Huskies hope this facelift takes them back to the top
Posted by Bob Condotta
The start of a new college football season brings with it inevitable optimism --- either to continue current glories or rebound from recent failures.
At the University of Washinton, the rebuilding process is more total than ever.
As the football team starts practice this week, the school is making public all of its plans for a renovation of Husky Stadium that will begin the day after the Oregon game on Nov. 5.
That effort intensifies today with a media briefing this afternoon and the unveiling of a new website devoted solely to the renovation --- HuskyStadium.com (though one thinks they are lucky Phil Knight hadn't already purchased the domain name).
Included in the media blitz was a press release that included this statement from UW senior associate athletic director Jen Cohen:
"The Drive For Husky Stadium is about more than a construction project and more than a capital fundraising campaign. It's about Husky fans coming together during a time of change to make sure that Washington Football remains in its rightful place of prominence among the NCAA's elite programs."
It might be more accurate, though, to say that this effort is about returning UW to what it feels is its "rightful place of prominence."
Husky fans don't need reminding of the dark era of 2004-2008 when UW's football program fell to depths unimaginable during the 1977-2003 run of consecutive non-losing (and almost all winning) seasons.
As the team began to crumble on the field, so the stadium in which fans sit, making it obvious the entire program needed a facelift, even if the view from here is that struggling coaches sometimes use facilities as a convenient crutch to place blame elsewhere.
But while facilities can't be cited for all that went wrong with the Huskies in the last decade, they obviously played a role --- and if nothing else, served as an apt metaphor for a program whose glory days seemed in the past.
Now, though, optimism reigns everywhere. UW went 7-6 last season, its first winning record since 2002, and while Jake Locker is gone, much else returns, including potential all-conference players such as TB Chris Polk, WR Jermaine Kearse and DT Alameda Ta'amu.
And through two days of practice, observers have raved about what appears to be another top-flight influx of talent., newcomers such as TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, WR Kasen Williams, DT Danny Shelton and speedy RB Bishop Sankey --- all in-state products
Obviously, having had just two days of no-pads practice makes it far too early to make huge, sweeping judgments about the newcomers --- or the team in general. But there are valid reasons to think the Huskies are on the right track on the field.
At each position, the Huskies simply look more like a competitive Pac-12/BCS football team than they did two or three years ago.
Soon, their stadium will have the same physical makeover, matching, if not surpassing, all of the new venues that have opened around the conference in the last decade.
All of that is good news for UW fans, who are longing to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
It's also certainly good news for UW coach Steve Sarkisian, as well --- no doubt it helped in landing all of those recruits to sell the new benefit.
What it also means, though, is soon there will be no excuses for Washington not to be in that "rightful place of prominence'' --- placing that much more pressure on Sarkisian, who received a new five-year contract after last season (he probably won't get many more for six-win regular seasons).
Veteran coaches have long said the UW job should be right behind only USC among Pac-10 positions (which doesn't change now that the Utah and Colorado are in the conference). Some may feel that has changed in the last decade, that maybe a school like Oregon now is better-positioned for success. That maybe UW is no different now than an Arizona or Cal.
A shiny new stadium on Lake Washington, however, with all of the modern bells and whistles, a state that only seems to yield more football talent each year, a tradition of success that is topped only by USC on the West Coast, and a fan base as passionate as any in the conference, argues otherwise.
With USC on probation, Oregon under investigation, UCLA struggling, and seemingly everyone else in the conference in a state of flux (Jim Harbaugh's gone and Andrew Luck will be in four months) UW's timing --- finally --- seems just about perfect.
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