SAN FRANCISCO — Finally, back to football.
On a baseball field.
It’s only fitting that, after weeks of coaching confusion and controversy, Washington will return to the field Friday under unusual circumstances on an unusual playing surface.
Husky legend Marques Tuiasosopo will complete his term as UW’s interim coach in the Fight Hunger Bowl against Brigham Young, to be played at the home of Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants, AT&T Park. The field’s dimensions will require the teams to share a sideline.
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Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. (on ESPN TV).
After Friday, former Boise State coach Chris Petersen formally takes over the reins as UW’s coach. He succeeded Steve Sarkisian, who shocked the Huskies when he left to coach USC on Dec. 2, three days after UW’s 27-17 victory over Washington State.
Then, just last week, an investigation of Washington defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi launched after allegations surfaced he had paid for a UW recruit’s tutoring classes. Lupoi has denied the allegations, and he is scheduled to help coach the Huskies in the bowl game.
As the changes and potential distractions have mounted, it’s fair to wonder what role those events might play for the Huskies on Friday.
“They’ve handled it great,” Tuiasosopo said of the UW players. “You’d like to think every close team … would handle it the same way, but you just never know until you go through it. I think our seniors have done a nice job, and I think our underclassmen have done a nice job of buying into what the seniors are talking about and staying focused on the task at hand.”
At 8-4, the Huskies have a chance to finish with their most wins since Tuiasosopo’s senior season in 2000, when UW finished 11-1.
Quarterback Keith Price and safety Will Shamburger are the last remaining players who signed with UW in 2009, on the heels of the Huskies’ 0-12 finish in 2008.
“I’m just proud to say that I was a part of the big turnaround,” said Price, set to start his 36th game for the Huskies. “We have a great group of guys. I think we’ve built something special here, and it’s only going to keep growing.”
Price and Shamburger will be among the 17 Huskies scheduled to play their final game in a UW uniform.
“If you look at the bigger picture with their class, it’s a tremendous point in University of Washington football history,” Tuiasosopo said. “It was the lowest point in the history of the school there (in 2008). Now we’re at 8-4 and my hope … is that the young guys really focus on that, not everything else.”
Focusing on BYU has made it easier to block out the distractions because, Tuiasosopo said, the Cougars (8-4) are that good.
“We don’t have to make up anything to try motivate them,” he said. “It’s right there in front of them. Our kids are excited.”
The Huskies and Cougars arrived here in San Francisco on Sunday, and among their bowl-related events both teams visited Alcatraz and volunteered at Glide Memorial Church & Kitchen to feed the homeless on Christmas Day.
On Thursday afternoon, under a sunny sky at Union Square downtown, the coaches and several players from each team also took part in a pep rally.
UW sophomore receiver Jaydon Mickens danced and joked around as the Husky marching band played “Tequila!” and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins led a “Go Huskies!” cheer.
Tuiasosopo then addressed the crowd of several hundred people.
“We’ve had fun and it’s been a great experience here,” he concluded, “but I’m ready to play.”
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or email@example.com.
On Twitter: @a_jude