We kick around Barbara Hedges like some kind of soccer ball for the fall from grace of the Washington athletic department.
Perhaps we should remember some of the good she did, as well as the bad.
"This building," said Lorenzo Romar, the men's basketball coach, "means everything.
"To recruit top kids you have to have an attraction. The building came before the wins, both for us and for volleyball."
For the moment, these are Washington's two most successful sports programs, men's basketball and women's volleyball, one having made it to consecutive NCAA Sweet 16s, the other having won a national championship.
Also in the house, on the wild Friday night of Husky Hoopla, was the women's basketball team that because of seven seniors had just been ranked No. 14 in the country in a preseason poll by ESPN.
The volleyball team, which won a surprisingly competitive match with Washington State, played before a record crowd of 6,216. That paying crowd was larger than those left behind to watch hoops, some of whom got in free.
"The crowd was unreal, like an NCAA final," said Jim McLaughlin, the UW volleyball coach. "I hope it is that way for the NCAA regionals we host this year."
Six years ago, the Huskies were lowlifes in Pac-10 volleyball. Now they are working on two consecutive Pac-10 titles, are ranked fifth in the country and are harvesting not only great high-school talent, but are getting top transfers from other programs.
Just like the men's basketball team.
Hedges, who resigned following the messy firing of Rick Neuheisel as football coach, hired McLaughlin away from Kansas State six years ago. A year later she hired Romar, although admittedly he was her third choice. In between, she set the table for both of them by raising $40 million to redo Edmundson Pavilion.
It was money well spent, a design that added and improved seating while uncovering the charm of the old building. The design created a new practice court, left large areas for concessions and just feels right for college athletics.
Washington has a volleyball following as impressive as the sport's best — those at Hawaii, Nebraska, Minnesota, Stanford and UCLA.
"The crowd makes it hard to play here," said McLaughlin. "You know, I was told Seattle has a volleyball culture, and it has."
The crowd is well-organized, passionate, but also surprisingly positive. It applauded a well-played point eventually won by the Cougars.
Told there were more fans in the stands for the volleyball game than the basketball practice, outside hitter Stevie Mussie said, "That's awesome. It shows how many knowledgeable fans this program has developed."
Mussie, a Gatorade State Player of the Year from Puyallup, spurned McLaughlin the first time around, instead going to Pacific.
"It had nothing to do with Washington's program," she said. "I just wanted to get away from home."
After two good years at Pacific, she said she felt her career stagnating and she missed the Northwest more than she thought she would.
"Washington presented a great opportunity for me."
Janine Sandell transferred from UC Santa Barbara. McLaughlin successfully recruited Christal Morrison from Puyallup, Courtney Thompson from Kentlake and Jill Collymore from Seattle's Bush, all outstanding local players.
The Huskies aren't as good as they were last year, but they are deep in strong players. Sophomore Jessica Swarbrick packs a wallop, as do Mussie, Morrison, Collymore and Sandell, who played great defense against the Cougars.
"Washington is one of the top academic institutions in the country and it's part of a great conference in a beautiful part of the country," said McLaughlin. "For those reasons, we can recruit the nation's top athletes."
McLaughlin said he also has a top budget and good academic support for his players.
"It is far better here than anywhere I've ever been," he said.
Like McLaughlin, Romar has a program that keeps local talent at home and draws it from elsewhere. Jamaal Williams transferred to Washington from New Mexico. Now Tim Morris has transferred from Stanford.
Even though knee surgery relegated Spencer Hawes to a night of bouncing a basketball underneath his legs on the bench, the display of Romar's new talent was encouraging.
Given neither team played defense, it was still surprising to see the quickness and skill shown by new guards Adrian Oliver and Harvey Perry and small forward Quincy Pondexter. Their skills seemed so polished for their relative age.
But perhaps that comes with recruiting a better class of athlete.
"Football's coming on strong, too," said Romar in a discussion of Washington's top programs. "Don't forget them."
Who ever thought we might?
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