I’m not here to judge the accuracy of Jimmy Lake’s statement that Oregon isn’t a football recruiting rival of Washington, nor to pass judgment on the wisdom of questioning the academic credentials of your archrival during game week. Others have done that quite emphatically.

No, I’m here to say: Bring it on. All of it — the trash-talking (mild as it is, in the annals of Husky-Duck word-fare), the wounded feelings and the elevated emotions that are sure to ramp up an already spirited game Saturday.

Lake says he intended no disparagement when he noted that Washington’s primary recruiting battles are against “more academically prowess teams” such as Stanford, USC and Notre Dame.

On his coaches show Wednesday on KJR-AM (950), Lake said he has the “utmost respect for the University of Oregon as an academic and an athletic institution.” And at his final news conference Thursday before the game at Husky Stadium, he seemed surprised that the comments had an afterlife on social media.

“All you guys in here know the way my comments were laid out,” he said. “And then someone takes a snippet of it, and it becomes national news, which I understand during a rivalry week that everything is going to be looked at with a microscope.”

Lake may indeed have “stepped in a puddle,” as The Oregonian’s John Canzano wrote, and his comments may have been indefensible, as the San Jose Mercury News’ Jon Wilner posited.


In fact, Washington fans might be wondering why Lake wanted to risk riling up what is indisputably the best team in the Pac-12, and the one that has won 14 of the past 16 meetings between the teams. Especially considering that a Husky victory would go a long, long way toward reshaping the evaluation of what has been an underachieving season.

So, again, why add fuel to the fire?

A valid question. Asked Thursday if he feared he had fired up Oregon with his remarks, Lake replied, “I think they’re already fired up, and I think we’re fired up as well, so we’re both excited for this matchup on Saturday.”

What’s indisputable — to me, at least — is that regardless of the repercussions, it’s always fun to have some spice added to a rivalry that is already at Level 5. Especially when Lake’s predecessor, Chris Petersen, was aggressively bland in his rivalry-week comments, whether the opponent be Oregon or Washington State.

Certainly, there’s a long tradition of tub-thumping between these schools — and it’s not even the first time that the “academic prowess” of Oregon was brought into question by the Huskies’ side. Before the 2010 game, Washington’s then-athletic director, Scott Woodward, referred to Oregon in his pregame radio segment as a “once-great academic university” that had declined in academic standing.

Woodward said, “It’s an embarrassment what their academic institution is, and what’s happened to ’em as far as their state funding has gone. In my mind it’s a wonderful athletic facility, but they’ve watched it at the expense of the university go really down.

“But the athletic facility is impressive. The fans at Oregon should get down on their hands and knees at night to Phil Knight and pray to him, because this is an incredible facility he’s built.”

In the aftermath, Woodward released a statement of apology and then was ordered by UW interim president Phyllis Wise to send a personal letter of apology to Oregon’s president and athletic director.


Footnote: Oregon, the No. 1 team in the nation at the time, squeaked by Washington, 53-16.

Then-Husky coach Rick Neuheisel stirred things up in 2002 when, in the lead-up to the Oregon game, he referred to the school as “a propaganda machine.” That was in response to a question about how Oregon had sold itself as the most successful program in the Pac-10 in recent years, and no doubt referred at least partially to large billboards promoting quarterback Joey Harrington that Oregon posted in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Oregon coach Mike Bellotti was not amused and didn’t seem appeased when Neuheisel subsequently said he meant the words as a compliment.

“Propaganda, in my mind, usually has to do with untruths, and all we do is tell the truth here about the records and everything else,” Bellotti said.

Footnote: the unranked Huskies upset the No. 23 Ducks, 42-14 in Eugene. UW quarterback Cody Pickett, who had been called “overrated” by Oregon safety Keith Lewis, threw four touchdown passes. And Neuheisel led a raucous celebration on the Autzen Stadium “O.”

So it goes in the so-called “Border War,” which started to get feisty in 1948 when Washington famously (or infamously, depending on which side of the border you reside) voted for Cal, not Oregon, to play in the Rose Bowl. And convinced Montana, also a member of the Pacific Coast Conference at the time, to do so as well.


Emotions always run high when these teams meet, and revenge is always sweet. Husky coach Jim Owens suffered the worst loss of his career against Oregon in 1973 (58-0 in Eugene), and came back the next year to beat the Ducks, 66-0, in Seattle.

Everyone remembers “The Pick” by Oregon’s Kenny Wheaton and “The Point” by Washington’s Jake Browning.

The former, in 1994, helped propel the Ducks to the Rose Bowl and has been pinpointed by many as the jumping-off point to an era of dominance (greased, of course, by Knight’s Nike dollars).

The latter, a gesture aimed at linebacker Jimmie Swain during one of the eight touchdowns (six passing and two rushing) for which Browning was responsible, occurred during the Huskies’ 70-21 romp in 2016. That ended a 12-game Washington losing streak against Oregon.

Don James beat Oregon 15 times in 18 seasons. Now the dominance has tilted in the other direction, though the Huskies did follow up their 2016 shellacking with another lopsided victory in 2017, 38-3. Oregon comes into Saturday’s game having won the past two meetings by margins of just three (in overtime) and four points.

Oregon needs this game to hold onto its current spot in the College Football Playoff. Washington needs this game to keep alive its hopes of winning the Pac-12 title.

“This is not just like any other week,’’ Lake said Thursday.

That’s a quote that no one can dispute.