Talking with an undefeated legend

It was back in February that Pat Thrapp and I were emerging from Hec Ed Pavilion (after the Husky Hoopsters lost to Arizona something like 138-50) when I heard a voice that led me into Husky Stadium, and ultimately into an encounter with the late, great Husky football coach, Gloomy Gil Dobie.

His message to me at that time was clear, (which I chronicled in an article at that time) and that was to get the word out for UW to sign Neuheisel to a new fat contract as a nice reward, and with a healthy raise to boot.

Well ignoring for the time being my obviously limited clout (no new contract has been finalized in the seven months since my encounter with Dobie), I was nevertheless blessed earlier this week with the opportunity to talk some more with the so-called "Apostle of Grief". To chat with the man who coached UW football from 1908-1916 without experiencing a single defeat. It was definitely a great chance to get his take on the upcoming season.

As instructed, I wandered down to the old public fishing dock in downtown Edmonds late Thursday night, and met up with him there. The evening had a slight breeze to it and the fragrance of salt water in the air was evident. There were only a couple of other fishermen along the dock, hunched over in quiet solitude, minding their own business. As for Dobie, he was decked out in a long, black coat accompanied by a ratty old top hat. While he went to work repeatedly casting his line into the black waters and puffing at a stub of a cigar with a perpetual scowl cast upon his craggy face. I asked questions, and we chatted on many things purple and gold. I am really happy to speak to you, and am very curious as to how you view the upcoming season....

Dobie: Och! Neuheisel's got some great kids over there.

DM.C: Let's start officially with the topic that led you and I to meet in the first place back in February... Following the great Rose Bowl victory over Purdue, you had stated how important it was to get him resigned to a new contract. But it hasn't happened... Your thoughts?

Dobie: Same as it was back in 1915, kid… Those bastards on the upper campus.

DM.C: Can you elaborate?

Dobie: Listen, kid, I started there in 1908 at $3,000, and by the time I was fired nine years later, after nine consecutive undefeated seasons, I was up to a whopping $3,100... They ain't too keen up there on the idea of a football coach making far more than the people running the school. Why, if I didn't know better, I would think that the same jackass who was University President in my day was still in charge over there!

DM.C: Well, from everything I have heard, the current University President, Richard McCormick, is a very good and decent guy.

Dobie: Och! He's got people to answer to, don't you think otherwise.

DM.C: In other recent events, I am curious if you were privy to the whole Charles Frederick situation earlier this week, and did you ever have anything like this in your day?

Dobie: (frowns deeply while in thought) We never recruited kids from that far away, really. Not back then. We had one kid, a halfback named Cedric "Hap" Miller. He had a really good game and got a nice write-up in the papers... So I told him he had a swelled head and was no longer of any value to the team. I told him to forget football and get lost.... Well, he hung around practices and watched wistfully. We were gonna play California, really a powerhouse at that time. Right before the game I addressed the team, and I had Miller there. I told the boys, that we were going up against a bunch of monsters, and we were going to get licked. And all of Seattle was going to say it was on account of Hap Miller not playing, so I told him to go in there and lose with the rest of ‘em....

Well he played the game of his life, and was grateful to be back in uniform... Now this Frederick is back in uniform, practicing, and he behaved in an immature fashion by leaving the team. It is very difficult to be this far away from home, granted, but he made a commitment and a choice, was given a scholarship, and then left at the blink of an eye.... It is good he came back, but I don't think he should play against Michigan... Some type of punishment should be meted out... Though I wouldn't be surprised to see him in there….. Ultimately he is going to be a wonderful player, though. He seems like a good and likable kid, too.

DM.C: I see what you're saying, but it sure would be nice if he could get at least a little playing time under his belt, before heading home for the big game against Miami. It is his hometown, after all!

Dobie: Rules are rules... And he broke them. He left the team!

DM.C: To an extent, we will agree to disagree... What do you think of Oregon and the attention they have received as of late?

Dobie: I really like their team a lot... But they are heading for a fall! How can you have these websites for your players, and expect them to keep in mind what the meaning of "team" is. It is all very heady stuff to see your likeness upon a giant billboard, no matter how down to earth you are....

DM.C: So you would never promote a team of yours in that way?

Dobie: Och! No, absolutely not! No billboards, fer crissakes.... It is not about pomp and circumstance, it is about team and pulling together in the trenches and slugging it out against the world... Winning!.. In my day the only way I'd ever have a damn billboard would be in the middle of Eugene with a forty-foot billboard of a photocopy of my ass.

DM.C: Well, it is too bad that the technology didn't exist then....

Dobie: Yes... (Looks wistfully out toward the water for a moment)... But many Husky fans are feeling unsettled and are wondering what is going on down there in Eugene. You're so used to being the top of the mountain, and you still are, but I hear the talk and I see those message boards, some of those UW fans are almost obsessing over these guys, including you, you barn varmint.... I see your weird posts… Anyway, let's just see what transpires in the near future, shall we, eh?

DM.C: We shall… Any predictions for the upcoming season?

Dobie: We are going down to Miami and we will win that game. It will be a tough one, but these coaches UW has are not only good at Xs and Os… They instill confidence in these kids, that in addition to fundamentals. That Miami game will be a hard-fought battle… On the flip side, he has some young kids, and there will be a let-up somewhere along the line, that will produce a ghastly performance. Just like that '99 game against Arizona State. This year, it will be perhaps against Cal, or Stanford. And it will be a regrettable performance at that!

DM.C: What other things to look for?

Dobie: Paul Arnold can be the Pac-10 offensive Player of the year. And I mean that. He is a great kid, works hard, is brilliantly talented… But they shouldn't tell him that… I think Washington will go 9-2 and end up in the Fiesta Bowl, I really do. I like the looks of this team. I think Alexis and Hurst will combine for over 1,800 yards, and Pickett will have a decent year. He will be replaced once or twice after a bad outing, and that is a lot of pressure and responsibility for a young sophomore to handle. Perhaps when we lay an egg against one of the Bay Area schools, he will temporarily lose his job then.

DM.C: I sure hope you're wrong, I hope he can be like Billy Joe Hobert in '91, who despite being a sophomore he led his team with great performances and charisma.

Dobie: (growls) Just keep Pickett away from Idaho businessmen.

DM.C: (I give a courtesy chuckle, and just then I saw Dobie nod to someone who was walking by, and to my astonishment fabled Note Dame coach Knute Rockne walks by, with a fishing pole and tackle box)

DM.C: Knute Rockne! Wasn't that Knute Rockne?!

Dobie: (scowling at me, but saying nothing)

DM.C: Knute Rockne in Edmonds!… Anyway, well, I was going to say, that you really seem to keep track of the college game, still.

Dobie: Well, I'm dead for crissakes. What else to do?

DM.C: oh, right…. Last question, any thoughts on the Cougs?

Dobie: (grimacing as he re-casts his line) They beat Idaho, big deal.

DM.C: Well they won rather convincingly, 36-7. I was kind of happy for them, after losing to the Vandals the two previous years. They have struggled regularly, you know.

Dobie: So you think I am going to feel sorry for ‘em? Och! This is college football, and your colors are purple and gold, son. (He turns to scowl at me) What is wrong with people today?… Johnson, you some kind of bleeding heart liberal, or something?

DM.C: No, sir, I vote mostly republican.

Dobie: WSU is the enemy, fer crissakes! I suggest you reevaluate your priorities, son.

DM.C: yes sir.

And with that, my interview came to an end. The crusty old coach did eventually catch a couple of fish, and a swilling fog enveloped the dock just as I was gathering together my notebook and pencil and bidding farewell.

A great season of college football is now upon us. Top Stories