As we celebrate our first conference title since 2000 and our first ever PAC 12 championship, it is a good time to look back on the long road back that we have traveled. But first, a word about the 2016 champs, after 10 conference games the powder puff non conference schedule doesn't matter anymore. We need to beef that aspect of the program back up but it is meaningless in this year's discussion.
Even our youngsters know about the 1991 team whether they lived it or not. When I was a kid I would pour over the programs and Sports Illustrated magaizines that my dad kept from the back to back Rose Bowl champs under Jim Owens. I was 4 and 5 years old when it happened. Other than a loss in the 1964 Rose Bowl my childhood and teen years were a series of losing seasons, controversy, and irrelevance. I was 19 years old when Don James was hired. So I can relate.
It was Halloween 1992 when 15th ranked Stanford came to Husky Stadium for a nationally televised game that would decide the PAC 10 title. The 2nd ranked Huskies were on a 21 game winning streak and curb stomped the Cards 41-7. Hugh Millen points to this game as the apex of the Husky program. It seemed like it would go on forever.
Then only five days later I would see the Seattle Times headline that spelled the end for Husky Football as we knew it. Billy Joe Hobart trusted a couple of Times reporters who then blew the lid off of free sandwiches at the golf course and fruit baskets in the hotel rooms of recruits. Billy's loan was not a violation as it turns out.
Washington lost 3 of their next 4 games including the Rose Bowl to Tyrone Wheatly and Michigan. Washington was still loaded but didn't give a shit about the game and still almost won. I was at that game because I had no idea if or when we would be back.
James resigned in protest the following August and the long strange tenure of Jim Lambright would start the swirl around the drain for the program. Lambo could beat Ohio State, win the Whammy in Miami, let Kenny Wheaton score, and go 7 and 4 all in the same season. That is as good a description of his tenure as anything. One game away from the Rose Bowl in 1995 and 1996. Corn holed by Classy Nebraska at home in a 1997 season that ended with a win over Nick Saban and Michigan State in Hawaii. Fired after a 1998 season that saw Washington make a folk hero out of Jonathon Smith and the angry Beavers, dwindling crowds, and a blowout loss to Air Force in Hawaii.
Rick Neuheisel stepped in to stop the bleeding with a miracle 2000 season. And yet, it wasn't the same. Old timers hated Rick. The team often seemed sloppy and unprepared but they beat Miami and everyone else other than Oregon, and won the Rose Bowl. I fooled myself into thinking we were back but we weren't and that became obvious over Rick's last two seasons before he was fired for losing to Cal, I mean gambling. Allegedly.
If you thought that was bad you hadn't seen anything yet. We hired a coach that Cal had fired. The program was over. Gilby went 6 and 6 on memory before the bottom fell out. A few lowlights from his career are:
Losing to Nevada at home.
Losing 54-7 to Cal.
Going 1 and 10 ending the 50* year non losing season streak. (*not really)
So Gilby gets fired and since it worked so well Washington once again hired a coach who had been fired by another school, Ty Willingham. You may have heard of him. Some of Ty's highlights:
Losing his first game, a road game in Seattle against Air Force
Losing 56-17 at home to Cal, the opponents scoring record at Husky Stadium
Going 2-9 his first season. Being a dick to everyone.
Starting his second season 4-1 including a win over UCLA then keeping the annual six game losing streak, streak alive. Went 5-7
His third season was a 4 and 9 gem that ended for me at Husky Stadium as I cheered on an Arizona comeback win thinking we would be rid of Willingham for good. Then cheering on a Hawaii comeback just to make sure.
That 2007 season would see the start of the Husky Half Brains podcast in celebration of becoming bowl ineligible and getting rid of Ty. It would also see the gutless Mark Emmert not fire Ty and the dropping of our season tickets and an outright revolt among the fans and the end of the Scout.com message boards.
2007 was the first Mora Revolution. But he had a CONTRACT to coach the Seahawks the next year. Doogs defended Ty to the death. Tequilla wanted to take the gloves off. I became a public enemy. Mass deportations from Dawgman began in earnest.
2008 would be special. Ty was fired mid season but allowed to coach out his perfect season. Owen 12 joined the family. That was rock bottom. We were down thedrain and deep into the sewer. It looked hopeless. But we fans still hung around and found other things to do other than actually caring about the games because the games were horrible.
But would we ever return? Or had we become Minnesota?
To be continued...