Ask Coach Baird

Well, so much for a nice quiet summer, huh? What the f***? It's not going to be quiet at all, but it sure is going to get HOT! Now the UW and Rick are negotiating about how this entire episode will end. Hopefully it will end very soon. And now, on to the letters . . .

From Jack Root
: What do you think of recruits who are stupid enough to go to that junior university in Palo Alto? Been awhile. Hope everything is going well. Tried to stop by to see you in Seattle a couple of times when I was up there for football games but no luck. I've got a couple of kids in the football wars now. One is going to be playing for Florida State this fall and one is a senior in high school beginning to go through the recruiting process.

A: I really hope you are the same Jack Root I grew up with because I'd love to see you. At Washington home games I can usually be found in the Dempsey Indoor Center doing the KJR pre-game show. Will probably be there after games as well doing the post-game and some stuff for I think this is tremendous that I could find an old friend via this internet gig. Jack Root and I played seven years of football together never having a losing season and winning five championships with four undefeated seasons. Besides that we were in the same Cub Scout den. If you have one kid playing at Florida State then we need to get the next one up here to play for the Huskies, considering your dad was an ex-Husky assistant coach. What a nice surprise!
From Gwen Crippen
: Hello Coach! I write this on 6-6-03 as we are all waiting for the outcome of RN. I have never met him but I really like his attitude much of his football related abilities. Just wish he didn't make so many high profile blunders. My question may be a tough one, but if you had your choice of coaches in all 50 states, who would you hire for UW? With your former and current involvement with UW I would love to understand your reasoning and why? Thank you!!! By the way, really appreciate your candor and informed view to help all us fans to become more educated and understanding of the what's, why's and how's of things going on in the football program.

A: At this point in time I really feel that the best person for the job is Keith Gilbertson. Of all the coaches in the nation, I think Bob Stoops is one of the best. The greatest coach out there is probably Joe Paterno but only at his own school, Penn State. That is why Gilbs would be the best - Washington is his school. He knows everything there is to know that is important to running this particular program. I think familiarity is critical, so he, Gary Pinkel, and Chris Tormey would be the best because they have all been here before. I don't like bringing in an NFL coach because they don't know the college game in terms of recruiting and working with younger kids. With how the colleges are paying now, many are moving down from the NFL and grabbing the good jobs. They may know football, but like the jerk at Arizona, they don't know kids. The 18-22 year-old kids are a lot different from paid professionals. I just hope Barbara stays home and names Gilby as the guy.
From Kevin Hull
Dear Coach Baird,
: Coach - I hate to say it but you were wrong on this one. I thought Hedges would pull the trigger and fire Neuheisel. Personally, I don't view a neighborhood tournament pool as a big deal. We do them at the office every year...but I'm not an NCAA coach and the rules are pretty clear. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. I have supported Coach Neuheisel through thick and thin. I support him today. But I don't think he survives this one. Unfortunately, during Coach Neuheisel's tenure, too many headlines have been about his problems and not about the success of the team. It was good to see you a couple of weeks ago at McCormick Woods for the Coaches Tour).

A: You were right, I was wrong. She didn't stand by her man. I think the heat was getting too close to her so she was forced to abandon her guy. Too bad, I'd love to see a battle with the NCAA. Think of the media frenzy with that one. It's best though, now, if she just gets on with the change quickly. It never helps a program to change coaches but sometimes if you do it right, everything works out. Hopefully she names Keith Gilbertson as head coach. That, to me, gives the kids the best chance to win.
From Mike
Coach Baird,
: With a couple of night games coming up this season (Ohio State & Oregon), I was wondering what the Huskies record was when playing at night? If you want to throw out the massacre in the Orange Bowl I won't mind.

A: I'm not exactly sure what the night time record is because a lot of our games have started at 3:00 and finished after dark. During my time I know we won regularly under the lights but one loss in particular to Arizona stands out, when Ortege Jenkins went over the top to beat us with four seconds remaining. We lost to Colorado in a bowl game when Rick coached the Buffs. I would say that Washington does better under the lights than not, however. We had two great night wins over Nebraska. Will never forget those games.
From Husky Heat
Coach Baird,
: What differences in philosophy will Coach Gilbertson have on the team than Coach Neuheisel? How will their differences in philosophy transfer to the defensive schemes?

