Monthly Archives: November 2008
Another day, another loss, in this apocalyptic season for the ages.
The Washington Huskies are now 0-10 for the year, and losers of 12 straight games dating back to 2007.
In the latest disaster last night, in which the tepid Huskies fell to lowly UCLA 27-7, one quote stood out in the aftermath from a senior who had played his final game at Husky Stadium.
“Coach really didn’t want us to get too emotional,” tight end Michael Gottlieb said. “He wanted us to approach it like it was any other game, so I tried to choke back the emotions a little. I was a little emotional, a little sentimental, but for the most part, I just tried to approach it like it was any other game.”
Football is a tough and violent sport, and requires emotion from the warriors who play it. Perhaps most perplexing about Willingham is why he would try to tap out the fire that his players exhibit.
As Willingham’s era at Washington concludes, he’s got one great opportunity for victory over the equally moribund Washington State Cougars next weekend in Pullman.
What the Huskies would respond to most would be for Willingham to be out of character this week. To overturn some tables, and get emotional. To give his players the sense it’s okay to play with some reckless abandon.
Willingham would be wise to mimic Seinfeld’s George Constanza, from that classic episode called The Opposite. George made a startling revelation that could help Willingham too. Not just for the players’ sake, but for Willingham’s also. I want him to taste victory in the 11th hour and avoid the stigma of an 0-12 season.
With President-Elect Barack Obama’s recent ascension to power, it’s possible that he and Congress will carry out a “redistribution of wealth” in the coming years. In keeping with this country’s current trend toward socialism, perhaps the same principles should be applied to the Pac-10.
ESPN’s Chris Fowler recently penned a column, lamenting the pathetic performances of the Huskies and Cougars football teams, and stating the need for the other conference schools to help with a bailout package.
It’s interesting to take that one step further. Why should USC continue to reap the benefits of Pete Carroll as head coach year after year? Why should Washington State be limited by their remote location and inhospitable climes in their ability to hire a top-notch coach?
With this in mind, I put the names of every Pac-10 football coach into a box, shook it violently (fueled by the animosity brought on by Washington’s 0-9 season) and then conducted a mock draft. I reassigned the names to each Pac-10 team. I did this only once, and with no manipulation of the outcome.
Here were the results:
Team New Head Coach
Washington State……………..Rick Neuheisel
Washington…………………….. Mike Bellotti
Oregon……………………………. Jim Harbaugh
Oregon State………………….. Paul Wulff
California……………………….. Mike Stoops
Stanford………………………….. Pete Carroll
USC…………………………………. Dennis Erickson
UCLA………………………………. Tyrone Willingham
Arizona State……………………..Jeff Tedford
By Derek Johnson
Many people of the Puget Sound region know Dori Monson as the witty and hard-hitting host on KIRO radio. To others, he’s known for leading the charge on the pregame and postgame shows for the Seattle Seahawks, also on KIRO.
Monson’s roots, however, run deeper than that in Seattle soil. For it was twenty-eight years ago that he broadcast football games for the University of Washington’s campus radio station. As it turns out, his love of the Huskies goes way back.
“I was one of those kids who grew up in Seattle who listened to the games on the radio,“ Monson said. “I just have this vivid memory of the Ballard Ice Arena, which doesn’t exist anymore. They would always have the Husky game on every Saturday during the fall. I have always connected my falls to Husky football, because that was the only game in town in the early seventies, when I was eight, nine and ten years old. I loved the Hairbreadth Husky cartoons in the newspaper. I loved listening to the games. I could never afford a ticket to go to the game, but I was a gigantic fan.
“They were an average team then, but Sonny Sixkiller captured every kid’s imagination, just due to his name,” Monson added. “And I loved watching the coach’s show on Sunday afternoon. I loved watching Bruce King and the coach go over the previous day’s game.”
During his senior year Ballard High School, Monson interned for an Everett radio station. As he prepared to enter the University of Washington in 1980, he was looking to make a career in radio. The timing turned out to be perfect, for UW coach Don James was returning Husky Football to national powerhouse status.
“I met a guy who did the play-by-play for the campus radio station,” Monson said. “I told him I was coming to the University of Washington. He asked me if I knew enough about football to do color (commentary). I lied and told him yes. I wasn’t a football technician, but I wanted to be on the broadcast. So I did color for one year on KCMU with Scott Ellenson. Then after he graduated, I did the play-by-play for the next two years.”
In the years Monson covered the Huskies, the team’s records were 10-2, 10-2 and 8-4. This included a trip to Pasadena, as Washington played in the 1982 Rose Bowl.
“The university was so good to us,” Monson said. “Don James treated us the way he treated the KOMO crew. Bob Rondeau, who was also broadcasting back then, was incredibly good to me. The Sports Information Director was Mike Wilson, and he gave us amazing access to the coaches and treated us like professionals, even though we were college kids.
