Q&A: Washington Under the Microscope

Cal faces the 0-11 Washington Huskies on Saturday. The Bears are awaiting their bowl destination while the Huskies are trying to avoid a winless season. Cal Sports Digest got a chance to ask Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times a number of questions about the Pac-10, Cal, the state of the Washington Huskies program, Jake Locker, and their future head coach candidates…

Washington has traditionally been a power in the Pac-10. They have the resources to get back to that point, but a lot of things need to be fixed starting with acquiring a head coach. Jim Mora Jr., who is next in line to become the Seattle Seahawks new coach after Mike Holmgren steps down, was recently rumored to be back in the mix for the Huskies position but has officially passed on the position.

Bob Condotta's answer eight pertinent questions…

Who are the leading candidates to take over for Tyrone Willingham? Are there any coaches from Don James staff in the early 90's that could take over this program and turn it around?

The general thought now in Seattle is Mora isn't really in the running anymore. The four known to have interviewed are Mike Leach, Pat Hill, Steve Sarkisian, the OC at USC, and Michael Haywood, the OC at Notre Dame. Right now, Leach or Hill look like the best bets. On the second part of the question, the answer is no. The only James disciple out there is Gary Pinkel of Missouri and he has said he is staying put.

Under Willingham how many players from the state of Washington did the Huskies miss out on that could have made a major impact on the field other than Jonathan Stewart?

The key ones are Taylor Mays at USC and Steven Schilling at Michigan. They were each big UW targets that got away and are contributing heavily where they are. There are some others but it's still hard to tell how much good those players will turn out to be, such as David DeCastro at Stanford, whom UW pursued heavily last year. One guy who got away that UW fans wish the school had recruited but didn't is Boise State QB Kellen Moore.

Has it been a good idea for Washington to let Willingham finish out the season? Are the players still responding to him? Do players seem to be worried about transferring and wondering about what coach eventually take over?

Depends on what you thought UW wanted out of it. School officials said they wanted to keep Willingham in place to keep the program running smoothly, such as making sure guys keep going to class, etc. In terms of wins and losses, it hasn't worked out, but who knows if they would have won any of those games anyway? It's hard to say whether the players are still responding --- again, who knows if they would have won any games if he had left immediately? They hadn't won any prior. But there are a lot of fans who think the players would be responding better to a different coach right now. The idea that player transfer en masse when a coaching change is made has never been proven accurate. You never really see that anywhere. So I don't think you will see that here. Players are obviously curious who the new coach will be. But none have mentioned transferring now.

One good thing about the program is quarterback Jake Locker. Are there any players at the receiver position that could be productive for Jake next season?

Every scholarship WR on the roster this year returns other than Charles Hawkins, a former walk-on, so he should have plenty of help. Sophomore D'Andre Goodwin has been the best of UW's receivers, ranking among the top five in the Pac-10 in receptions and yards per catch all season.

Cal has been very successful under Jeff Tedford. Should Cal fans be satisfied with a bowl appearance every season or should their expectations be higher?

I think they should be very satisfied with what Tedford has done. UW would sure take an eight- or nine-win season right now. I'm sure it can be frustrating getting close to a great season and never quite closing the deal, as Cal has done. But I'd keep it in perspective of where Cal was before Tedford --- one of the worst programs in the Pac-10 --- to where they are now.

What would it mean for the Pac-10 conference if they could get Oregon State and USC into BCS games?

About $450,000 more per school to divvy up in bowl money. Otherwise, I don't think it really means much if you are referring to recruiting or status or whatever. I think the Pac-10 is what it is and getting two teams or one in the BCS this year isn't going to change anything.

Cal is usually known for it's offensive production, but this season their defense has been very productive. How do you think the Bear defense stacks up with the rest of the conference?

Probably in that group of teams just behind USC and OSU, which are the two best, with USC a definitive No. 1. I really like Cal's linebackers, in particular.

In my opinion it was a mistake for the Pac-10 to no longer be involved with the Cotton Bowl. To have the Rose bowl, Cotton Bowl and Holiday bowl tied to the Pac-10 would elevate the conference to the status of the SEC and Big Ten when it comes to post-season play. The Emerald bowl, Hawaii bowl and Las Vegas bowl are not high profile bowl games. With the Pac-10 getting a new commissioner what changes do you think should be done to put a higher emphasis on football and competing with the SEC in football on the business side?

Did the Cotton Bowl still want the Pac-10? I'm not sure. I thought part of the deal was that the Cotton Bowl wanted some options and the Pac-10 wanted more of a sure thing. Maybe not. I agree the Pac-10 could have better bowl deals. But two major problems that aren't going to change no matter the commissioner are geography and the fact that few Pac-10 teams travel well. A lot of bowls would rather have deals with conferences that have teams closer to where they are so they know that they can get a pretty big crowd. And the Pac-10 has some schools that don't have great reps for traveling, especially for fairly minor bowls to far-off places. I really think that has a lot more to do with it than the commissioner.


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