When I was growing up you could count on a few things in life. First, you could always watch “Looney Tunes” on a Saturday morning, “The Love Boat” on a Friday night, and knowing that the Washington Huskies would be reigning supreme in the Northwest and the Pac-12 in football. The “Dawgs” as everybody in the Northwest called them were the premier program in the region. Rose Bowls after Rose Bowls, conference titles, and even a National Championship were the norm and what was expected. Anything less was viewed as failure. Oh, how have times changed.
The Huskies are not the “team” in the Northwest anymore. To most of the alumni, their rival in Eugene is now the team in the region. That alone drives Husky fans up the wall. They hate the Duck program with a passion and with every win over the Huskies, every Rose Bowl, or National Championship appearance, that hatred grows deeper. Fans and everybody associated with the Husky program wants that dominance back with the program. Here is the question. What has happened to the once mighty Husky program?
One thing that has happened is that they are not recruiting the type of players it takes to sustain dominance like they had. Don James, the old Husky Head Coach built a fence around the state of Washington and the Northwest and all the great players were coming to him. With his Rose Bowl appearances, Don James could also get his hands on some of Southern California’s best talent and that added to the dominance of the program. When you dominate, you win, so the recruits come to you. Now, Chris Peterson, the current Husky Head Coach has to fight very hard to keep the best Washington recruits from leaving the state. Peterson has vowed to put a fence around the state and keep all the talented in-state. He’s only entering his second season with the Huskies, so his fence is still in the build stage.
The program has languished in mediocrity for the past 20 years after Don James, “The DawgFather”, resigned amid sanctions that found that many of the players at Washington were getting improper benefits. As stated earlier, there was a ton of success in James time as coach. He even had three national coaching honors and a 22 game winning streak to add to the allure of the program. The program had their knees cut from underneath them with these sanctions and they really haven’t recovered. Enter Chris Peterson 20 years later.
Let’s face facts here. Chris Peterson and all his accolades he got in his tenure at Boise State, needs to come up with some success at Washington in his second year. Husky fans are tired of being average and want the return of fear when the Huskies come to town or when the opponents have to enter into Husky Stadium. Husky Stadium can be a very difficult place to play. When I was youngster, and went to Husky Stadium for a couple of games, it was so loud and the fans were right on top of you. Much like it is at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. I didn’t think a stadium could be so loud, but this is something Peterson has to restore to the program as well.
Chris Peterson has his work cut out for him, but I do think he is the guy to restore the honor to the program. To me he’s a proven commodity, even though he did the majority of his winning at a smaller school at Boise State. He proved he could beat the bigger schools or at the very least compete with the likes of Oregon, Georgia, and let’s not forget the Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. One of the best college football games I have ever seen. It’s not like he DOESN’T know how to get the job done. Entering this second season at the helm of the Huskies, fans want results yesterday. The honeymoon is over. Was there ever one?
Peterson needs to do better against ranked opponents too. They were 0-5 against those type of teams and that will also cause some more angst in latte’ capital of the world. They also have to win the bowl game they go to as well. They came up short against the Cowboys of Oklahoma State in the Cactus Bowl in Tempe. That didn’t sit well with the UW fan base, plus if you factor in the near upsets by the likes of Eastern Washington and Hawaii and you have a thought that Peterson was lucky to finish with the 8 wins that the team had. Peterson nearly had a very dismal opening in season number one.
The facilities and resources at Washington are such that Peterson can just be average in recruiting or any aspect of major college football. He needs to get the top recruits to the school and build those players into a cohesive unite to compete with the likes of Oregon, Stanford, USC, UCLA, ASU, Arizona, and Utah. Sounds pretty tough doesn’t? Well, if you are the coach Washington, you can’t be scared of a scenario like that in the Pac-12. I don’t think Peterson is scared of anything, if anything he likes a challenge because he faced challenges coaching at Boise State, so something like this challenge is nothing for him. It’s just on a much bigger scale than normal.
In his second year the Huskies and Peterson need to get a big time win, such as beating Oregon or Stanford, plus make strides to being in contention for the Pac-12 title in future years. If this can be accomplished, Peterson will get more of a leash (no pun intended), but if the program continues to be mired in mediocrity then he may not be around that much longer.
One of things that may make that a little more difficult is the huge amount of change on the defensive side of the ball. They lost probably the best DT in the Pac-12 in Danny Shelton and all-everything Shaq Thompson. With the type of wide open offenses in the conference, replacing talent like that is going to be difficult. Offensively he loses Cyler Miles, a quarterback, who has stepped away from football for personal reasons. There will be questions all around this team, but Peterson knows he won’t get any extra leash because his depth chart is shallow. He is known for building programs and he is in the midst of probably his toughest job yet.
The one question I have is…. will Chris Peterson be around long enough to see the success he wants and the success the fans want? I hope so. Go Dawgs!