A: I really don't want to comment on differences in philosophy between Gilbs and Rick because Gilby hasn‘t been named to the job yet, and it could jinx him. But if Gilbs does get the job, I'm sure you'll see a little more Don James-Jim Lambright type of football philosophy on the defensive side of the ball. I think you were going to see that, anyway, because of Phil Snow's addition. I'm just waiting like everyone else for the next in line, really hoping that Barbara stays in house at this particular time and names Gilby to the top post.
From RJ Selfridge - Tully's Coffee, Japan
Dear Coach,
: I'm just one of a zillion fans all over the world that bleed purple. My dad had me in the stands at age six watching the Dawgs beat the Ducks - Luther Carr scoring the winning touchdown. I had seven guys huddled around a Zenith portable radio at the "Hideaway Club" in Anchorage, listening to the Sixkiller led comeback fall just short against USC. I'm now in Japan, and I check Dawgman daily for the latest news. Is Coach N part of a Pac 10 (UCLA?) plot to swing the balance of power back to California, where the Conference hierarchy thinks it belongs? I appreciate the insight and candor you bring to the site. Here's hoping Husky news takes a significantly brighter turn in the very near future. I'll bet you $100 that the "friend" who blew the whistle is a Cal alum and former Walnut Creek resident and was "transferred" to Medina to infiltrate the pool. I'll bet you another $100 that he's married to an NCAA compliance official that is French, and probably a Duck.

A: Wow! We must have been at the same game watching Luther Carr, only I snuck in by jumping the fence. My dad would take me down on the way to the "Dump" and we would "hop and run thru the crowd" dodging security, cops and ushers. I know you were tongue in cheek with the California connection but I really think the Pac-10 is happy that USC is back because of the lucrative LA market. As far as taking those $100 bets though, I have to decline because as an ex-coach it might be a "gambling offense" and I could be fired. Oh that's right, I've already been fired. I still don't want to break NCAA rules, I only want to break the NCAA itself.
From Richard Pacholski
Dear Coach,
: I maybe jumping ahead and asking this question but I believe it is one a lot of people will ask as time goes by on the latest events that have happened to the football program. You were obviously on the staff when UW had sanctions in the 1990's. Please tell us if it is harder to recruit and retain recruits when the sanctions are known are when they are in process and likely but not yet announced. This morning the PI reported that two commitments are in the process of rethinking their decisions. Is this to be expected and will this lead others to choose other schools? Also if you would comment on one of my observation that the top CA recruits always seem to end up at USC or UCLA, but other schools like UW/WSU/OSU/OR always get their share of kids just because of the numbers game - there are only so many division one scholarships available. I guess I want to hear that even with these potential sanctions we will still attract local kids and CA recruits just because of the 85-player limit. Thanks for the answer and love your column.

A: Washington will always get Washington born and raised kids. The school and the Husky program is simply too good not to take advantage of. No degree can "connect" you better in this state, and the purpose of education is to enhance your occupational opportunities. As far as recruiting with sanctions or the threat of sanctions, neither is very good. I don't think the Huskies are going to face any penalties for this latest scrape, simply because they fired Rick. That tends to back the NCAA off. In California, the LA schools rule but Washington is right there for any kid who wants to get away for school. The Huskies are usually going to sign 40% Washington kids,40% California kids, and 20% from other states. It's been like that for decades.
From Norman Cohen
Dear Coach,
: Me again Coach. Do you agree that the NCAA's "recruiting violation" ruse to inveigle Rick into a meeting with NCAA investigators was shameful? Equally, do you agree, disagree, or choose to say nothing about Bob Aronson's cavalier attitude about the NCAA tactics?...He seems to think it is OK.

A: I don't know if the NCAA was pulling a ruse or not but I do know that they were after Rick. There is little doubt he was a marked man and the "basketball" infraction is an old one if I'm not mistaken. Unless it's a different infraction, it has to do with the recruitment of Dominic Shaw from Oakland who, when on his visit to UW was reportedly challenged by Coach Neu to a 3-point shot, and if Rick made it the kid had to commit to Washington. Anyway, coach swishes the shot and the kid comes to the UW. Of course, the NCAA can interpret it as a "physical tryout" because the kid was showing an athletic skill. If they dragged this up again, it was only to give them a chance to go after Rick. I sincerely believe they were just waiting to get him and the betting pool was simply the excuse. I will "bet" probably one half of all college football coaches in America have at one time or another bet in a Final Four basketball pool. Maybe not the amount Rick bet but then they didn't make what Rick made. I have no comment on Aronson's comments at the press conference.
From Jack Sonnichsen
Dear Coach,
: Thank you for your great article about Gilby. I'm with you, I grew up a Cougar but when the Huskies played in the 60 and 61 Rose Bowls I headed to Montlake. I'm sure my decision was also very much influenced by Don White who was my High School football coach my Jr. year and got us into so many U-Dub games - it was awesome being around Bob Schlorett, George Fleming, etc. I remember watching you play for the Cougs and couldn't believe it when you joined the James gang. I remember running into you when you headed up the recruiting at the U-Dub and I'll never forget what a great and entertaining guy you were at 5th Quarter. As you can see, I'm a little old school and never totally bought into the Rick Neuheisel thing. In my opinion he recruits and signs too many 5-11 180-pound speedsters. I will take attitude and bulk over speed and finesse anytime. I hated to see Lambo go but after watching the Oahu Bowl in the stands in Hawaii I knew it had to be. I still like Jim and the old James Gang. I believe the best weekend of my life was in Husky Stadium at the Centennial Party. I remember Coach Owens pep talk on Friday evening when he said let's "go out and kick a little Trojan butt. " I remember Tom Flick was standing behind me and saying, "Boy I wish we were playing Appalachian State tomorrow rather than SC". And I remember Marinovich's comments afterwards about seeing nothing but purple. Wow, let's get back to that era. I hope Gilby gets the job and has the same vision.

