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Originally published July 23, 2010 at 8:06 PM | Page modified July 23, 2010 at 8:52 PM

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Why Huskies AD didn't overrule coach Steve Sarkisian on Josh Shirley signing

Washington athletic director Scott Woodward said he rarely disagrees with football coach Steve Sarkisian's scholarship offers. He backed the signing of Josh Shirley, who was dismissed by UCLA after being accused of two others of stealing a bag.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Washington athletic director Scott Woodward has the power to overrule football coach Steve Sarkisian on offering a controversial scholarship.

But in the 19 months the two have worked together, Woodward said that hasn't really been necessary.

"We very rarely disagree," Woodward said.

So it was with Sarkisian's decision this week to offer a scholarship to Josh Shirley, a touted linebacker/defensive end from Fontana, Calif., who officially signed Thursday and will join the Huskies when they begin practice next month.

Shirley was dismissed from UCLA's roster after being arrested on suspicion of a theft on campus June 23. He and two other Bruins recruits allegedly took a bag from a storage locker outside the dining hall of a dormitory that contained goods worth an estimated $1,200.

All were released from their letters of intent, making them immediately eligible to play elsewhere.

Washington had pursued Shirley before he signed with UCLA in February.

"I'm sure that was a huge factor in the coach's decision," Woodward said Friday. "He had taken an official visit (to UW in September) and our coaches got to know a lot about him."

Another factor may have been that Shirley appeared to have been less complicit in the theft. Receiver Paul Richardson and defensive back Shaquille Richardson had to post $20,000 bail, but Shirley was released without bail. This week the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office referred the case to the City Attorney's Office to decide if misdemeanor charges should be filed.

Woodward said that while Sarkisian and his staff already knew Shirley well, they again reviewed his history.

"I know he (Sarkisian) talked to numerous people," Woodward said. "No bells went off when we checked into his background."

What raised some eyebrows is that UW accepted Shirley two days after announcing that tight end Kavario Middleton had been dismissed for an unspecified violation of team rules. Middleton apparently had no significant legal issues but had run afoul of team rules. Sources told The Seattle Times that he had recently failed a drug test.

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Woodward said "we have to assess them on a case-by-case basis," and nothing about one situation influenced the other.

Shirley won't necessarily be on a tighter leash at Washington, Woodward said.

"He's an incoming freshman and he'll be treated like any other incoming freshman," the AD said. "But he has to know that there is going to be extra media attention, added scrutiny."

UCLA had left the door open for all three players to return to school in January. However, ESPN.com recruiting analyst Greg Biggins wrote recently that Shirley thought the punishment he was given at UCLA was too harsh and began looking at other options. Washington was a natural fit, given how seriously he had considered the Huskies initially.

Biggins said Shirley should "be an instant impact guy" at UW, and called him "one of the 10 best (high-school) defensive players in the West last year." Shirley is expected to compete for a starting position at strongside linebacker.

Washington is not believed to have any interest in the other two players UCLA dismissed, though the Huskies had offered Shaquille Richardson a scholarship last year.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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