I'm not ready to say UW has the most complete athletic program in the country, but the results of late put it in the discussion. Doesn't matter if it's a touchdown pass in front of 70,000 people or a birdie putt in front of 70, the Huskies elicit significantly more cheers than jeers.
This might not play well in Pullman. Sorry about that, Cougs. But one has to give credit when it’s deserved.
I’ve been in Seattle for nearly three years now, where the sports scene has been as surprising as it has been stirring. From unforeseen city council votes on arena projects, to out-of-nowhere drama between Seahawks, to a seemingly sunk Mariners squad surging in the standings — it’s been anything but predictable.
But if there has been one source of consistency over these past 34 months — if there’s anything involving athletes, coaches and officials that has been truly reliable, it’s this: Some team from Washington does something awesome.
I’m not ready to say UW has the most complete athletic program in the country, but the results of late put it in the discussion. Doesn’t matter if it’s a touchdown pass in front of 70,000 people or a birdie putt in front of 70, the Huskies elicit significantly more cheers than jeers.
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Will it last? TBD. Sports success is a fickle thing.
What’s seems apparent, though, is shocking postseason runs and historic moments are lurking all around campus.
We can start with football — the lead singer of this band — which vaulted itself back into the national spotlight well ahead of schedule. Two years after Chris Petersen took over as coach, the Huskies stampeded their way to a Pac-12 title and College Football Playoff berth, then reached the Fiesta Bowl the next season. The No. 13 ranking 247sports.com assigned its most recent recruiting class is the best of Petersen’s career. The coach keeps on woofing on Twitter, and his players will likely keep winning on the field.
How about women’s basketball? Has there been a more unexpected run in this town than the one those Huskies made in 2016, when they reached the Final Four? Has there been a more dominant athlete in this town than Kelsey Plum was in 2017, when she set the NCAA’s career and single-season scoring record?
That program struggled mightily last season, as Jody Wynn inherited a roster sans Plum, Chantel Osahor or any other prominent player from Mike Neighbors’ squad. But that doesn’t take away from the individual and team history made in prior seasons.
Speaking of history, how about UW baseball? The Huskies weren’t among the top 25 teams in the country when the NCAA regionals started at the beginning of the month, but after a ninth-and-10th-inning rally vs. Cal State Fullerton on Sunday, they made their first ever College World Series.
How about UW softball? The Huskies began this season with 28 straight wins, then won their first eight of the postseason before falling to Florida State in the national championship series. They also have their No. 1 and 1A pitchers — Gabbie Plain and Taran Alvelo — returning next year, not to mention a slew of their top hitters.
Prefer the the links to the field? Well, the Huskies women’s golf team won its first national championship in 2016, and qualified for the NCAA championships once again this year.
Prefer the sea to the links? Well, the Huskies women’s rowing team swept the three grand events en route to the national championship last year and finished second this year. The men’s team — although not NCAA-sanctioned — won the overall points title in the national championships for the 11th time in 12 years.
The women’s volleyball team reached the Elite Eight two seasons ago. The gymnastics team finished No. 11 in the country this season. The men’s soccer team made it to the third round of the NCAA tournament in 2016, and last year, the men’s basketball team won 20 games for the first time since 2012.
Obviously, not every program on Montlake is shining. The once dominant men’s golf team hasn’t been a national threat in years, and former track coach Greg Metcalf resigned amid allegations of weight-shaming and other mistreatment last May.
Still, generally speaking, there hasn’t been a fall, winter or spring that has failed to produce something memorable at Washington in quite a while.
This kind of thing is never about one person, but Washington athletic director Jen Cohen can’t be deprived of credit. In addition to hiring men’s basketball coach Mike Hopkins, and being an integral piece in luring Petersen, she has overseen one of the nation’s most ascendant athletic departments. Not bad for her first two years on the job.
Once baseball season is over, we won’t see any Huskies in action until the fall. That’s OK.
Based on what we’ve seen from the lately, they’ll likely be worth the wait.