Updated: Aug 30, 2019
Jennifer Cohen is the Athletic Director and Chris Petersen is the Head Coach, but the Husky Football program belongs to all of us.
About a year ago, on the indispensable TSiO podcast, Dennis and Coker made this point and it really resonated with me. Jen Cohen and Coach Pete are great and so far they have been terrific stewards of the program, but it doesn't belong to them. It belongs to all of us.
The deep personal connection many of us feel to the University of Washington and the Husky Football program is what makes college football different from the NFL (except in Green Bay, perhaps), or really any other spectator sports experience. I like the Seahawks; I live the Huskies.
For those of you that feel the same way, no explanation is really needed. It's why the hue of purple of the uniforms matters to us so much. It is why we care so deeply about the Game Day experience. It is why Everything Matters.
If this still seems like kind of an odd viewpoint to you, please read on. I am going to share why Husky Football and everything related to it is so personally meaningful to me.
Why Husky Football Means So Much to Me
My parents met at the UW. My dad grew up on a farm near Yakima during the Depression and managed to go to the UW on a Naval ROTC scholarship, graduating in 1951. He played baseball (all PCC 2B) and drank beer at the Duchess. My mom was a Marine Corps brat who went to high school in Coronado, CA. She chose to go to Washington over UCLA, partly because her aunt and uncle lived in Seattle.
They met in the spring of my dad's Senior year and were engaged after six weeks. The Korean War was on and there was no time to waste.
They were on campus at the same time as Husky legends like Don Heinrich, Hugh McElhenny, and Rollie Kirkby. They both became close friends with Jack Seth, another Husky great on those teams. My mom and dad were passionate Husky fans. And so were all their friends. Their friends from college became their social circle for the next 50 years and events related to Husky Football were always a good excuse to get together with friends.
They had season tickets for 50+ years. My dad always made it down to the field with his Letterman’s blanket at the Homecoming game, until he just couldn’t physically do it any more. They retained those tickets even after they weren't really going to games any more, so that other family members could use them.
My older brother attended UW and I grew up going to Husky games with my parents, starting when I was probably 8. We weren't wealthy, but my parents had friends who had a boat and we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to partake in the unique UW "Sailgating" experience. I remember watching Warren Moon, Paul Skansi, Michael Jackson, Jacque Robinson, and tons of other greats from the late-70s and early-80s.
Although I flirted with going out of state, I attended UW during the peak of the Don James years. I was friendly with many of the players of my era and eventually worked as an intern in the Athletic Department before I graduated.
I remained a die-hard fan even after I relocated to Texas for graduate school and stayed for my career. Even when I lived in Austin and Houston, I watched every game I could. I remember my shrieks of agony waking the neighbors as I watched Ortege Jenkins somersault into the East end zone in my apartment in the middle of the night. And the elation I felt watching Marques Tuiasosopo's heroic 300/200 game against Stanford in a Houston sports bar.
Through all those years, my dad and I would talk on the phone after every single game. It was our ritual, whether we were celebrating a great victory or solemnly commiserating on some disaster (we did that a lot from 2002-2008).
So fast forward to last fall. My mom had passed away a year earlier and my dad had fallen quite ill with Stage IV prostate cancer. One Saturday I had to take him to the ER because of blood clots in his urinary tract. It happened to be the day that the Huskies were playing BYU.
We were in the ER a long time and the game started while we were there. Of course we had it on in his room. My dad was in a lot of discomfort because of an overfilled bladder, but watching the game helped take his mind off the pain.
While we were there, my dad had to have a number of really unpleasant things done to him to deal with his medical issue. Even while he was in the midst of some uncomfortable procedure and had his view of the TV obscured or his eyes shut from the pain, he asked me to give him running play by play on the game. He was following it closely and cared greatly about what was going on, despite the really awful circumstances.
Our shared passion for Husky football may not have been the most important thing in our relationship, but it was a constant. He relied on me to tell him which new players to look out for and, in his later years, to remind him which former player he was thinking of. The name of that upcoming player or that great of the past wasn't really the important part. The important part was that what we were sharing with each other.
That's really why we started this site. We fully recognize that who wins the QB battle, who the Huskies sign at wide receiver, or the complexity of the offense aren't the most important things. They all matter at some level, but what really is important is that overall success leads to greater pride in the program and helps to strengthen bonds between friends, bonds between alums and the school, and even bonds within families.
We watched the last two bowl games together, just the two of us. While neither game ended the way we hoped, just spending those few hours together caring deeply about something we both love was a memory I will cherish forever. We both would have preferred my mom be there too, but the two of us just watching together was a nice consolation.
My dad passed away a few months ago. I already miss him badly, as I do my mom, but Husky Football will always remind me of them. Even though my memories of sharing these things with my family are mine, I know these feelings I have about the program and its meaning to my family aren't unique. That's why it is Our Program.
Jen Cohen and Chris Petersen may be in charge, but they don't own it. They don't own the memories I have with my parents and they definitely don't own the memories you have with yours. They are stewards. Beyond my memories, I don't claim any special ownership for myself. We all own it. It's ours. It's ours to preserve for others to have the same kind of memories and stories. Hopefully even better ones.