Washington Husky Athletics Director Scott Woodward is about to unveil a huge achievement. The new and upgraded Husky Stadium promises to be fantastic if we trust the “early returns.” The stadium was in a state of disrepair for many years and in need of a renovation and makeover. Mirroring the state of the stadium was the recent decline of Husky Football as we know it. This prompted doubt that Woodward could raise the necessary funds and get the project done. Not only did he raise the funds and complete the project but he appears to have exceeded expectations.
However, AD Woodward’s job is far from over nor should it be secure.
Due to a mixture of various positives and negatives the Husky Football program remains a work in progress. The hope is that a new stadium combined with ample returning talent will catalyze the team to compete for a division championship in the loaded Pac-12 North. Yet after three straight 7-6 seasons, a bevy of blowouts, struggles on the road and broad inconsistency many fans have their doubts.
At this juncture, it’s desperately important for UW Football to take a big step and move out of the mud. After three straight 7 win seasons, this means winning a minimum of 9 games. A 9 or 10 win season would raise the perception of the program. We could expect a very strong recruiting class. In addition, with a much easier schedule in 2014 and quite a bit of returning talent, the minimum expectation, outside of Seattle would be 10-11 wins.
I expect UW to be improved over last season but will we see enough improvement? We could go 8-5, be in the others receiving votes category and the advanced metrics (which have had us ranked 40th to 50th the past four years) could have us ranked 30th. It would be improvement over 2012 but below expectations and well below where a coach should be in his 5th year (especially considering he won 7 games his second year).
A poster on the Dawgman.com forum studied all the pac-10 coaches and how they performed if they did not win 9-10 games in their first four to five years. The study showed that if a coach didn’t win 10 games in his first 4 years then he had a 7% chance of winning 10 games in the future. Great coaches tend to make their mark sooner (around their 3rd year) rather than later. Sarkisian was able to win 7 games and his second season but failed to improve upon that in years three and four.
With likely four straight bowl appearances, a brand new outstanding stadium, strong tradition, very high salaries for assistant coaches, a very profitable athletic department and the most fan support in the conference, UW is currently one of the top jobs in the country. It would attract the best because the best know it could be a championship program and very soon (as opposed to 2008 and 2004).
Scott Woodward should study recent history. Sometimes a bold but somewhat unpopular decision is required to trigger further improvement and progress.
Mike Bellotti had led a good program at Oregon. Yet, prior to Chip Kelly becoming his offensive coordinator he only won 10 games three times in thirteen seasons and his conference record in the previous six years was a mediocre 28-22. Oregon quietly pushed out Bellotti in favor of Chip who took a good program and turned it into the second best program in the nation.
Elsewhere, Mike Stoops improved Arizona’s lot but his abrasive sideline antics didn’t win many fans. When Arizona fell to 1-5 in 2011, new athletics director Greg Byrne seized the opportunity and fired Stoops. Byrne replaced Stoops with Rich Rodriguez, a proven winner with experience, who won 8 games in his first season at Arizona.
In 2007, UW failed to fire Tyrone Willingham. They gave Tyrone another season and disaster ensued. It scared away potential candidates leading Woodward to hire a very young coach with limited coordinating experience.
Five years later, UW doesn’t owe Steve Sarkisian anything. They took a chance on an assistant coach with only two years of experience as a coordinator and no real track record. He should have been honing his chops as a coordinator or as a head coach at a small school. Instead, thanks to UW, he became head coach at a major university and became an instant millionaire at a young age. At the same time, UW has given Sarkisian everything he needs to be successful. Two years ago he had a blank check to hire one of the most sought after coordinators in the country and one of the most sought after recruiters in the country. Recruiting has improved and the defense also improved but it was Sarkisian’s offense which held the team back in 2012.
Your humble author hopes coach Sarkisian has a breakthrough and wins 10 games this season and a Pac-12 north championship in 2014.
However, if UW doesn’t win at least 9 games and isn’t ranked in the top 25 at the end of this season then Scott Woodward must make a change. Quite frankly, if you aspire to be a championship program it’s a very easy decision given what the numbers say and given the large pool of candidates more qualified and more experienced than Sarkisian. If you win less than 9 games this season and keep Sarkisian then you fail to move the program forward and outside perception will continue to see Washington as a middling, mediocre program. Husky Nation deserves so much more and can do way better.