told."

Coach Dick Baird, former Husky recruiting coordinator, says the Times didn't tell about the progress that Curtis had made towards changing his behavior.

Reportedly a portion of the Curtis Williams Fund pays child support for his daughter Kymberly. According to an article in the University of Washington Daily, the fund, which is made up of donations, reached approximately $460,000 as of September 2002. See "Curtis Williams fund split into trust, scholarship."

The Times conveniently forgot to mention the trust fund for Kymberly, except to say that $300,000 dollars were raised for Curtis's medical care.

An older brother of Curtis, Dave Williams, in response to Chapter 3, wrote a letter to the Times critical of his brother's behavior. One of the Times' major themes seemed implicit in Williams' response, which criticized the violence inherent in college football.

Of the twenty-four "hooligans" and "outlaws" described by the Times, only eleven players come to mind to those of us who follow the Huskies closely. Ten of them are African Americans. A few of them found trouble in other seasons, and not the 2000 season. The series either needs to provide answers to questions dealing with implicit racism -- and its potential for racial profiling -- or else remove these two sentences from its lead article.

"At least a dozen members of the Rose Bowl team were arrested that year or charged with a crime that carried possible jail time. At least a dozen others on that team got in trouble with the law in other seasons," the Times asserts.

All of the players referred to by name in the four-part series were African Americans.

The Times' series praises Willingham, hired by UW in December 2004, for his players' relatively spotless record on the police blotter. It should be noted that his mostly clean record rests on a foundation of players recruited by Neuheisel and Keith Gilbertson. Willingham inherited members of Neuheisel's 2001, 2002, and 2003 classes and members of Gilbertson's 2004 class. Gilby's recruits contributed partially to Willingham's  2005 class  -- the other part, Willingham recruited himself.

Rick saw something in Juan Garcia (2003 class), who will anchor UW's offensive line next season, that others didn't see. That's another story the Times won't print. 

In this surreal, un-retouched photo, Neuheisel presents C-Dub's folded up jersey to his parents at the graveside service held in Clovis, California. The subjects of chapter one (left, Jerramy Stevens) and chapter four (middle, Anthony Kelley) stand eerily in the background. Stevens is seemingly fading from view. "Why not have left that day as it ended?" asks Curtis's now tarnished memory.

Reference: "Motivation for Times' stories: an attack on college football," and "A sad day for Seattle: a newspaper sells its soul."

Malamute can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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