Thursday, August 14, 2008

James: ‘I’d shoot my athletic director if he did that’

Legendary Washington coach Don James didn’t hold back on any thoughts about the state of the Huskies program and their out of conference scheduling. Washington has never been known to shy away from big name opponents, and James believes their current circumstance should change that. In reference to the scheduling, "I don't like it at all," he said. James is reflecting on Washington's current out of conference schedule that features Notre Dame, BYU, and Oklahoma, with each being on the road. He went on to say, "I'd shoot my athletic director if I had that."

James coached Washington to the National Championship in 1991 and isn’t in fear of strong opponents, but doesn’t feel it’s right for a young rebuilding program to play and embarrass themselves against college football’s heavyweights. It doesn't help that the crippled Huskies are scheduled to play defending National Champs LSU in 2009.

The old coach sees promise for the future, with talent improving, but the team is still young. These youthful Huskies finished at the bottom of the Pac last year and will now play 5 opponents ranked in the top 25 of the USA Today’s coaches poll. This comes after finishing the 2007 season having played 6 programs from the final poll, 3 conference champions, and 3 BCS bowl teams. The Huskies last played a bowl game in 2002. Since then, Washington is a dismal 18-41. Since 2002 and into the 2008 season, their out of conference opponents will have included:

Ohio State (twice)
Notre Dame (three times)
Fresno State (twice)
Oklahoma (twice)
Boise State

In the Pac 10 round robin format, they also cannot dodge the powers in conference, in any given year. It takes 6 victories to become bowl eligible, but with few bowl tie-ins, a more realistic number for conference teams would be 7. To start your season with 5 ranked opponents on the schedule, and your team is a young conference doormat, to receive a bowl bid you would need to go undefeated against the remaining 7, which is highly improbable for this Washington team.

James has a point, when it comes to the scheduling for a team rebuilding. There are power programs out there that have scheduled less out of conference. But what James also needs to understand is that the high profile games are the ones that attract recruits. Recruiting is the force behind rebuilding, and recent years have shown improvement in the Washington recruiting class. Don’t credit that to the little guys they’ve played. Credit the exposure gained in meetings against the more traditional powers.

The strength of the 90s programs came from the inability of California school’s to keep their recruits at home and out of the Pacific Northwest. Those times have changed, with Carroll, Tedford, and now Neuheisel securing that in-state talent. It’s not coincidence that the most traveled SEC program to the west coast is Tennessee. It’s not that the Vols love California and the west coast, it’s that they want a piece of it. No program spends more money on recruiting than the Volunteers, and their west coast trips paid off over the years, with 2 Clausens (Rick and Casey) and Erik Ainge all hailing from the region. It’s the same reason USC will schedule any team in any region of the country, receiving payoffs with commitments from Dwayne Jarrett and Brian Cushing (NJ), Keith Rivers (Fla), Joe McKnight and John David Booty (LA), Lendale White (CO), Patrick Turner (Tenn), and Fred Davis (OH).

It's literally a no win situation for the Huskies. Losses will accumulate with that kind of scheduling, but patience may eventually pay off. The losses on the field don't translate to losses in finances. And as poor as the football program has performed, Forbe's still ranked the University of Washington the 16th wealthiest program in the country, and their profits of $19.9 million exceed the $13 million generated by 14th ranked USC.

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