Thank again for your great article and just between you and I, let's keep the Dawgs slightly ahead of the Cougs. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the Crimson and Gray but my heart bleeds purple and always will. We buried my father a couple of weeks ago in a crimson and gray casket with a WSU logo and I picked out the colors. Dad was a great cougar and I was so happy to see the Cougs make it to the RB before he died. I will always cherish the moment he and I had watching the Cougs in Martin Stadium and listening to Dad talk about the Cougs on the way home. Dad was true to his Cougs but he also never said a bad word about my Huskies and really felt bad when Coach James decided to retire. We were in Lincoln City when the word came down and he was the one that broke the news to me. I remember he said he was sorry and I know he meant it. Wow, it means more to me today then it did back in ‘92. He wasn't around to follow the Rick Neuheisel fiasco and I'm thankful for that. I know that Rick's not a bad guy and I know his heart is in the right place but I'm sure he's not the type of football coach for me.

A: Jack, I really enjoyed you letter and have only one comment – thanks for sharing it with me.
From Michael Goins in San Diego, CA
Dear Coach,
: Not so much a question coach Baird as a statement! I think coach Gilbertson is the wrong way to go for a couple of reasons. Coach Gilbertson was ineffective as the headman at Cal. He is a great guy, I am sure and respected and loved by his players but IMHO he is not a Head Coach. I think we would see another Jim Lambright situation in that Coach Lambright was a Defensive mastermind but struggled with the politics, recruiting and overall management at the UW! I would love to see Chris Tormey or Gary Pinkel assume the HC responsibilities next year and see Gilby assume the position of interim HC! It would not be the best for recruiting but I would prefer to see us have one down recruiting year then to see us multiple down years. Just my two cents worth. Thanks for the articles and your commentary, you are the reason I subscribe to this site!

A: I fully accept your two cents on the coaching situation, and thank you for your letter. But I disagree with your assessment on two issues. Neither Gilbertson nor Lambright were failures as a head coaches. I think both were fired before they had the full opportunity to prove that their systems worked. Gilby coached Cal's only bowl victory in the last century or so. Lambright won a championship with a team that was crippled by sanctions. Jim was just learning how to be a head coach when he was fired. Truth be known, they are as sound technically as any coaches in college football. Both are also from the state of Washington, but not the pretty boy types. The best person period for this job is Keith Gilbertson, then Chris Tormey then Jim Mora jr. in that order. Gary Pinkel makes too much at Missouri and finally has turned that program around. Randy Hart would do it as a soldier and accept the interim label, but he has never been a head coach. Gilby is the obvious choice, and I hope he doesn't get screwed over. There comes that cynical attitude of mine again. Sorry. Thanks for subscribing to, and for the reason you mentioned. There isn't a better or more trusted on-line source for Husky information anywhere. That's why I joined their team. You can trust these guys. Take it from a former UW coach who is still connected to the program.
From Jake Eggimann
Dear Coach,
: I would like to see Don James brought back to coach the team this year on an interim basis and hire a coach at the end of the season that will lead the Husky program back to respectability. Not that Gilby is a bad guy, but he will have to do more than coach. Recruiting should be heavily factored into the AD's decision when looking at a replacement. Any thoughts on Don James being brought back for a 7-month period?

A: There is no way Coach James comes back into coaching. I am in regular contact with Don, and cannot see him ever coming back. He would do a marvelous job, but it's not going to happen. columnist and KJR 950 Sports Radio personality, Dick Baird.
Dick Baird was an Assistant Coach (Linebackers) and Recruiting Coordinator at the UW from 1985-1998. He has joined the staff as a featured columnist for both the web site and Sports Washington magazine. In addition to his regular editorial columns, Coach Baird will try to provide some of his unique perspective by answering a few of your selected questions online. If you would like to send in your questions, please CLICK HERE.

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