When 34-year old Steve Sarkisian emerged as the new Washington football coach, in December 2008, not everyone applauded. The Huskies had just fired Tyrone Willingham and were coming off an 0-12 season. Me and former Husky Jamal Fountaine talked soon after, and commiserated on the latest misstep at Montlake. "Why would you give the keys to the Kingdom to some kid who's never been a head coach before?" Fountaine asked at the time.
5 years later, Sark has split for USC and Chris Petersen and his 92-12 career record have taken over at Washington. I was curious how Fountaine felt now. So I called up the former linebacker who played in three Rose Bowls with the Huskies and won a Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers.
"Sark had some good players that came out of there," Fountaine said. "He got a guy at tight end [Austin Seferian-Jenkins] that should have been a first rounder. And their running back [Bishop Sankey] did pretty good. Sark left the program with some pretty good players.
"So he went to USC," Fountaine said. "Right on, good for that guy. It's good for him. We discussed the reasons why back in the day why I didn't like the guy because I didn't think he had enough head coaching experience to have the Washington job. But he did a better job than I thought he would. It was mediocre, but he did a better job than I thought. And for him to go to USC, which is where he wants to be, okay then. I thought that was what exactly what would happen. It's hard to see my school as a stepping stone. But everybody should be entitled to chase their dreams. I wish he wouldn't have taken Tui, but it's all good. Tui in a USC shirt doesn't look right, right? But hey, it's all good — he's got to feed his family."
When the news came last December that Boise State's Chris Petersen had accepted the Washington job, Fountaine felt fired up.
"Hell yeah, right on!" he said. "You've got a guy that was part of building that fantastic program up in Boise. They do a great job recruiting, they don't leave stones unturned. They have made player development grow by leaps and bounds. They took kids that other programs wouldn't pull the trigger on, and Boise took them and made them better. Whereas I think a lot of kids have signed with the University of Washington in the last 6-10 years and came in as great prospects and left 4-5 years later as not that much better.
"But the proof is in the pudding. It comes down to wins. But I am super excited to have him as head coach of my Alma Mater. Awesome! Way to go."
Fountaine, who lives with his wife and daughters in Oakland, California, feels the itch for football season.
"I'm thinking about getting up there for a game or two," he said. "Hopefully they do some better things with the outreach with the older players. I think they do the best job they can, but when you're out of sight, you're out of mind. The last regime could have been better with their outreach. They had rules where former players couldn't be on the sidelines unless you're one of the favorite sons of the University of Washington. When they came down here to play Cal I tried to get a sideline pass and I couldn't get one. But during the game there were certain people on the sidelines, and I was like `Wow, okay.' But that was the last regime, so we will see if things change with Petersen. I'm sure they're doing the best they can."
The Chris Petersen Era debuts August 30th in a game at Hawaii.
"I'm looking forward to this new cat coming in and seeing what he can do at Washington," Fountaine said. "And if he don't win, we will get rid of his ass too. Because this train is moving! Right?"