“They gave us a booth on the forty-yard line at the Rose Bowl,” Monson said. “When it was very difficult to get satellite time, we actually got it. We did the play-by-play at the Rose Bowl that year, which was the highlight of my college life. The Huskies beat Iowa 28-0. The atmosphere was absolutely electric. Just being there, after having watched it every year on TV, just felt like I was living a dream.”
Monson also recalled Jacque Robinson, the charismatic UW running back, who became the first freshman named MVP of the Rose Bowl.
“What I remember about Jacque Robinson was how many times he got hit at the line, and he would still go forward and get two to three yards,” he said. “He never went backwards when he got hit. There was a toughness in his running. I loved that about those Husky teams. The toughness and how they physically overmatched their opponents. I don’t know if it was raw force or just an uncanny desire that James would instill in them.”
Monson also cited one other defining moment in his UW broadcasting days. That was when the late Freddie Small recovered Chuck Nelson’s kickoff in the end zone, to lead the Huskies to a 13-3 win over the powerhouse USC Trojans. The game entered into lore due to the sixty MPH winds impacting the play on the field.
“Before the game, when were in our booth, I looked out on Lake Washington at the bay,” Monson said. “There was a guy out there trying to windsurf. He would struggle to put up the sail, and each time he did, he would get slammed down by the wind.
“But that game was such a battle, such a defensive struggle,” he said of the contest which was tied 3-3 with 5:00 left. “When Freddie jumped on the ball, there was a beat of silence in the stadium, because everyone was trying to figure out if it was a live ball or a touchback… And then the official’s arms shot up and then came the roar of the crowd!”
In life, the lessons learned in youth are critical in shaping us for who we become. This holds true for Monson too, as he reflected upon his weekly interviews with UW’s legendary coach Don James.
“What I learned more than anything was from Coach James,” Monson said. “For as kind, accessible and gracious as he was to me, if I came in unprepared, he made it clear that he did not like that.
“It happened to me once,” Monson said. “Here was this guy who had bent over backwards for me. He didn’t say anything specifically. But just from the way he was answering my questions, it was clear that he was running out of patience with me. And I deserved it. I was less-prepared that day than I was in all my other interviews with him. Just as he sent a message to his players in what he demanded from them, he sent me a message too—in a very subtle and effective way. I’ve always tried to be careful to be very prepared for interviews. But I learned that lesson during my first radio job, when I got to talk with Coach James every week.”
It’s inconceivable that a team suffering through a six-game losing streak could enter Husky Stadium as 15-point favorites. But that’s the reality, as Arizona State takes on our beleaguered yet beloved Washington Huskies tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m.
These days, even if the Huskies were playing Western Washington, I’m not confident that our boys could win. My prediction: ASU 34, Washington 17
Back in December 2004, as Tyrone Willingham was being introduced as Washington’s football coach, he made a statement that– in retrospect — was strikingly bizarre.
“It is time for the University of Washington to return to being the Dawgs,” Willingham said. “It is my understanding that a dog is a vicious animal.”
Now eight games into his fourth and final season at UW, Willingham’s football team has lost all hope. The Huskies are 0-8 and riding a 10-game losing streak. Last Saturday’s 56-0 loss at USC was beyond an abomination. Willingham’s players weren’t vicious, they were listless. They weren’t tough as steel, they were soft like Play-Do. They weren’t full of spit and vinegar, they were demoralized and flatter than a training bra for a 10-year old.
Against the Trojans, the Huskies clearly gave up on their coach, whose 11-33 record is horrible by epic proportions. As the only BCS Subdivision team without a win in 2008, Washington football has been reduced by Willingham to a smoldering rubble.
In daily life, when doctors and lawyers make colossal errors, they become vulnerable to malpractice lawsuits. Conversely, when an incompetent coach like Tyrone Willingham destroys a football program, he’s given a $1 million buyout and publicly lauded for being a man of character and integrity.
The reasons for this warrant discussion in a different article. But rest assured the University of Washington is taking precautions to avoid any accusations of bullying their black head coach, as befell Notre Dame when they fired Willingham back in 2004.
If Tyrone Willingham is a man of integrity and honor, he will resign immediately. If he truly wants what’s best for the University of Washington, he will put the program above his own interests. If he’s honest, he will admit that he has completely lost this football team. He’ll realize that his overbearing pride causes him to cling to the wooden facade that he is a quality football coach. If he only knew that some of his contemporaries at other schools mock him behind his back. If he only knew that his coaching skills are not respected by his colleagues.
If Willingham can look past his own ego, he will see a football team that is hurting and rudderless. He will see a team devoid of self-esteem and a desire to win. He will look into the faces of senior players like Juan Garcia, Michael Gottlieb and Jordan White-Frisbee, and realize that by finishing out the season, he is dooming them to additional misery and a possible 0-12 conclusion.
There’s a saying that goes, “Where there is no hope, the people perish.” If Willingham truly wants to do right by his players, he can proffer them the gift of hope. He can resign immediately, and remove his toxic presence from the team’s collective psyche, allowing for a potential spark of hope.
If only Tyrone Willingham could realize that by continuing to stay on as UW coach, the only interests served are that of Tyrone Willingham, and no one else.