Dawg days in the desert
Richard Linde, 14 March 2008
It was bright and serene
with wispy high clouds and just enough warmth in the air to suggest the
searing heat of late spring was near.
Speaking of turning up the
heat, we’d just arrived at the Renaissance Esmeralda Hotel and Spa at Indian
Wells and couldn’t find the lobby. I was looking around for directions when
my wife spotted a black woman getting off the elevator and asked her for
directions. “Richard, look who’s here,” she said, and I turned around.
The woman’s husband
extended his hand and shook mine, “How are you?” he said, with a wide smile, “I am Tyrone
He was clean shaven, fit
and neat in appearance, looking younger than his 55 years. He was shorn of
the handsome goatee he sported last year, but Kim, his wife, wasn’t with him
Kim and Tyrone led us to
the lobby. On the long walk, I complimented Tyrone on his 2008 recruiting
class. I told him that there were some Husky moments on the playing field
last season that reminded me of the Huskies of old, like the 18-straight
rushing plays that started the Hawaii game. Kim’s face brightened
noticeably, contrasting with Willingham’s wooden look.
When I opined it would take
some time to rebuild the Huskies, both Kim and Tyrone emitted a soft,
quizzical-sounding “Mmm,” which told me that his time was running out this
year. “I guess I’m more patient than other folks,” I said softly, wishing I
hadn’t brought up the subject.
I switched the topic to
golf and asked him if he’d played to his six-handicap the last two days in
the desert. Kim laughed. “I haven’t played much golf lately,” he said.
Whoops, strike two, I thought.
At the banquet later in the
evening, we all met again. Rob Weller (’72) and Richard Karn (’79) emceed
the event. Besides the speakers, the Jimmy Cho Trio, a UW jazz combo,
enlivened the proceedings with some great music. Throughout the evening, old photos of historic
buildings on campus played on two large screens, one positioned on each side
of the Emerald Ballroom -- which is set just behind a large swimming pool at
the rear end of the hotel.
Like last year’s Chow Down
to Washington, Weller and Karn peppered the evening with jokes about Fife,
Washington, the small town where Dr. Emmert and his wife, DeLaine, grew up.
They joked about moving Husky Stadium to Fife and building a casino there
with Fife card stud. Did you hear that a car dealership is coming to Fife,
it was said as the evening wore on? The evening was rife with Fife.
Dr. Emmert joked that
Cougars and Huskies share one thing in common. They both have applied for
admission at the University of Washington. Now that the writers strike is
over, he said, Weller and Karn can get someone to write their material.
Emmert’s talk was all about
academics and the upper campus; not once did he discuss the lower campus,
athletics or the football program – and he said nothing about the hunt for a new AD.
Does that mean the upper campus rules?
No, it doesn’t. Dr. Emmert
is a strong supporter of UW football. He and his wife convinced me of that
four years ago when they talked about their LSU
experience in great detail.
The football team is coming off a 4-9
season, the athletics director, er hum, resigned, three new assistant
football coaches have been hired, and Tyrone is on the proverbial hot seat,
which was implicit in Emmert’s guarded speech.
Instead of trying to spin a
tough subject, Emmert talked about the research money the university has
raised, and about some of the brilliant students that have attended
Washington under his watch. The University of Washington is rated fourteenth
in the world, he told us.
Ironically, the school
president lives in a 12,000 square-foot mansion
at night and goes begging for money by day.
Raising money for the
university is Emmert’s pride and joy. He’s brilliant at it, and he’s paid
accordingly, reportedly $905,000 a year. A winning football team can be a
significant plus in fundraising. Considering Emmert’s passion for
and his love of athletics, it is quite clear that he
wants to have a coach at Washington that can win the majority of his
football games. Clearly, Willingham is on a one-year leash.
At the end of his talk, he
said that Dan Evans was in attendance and was raising funds for the Stadium
remodel. Before turning the microphone over to the coach, he said this is
the Locker era and, also, the Willingham era.
When Willingham took the
mike, he sang Emmert's praises with superlatives that contrasted sharply
with his own pedestrian introduction by the school president.
He joked about being from
the nondescript town of Jacksonville, North Carolina and wondered if the two
masters of ceremonies would tell Jacksonville jokes at the next banquet.
Some of us wondered whether Ty would be with us next year. In any case, a
Jacksonville joke isn’t going to work like a joke about Fife.
Willingham talked about
Chris Polk and how he had recruited him away from USC. Polk’s family was
split down the middle on his recruitment, but Tyrone said that he had Polk’s
mother on his side, his ace in the hole. In Ty Willie’s mind, Polk is to
this recruiting class as Locker was to the 2006 class; Willingham said that
this class, however, is deeper in more positions than Locker’s.
Tyrone is excited about his
recruiting class and talked about its speed.
Speed is a huge issue with
Tyrone, always on his mind at Washington. Witness the Blaine Newnham
interview a few years ago. Remember those “ahems.” Along with Polk, he
mentioned Aguilar and Boyles by name. He talked about an incoming speedster
that had set a goal for running the 200 meters in 20.9 seconds.
When the coach mentions a
young kid by name at a donor event, it is always significant -- kind of
like broadcasting Locker's name last year when we were all wondering
who the QB would be. Locker’s speed was on his mind back then.
“If you’re not excited
about Locker, you’re not excited about football,” he said at this event. He went on to
praise Jake’s humility and dedication to the team.
Willingham spoke highly of
his three new assistant coaches: Ed Donatell (defensive coordinator), Brian
White (special teams and tight ends) and Steve Gervais (offense and perhaps
Willingham noted that UW
almost had two 1000 yards rushers last season.
He concluded his spiel by
saying that the Huskies’ offense averaged 29.2 points per game last season.
By reducing the points allowed by 7 points and maintaining the same
offensive output, we can win a lot of games next season, he said.
Appearing out of nowhere,
DeLaine Emmert was at our table, putting her arms around us, and thanking us
for attending the banquet. I made up a poem for her on the fly, rhyming
“Fife” with “lovely wife.” She told me she was going to tell her husband
about me. Geez, that’s strike three, I thought. * For a fleeting moment, I felt like
Jim Moore of the P-I, a pitiful Cougar.
Pictured on the two large
screens with the marching band behind him, William Gates Sr. led us in a
chorus of Bow Down to Washington, and the evening was over.
We sat with THE Stewart
Anderson (class of ’45) and his charming wife, Helen, during the cocktail
hour. Anderson had originally matriculated at Dartmouth. Not liking
Dartmouth, he transferred to USC, and then got caught up in World War II. He
finished his schooling at UW. Anderson founded the Black Angus restaurant
Don James and former
governor Dan Evans were also in attendance.
Actually, DeLaine complimented me on my poem, which goes like this, Fi-Fie-Fo-Fife, I
smell the perfume of a lovely wife.
Fife Jokes ruled the
evening. DeLaine and Mark Emmert grew up in Fife.
Fife gives Puyallup a town
to look down on.
Malamute can be reached at