Sunday, September 09, 2007

Meandering From Another Viewpoint

I read "Meanderings" over at Dawgman last week, in fact I read it about five times. I respect the author, and find the post's to be entertaining reading each week that it comes out. Last weeks version bothered me, to me it seemed just so old guard, and negative.

To me it seems that some just won't be happy till we are able to clone Don James, and bring him back as a 48 year old head coach. I am a huge Don James fan, but I have never been the type of person who lives in the past. As glorious as that era was, it simply is now in the distant past.

When I go to a football game it is for the express purpose of watching the game, and rooting for my team to win. To me that is what it is all about. I have met every man who has coached the Huskies in my lifetime, that goes back nearly fifty years, but never once did I feel the urge to be the coaches buddy. For some it isn't enough to watch the team win, they also have the need to have their ego's stroked by being connected. Sometimes that connection comes from simply giving money, volunteering, or just attending social events involving the team. Sometimes it comes from having influence, and a sense of power.

All coaches, and programs handle it differently. At Oregon for example the program is now run by the boosters. A booster with no athletic administration experience is now AD, and Phil Knight of Nike is basically the CEO of the program through the huge contributions he makes to the Universities athletic programs, and the close ties he has to the new AD. Make no mistake, Mr Knight now wields enough power to make all the decisions regarding Oregon athletics.

I just happen to think Oregon is headed down the wrong road by doing it that way. When the contributors tell the University what to do, rather than suggest what to do, you begin to realize that you have lost the focus of what intercollegiate athletics are all about.

Washington has chose a different road. UW has a strong President that is in favor of a strong athletic program. We have an athletic director with considerable experience who is a meticulous administrator. We have sports programs that are competing for, and actually winning national championships. Our basketball program, once a laughingstock is now one of the strongest in the country under the leadership of Lorenzo Romar.

The missing piece has been football, if there is one thing Washington athletics has identified itself with for over one hundred years has been a strong football program. Ty Willingham in year three is now turning the corner of achieving that goal by fielding a strong, and measurably improved program built more impressively in an ethical manner. Willingham in his tenure hasn't panedered to special interest, the press, or even to boosters, but what he has done is the job he was hired to do, and that is to rebuild the football program into something we can all be proud of.

There is an old guard out there, as illustrated in "Meanderings", just like in the days of Don James third year who are not fans of a new administration, and Willingham in particular. Just like James did in the late 1970's he is going to win them over and gain newer, younger, and more visionary support as he begins to win regular season games and head to post season bowl games.

Don James recruited a young man by the name of Joe Steele, and while Joe is probably not the greatest player he coached in his tenure, he was close, and most importantly he was the most important recruit of the Don James era. It was the recruitment of Steele that started keeping the top local players home.

Jake Locker is Ty Willingham's Joe Steele, and unlike Joe, Jake may become the best football player to ever walk the fields of Montlake.

I find it funny after dominating an opponent for the first time since 2003 that the old guard still comes up with reasons not to like Ty Willingham. I guess they miss the connection they had when Lude, and James were in charge. They miss the familiarity of a Jim Lambright even though they abandoned him by not standing up to Barbara Hedges. They even miss the exuberance, and openness of a Rick Neuheisel who never failed to be entertaining, or a Keith Gilbertson who had all the right bloodlines, but finished driving the program into the ground in only two terrible seasons.

What Washington has now is an old fashioned football coach who doesn't care about anything but being a football coach, winning games, and retiring at the end of his career at Washington. He isn't an entertainer, even though if you have ever met him, or heard him speak out of range of the media, you just might find him to be extremely charming.

The legacy of Washington football is all about winning, and most importantly it is about winning with class. Ty Willingham is a man who knows how to win with class, and at the start of year three we are seeing it all start to come together. While we are still a couple of recruiting classes away from full recovery, however a stable foundation for the future has been built. People like to be associated with winning, and class. In my opinion Washington is rebuilding in the right way, and have the right men in place to do the job. As for the donations, and support, they will come as they always have, and that is with the wins, and the pride the program produces.

1 comment:

Greg O'Byrne said...