Kim Grinolds/

A Conversation With Cohen, Part 3

Now that Jennifer Cohen has been Washington’s Athletic Director for a year, we decided it was a good time to catch up with her on a range of issues to get her thoughts and opinions. Over the course of this week we will get Cohen’s take on everything from the AD budget to taking Kelsey Plum shopping. Today we talk about the football program, Chris Petersen’s stewardship, possible game day changes, as well as honoring two legends this fall. 

On Coach Petersen’s recent extension 

“He wants to take care of his people, first and foremost. Chris is all about his staff, all about having all the right pieces put together. He’s really so incredibly humble for somebody in such a visible role. I agree with him and appreciate this about him: it’s hard for him to accept what the salaries are in Division-1, Power-5 football. He struggles with that a little bit. I do too. There’s no doubt you couldn’t pay this man enough for what he’s worth to Husky Athletics, how our operation works, our brand, doing it the right way for the institution. 

“But he doesn’t expect us to do it that way. He wants to make sure we don’t have any obstacles that could keep his program from being really competitive. So that starts with making sure he has the right staff around him. So we made some really significant investments in his entire coaching staff this year. We made significant investments in his support staff. Next year we’re going to have a tenth coach, so that’s another big investment as well. We’re already doing upgrades to the facility already. We’re doing some new lockers. He’s wanted to have new lockers since he came. It needs to be tidier. They need to have doors. So thankfully through the generosity of a donor, we will be doing a renovation of the locker room. 

“There’s always branding…there’s just a lot we want to invest in. We’ve talked both short-term and long-term about other things we’d like to do. Dempsey (Indoor) needs a facelift. It’s almost 20 years old. With branding, can we do windows? We always talk about these things. (Petersen) is a team player and he wants to make sure we have the flexibility to invest across the entire experience for his kids and for his staff, and then we can be really competitive. Because of that he just never puts himself first.”

On game day changes

“I don’t have a lot on that because we have a Fan Advisory Council now. They have a June meeting. Last year we made some updates, this year we’ll probably be doing some different things around tailgating. We’ll probably be trying some different stuff in the Zone. All those details they’ll be working on this summer. You can let folks know that in August and once fall ball starts is when we like to come out with any announcements about new stuff we’re doing. But we’re always looking at it. That’s why we put the group together. They’ve put together these ‘pillars’ around ways they think Husky Stadium can be unique and different. That group has been awesome. I’ve been able to meet with them, but our marketing and game day team meets with them all the time. They’ve been giving us some great counsel and they’ve made some great improvements.

“Again, though, game day is all about butts in seats! That is what college football is all about. Our video board is great. Our band does a good job. Our setting is gorgeous. The students…it’s about a packed house. We’ve got to keep being creative and I feel great about it. We have a huge investment in our sales team now, huge investment in our retention team with football ticket holders. They’ve been doing some really good stuff. I’ve gotten really good feedback from fans about them noticing the difference in the outreach from our office. All those things are important.”

What’s the latest on the Don James statue?

“We have two neat moments this year that we’re planning for that really honor the legacy and history of Husky Football. One is installing Coach James’s statue and having a party in celebration and recognition around that. The timing of the game keeps changing, so I don’t want to say exactly when it’s going to happen, but that’s going to be special. We are still working on programming for that. It’s going to be a major event for fans and former athletes and for all of us this season. 

“And then we’ve got to tip our hat all season long to Bob Rondeau. It’s going to be a special year for him and we’re thinking about different ways of programming to honor that in some sort of special way to say Thank You. It’s hard to ever imagine replacing Bob and we want to make sure. He’s been a part of everybody’s families. The whole time since I was little, I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t there. He’s special, so I think they’ll be some unique things around that this year. 

“We don’t have a Hall of Fame this year, so we’re going to put a lot into both of those things.”

Rondeau doesn’t like that kind of attention...

“I know, but he’s still gonna get it. We inducted him into the Hall of Fame last year, and I love that we did it when he was still so active. But we still have some other ideas on how to honor his time here and we’ll be unveiling that as we get closer to the season. But he’s going to have to get over it, because that voice is legend. And the preparation! One of the things that gets overlooked is just how hard it is and how rigorous it is to do both football and basketball and how good he is and has been in both. That’s not easy to do. He’s beautiful.”

A Conversation With Cohen, Part 2

A Conversation With Cohen, Part 1 Top Stories