A prophecy fulfilled

Washington's Athletic Director Barbara Hedges announced Keith Gilbertson as the 24th head football coach in Husky history Tuesday morning. Gilbertson accepted the position and also has filled all the current vacancies on the football coaching staff.

Scott Pelluer, who coached linebackers and safeties for UW back in 1996-1998 was named special teams coordinator and tight ends coach. Current coaches John Pettas and Randy Hart have changed roles somewhat. Pettas, in addition to coaching the quarterbacks, will take over Gilbertson's former role of offensive coordinator, while Hart has added the duties as assistant head coach on top of his current role as defensive line coach.

There was one more addition to the staff, as Theron Aych was named defensive graduate assistant coach, replacing Jamal Fountaine. Fountaine is now the defensive backs coach at Portland State, replacing former Husky Nigel Burton, who took a similar position with Mike Riley and the Oregon State Beavers. Aych spent the past three seasons at Houston, where he coached the tight ends as a grad aide his first year and the running backs for the past two seasons.

Now that the football staff is complete and in place, the focus apparently is back on the Huskies' first game against Ohio State August 30th. Gone is former Head Coach Rick Neuheisel, who apparently is committed to battle the school over his dismissal on the charges of gambling and dishonesty. Hedges would not comment Tuesday on Neuheisel or any possible lawsuits that may be pending over Neuheisel's termination.

"We've spent two months fighting through things, and now that the direction is clear we can get going again," Gilbertson said Tuesday morning. "The coaching staff is now in place. We're anxious to get going and I feel we've got a lot to prove."

"That, and I've got to like defense again."

This will be the third stint for Gilbertson as a coach at the University of Washington. His first was as a grad aide in 1976, then as an assistant coach from 1988-1991 and then again starting in 1999 when he was hired by Neuheisel to be his assistant head coach and tight ends coach.

"If I had to put out a mission statement, here's what I would say," Gilbertson announced to the press assembled at the Don James Center, which also included James and his wife Carol. "We want to play championship, hard nosed-caliber, Division-1, tough football. We want our people to earn a great degree, be better people when they leave than when they came, and we want to do it by the rules.

"I hope we have the look of a team that's dying to win, is flying around the field, knocking the hell out of everybody that moves and plays as hard as they can play. Fun to watch. I know what it takes. I was here when things really got rolling and the things that Don James hammered into me are attention to detail, hard work and sound, fundamental coaching. That's what I know."

His contract, which is expected to be signed at the end of the week, is a straight 4-year deal with no current rollovers. The annual total compensation will be $870,000. His package was determined in much the same way Neuheisel's was, according to Hedges, who referred to a formula that included a base salary, housing allowance, TV, radio, family travel, Nike contract and two cars. Gilbertson's contract will also include built-in incentives for his team's academic performance and also a bowl incentive.

It was more than a bit ironic when Gilbertson chose to stand, instead of remaining seated with Hedges and Sports Information Director Jim Daves. It was a tiny gesture, but said a lot about the man that is about to take over the Huskies' program. "My brother called me last night and reminded me that, when I was in the 7th grade we were watching the Jim Owens show and I said that one day I was going to be the Head Coach at the University of Washington," Gilbertson said. "I had forgotten all about it."

Gilbertson admitted that he had pretty much given up the thought of being a head coach again until Hedges afforded him the opportunity to succeed Neuheisel. And he also admitted that he would have even accepted an interim position if asked by the University. "I would have done that because I really feel an obligation to the players here, and for them to have already lost a coach...it would have been a slap in their face and I just felt like I owed it to the kids that have been here in the program for three or four years," he said.

That philosophy has been a theme for Gilbertson these past four years, especially when the NFL has come looking for a top assistant. Included in that group is Dennis Erickson, who recently took over as head coach of the San Francisco 49'ers. Gilbertson said that he had a conversation with Erickson about joining him in San Francisco, but was compelled more by the possibilities that lay ahead in Seattle.

"At the time, I visited with Dennis and he asked me, 'Are you ready to roll?', Gilbertson said. "I told him that I really wanted to stay with Cody (Pickett) and Reggie (Williams). I told him that we're onto something special up here and that I wanted another shot."

Gilbertson as head coach was a logical choice for Hedges, one that she made for two reasons. "We to stabilize the program," she said. "And as a University we needed to give Keith Gilbertson every opportunity to succeed and that's what the four-year contract represents."

Hedges also added that the rest of the assistant coaches have all signed their contracts for the upcoming season, helping to stabilize the program even further during this summer's events and also helped with the transition from Neuheisel to Gilbertson.

This is Gilbertson's third head coaching stint. His first was at Idaho from 1986 to 1988 and then at California from 1992-1995. Over those 7 seasons, his combined record was 48-35.

His tenure at California was maligned, but Gilbertson feels he will used the experience gained in Berkely as a springboard for bigger and better things in Seattle. "For one thing, I'm eleven years older. I've worked hard at the craft, to stay up and stay creative. I'm probably more demanding now, less tolerant because I'm older. I'm probably a little tougher on players. But the biggest thing is that I know the culture here. I've been here and really had a chance to be a part of this program under two different head coaches and that will help. And the best lessons in life are the hardest lessons to learn. That (Cal) was a hard lesson for me, but I learned a lot, am better for it and believe that it will pay dividends for me.

"To all the young guys that have wore the Husky helmet - the Millens, Redmans, Mitchells, O'Briens, the Schloredts and everybody that has walked down that tunnel - I feel a special obligation and a responsibility every day that I make that trip. We have a tremendous legacy here, a tremendous tradition. And I'm going to work as hard as I can to make sure that your legacy continues and lives on."

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