Coach's Corner

The pre-season games have been a good month of preparation for the Huskies. Now the real thing begins and the team gets a chance to start their run for the Roses.

Stanford is the opponent and the game just happens to be scheduled at home. In years past that usually meant an added advantage for the Dawggies but the way Husky Stadium has been for the last two weeks, they may as well play it on the road.

You can say it's because of the quality of opponents but I think it's because the culture of the program has changed so much that the fans have to be won back. Things have changed over the past five years and the only way to get it back is to win games the old fashioned way, with an aggressive defense and a solid kicking game.

I know this is what Husky followers want to see but they have got to realize that they, too, have a part to play. I agree that soft football will no longer be acceptable to Husky fans, but I also know that the fans can start helping the defense, which will make Husky Stadium the place we were once all very proud of.

I know the gouging of the faithful fans by the raising of Tyee Club surcharges, or what ever they call the "payment for the right to buy seats," has irritated an otherwise supportive and generous fan base. But keep in mind, the lack of enthusiasm and noise hurts your football team. This team needs the fans and they deserve the return of the roar to the atmosphere. The schedule sets up perfectly to where if Dawgs can dominate at home, then they will have an excellent chance of contending for the title.

Face it, the best teams in the league are coming to Seattle. USC, Oregon and WSU all play at Montlake, but if things don't change then they may as well play at Memorial Stadium – in memory of the loud fans that once packed Husky Stadium.

We can't get people to fill the empty "sold" seats but we can get the ones who call themselves true Husky fans to do their part.

As a former coach who knows what it used to be like on the field, I have to ask, "What has happened?" Why do the fans boo the team louder than they cheer it?

So what can be done to get it back? There is little question that the administration is as responsible as the team is. The football program itself has been in a steady decline for about a dozen years. Sure there have been a number of championships and never a losing season, and the team is always competitive because of the traditions and program culture of toughness and great fan support. Those have been taken for granted up to now.

The constant turnover in coaches and off the field distractions has waned some fans willingness to root. But don't expect any changes in philosophy or makeup in the athletic department until there is a new president at the university, so don't look there for the answer.

So how can we start a ground swell to help the kids have the same advantage as the Duck players enjoy? Husky fans don't want to admit it but they are definitely being out-volumed by smaller crowds in a stadium to the south. I suggest we do something about it starting right now.

I might as well start with those of you who read because you represent the hardest of the hard core.

This team needs a loud roar every play they are on defense. Each play of each series of each quarter has got to be the same. Get into the game. Get off your hands and make some noise for the defense. I sincerely believe that the fans helped cause the first touchdown of the Idaho game. The Vandals couldn't even hear the snap count and BAM, Terry Johnson recovers a fumble in the end zone. It was the loudest the stadium was the whole day. It should've set the tone, but yet it ended right there. For the rest of the first half all I could hear was moaning and groaning about how bad they were playing.

Cripes sakes, are we that spoiled now? Could it be that early on Idaho was simply playing really hard and making a game of it before they would eventually be overwhelmed by a superior talent? Yes, it was. But when the fourth quarter rolled around many fans decided they would rather be some place else and simply left.

Somehow the disgust for the continuous string of embarrassments might just be catching up with the whole program. The long love affair between the Huskies and their fans is creeping dangerously towards the point of ambivalence, and that is really sad.

Here is your assignment for this next game. First and foremost, remember that it is the most important game of the season. Don't go to the game with the attitude that Stanford is a bad team and that the Huskies should easily beat them. Those days are over. Go to the game with the plan to infect those who sit around you with the old "Dawg Day Defense Drown-out."

Of course you cheer whenever the offense does anything good or yell whenever there is a monster play in the kicking game. But screaming should be a part of every single defensive play. Go check out a game in the SEC sometime and tell me that those fans don't help their defense. Fans should take it personally when the other team can call audibles in Husky Stadium. Our kids can't do it in Autzen without great difficulty.

On your way to the game this weekend, tell everyone you see to help bring back Husky football!

I can tell you first hand that when Husky stadium rocks it is deafening on the field. I can also tell you that it jacks up the players and the coaches both on the field and on the sidelines. It frightens those on the other sideline, or at the very least, pisses them off. I had goose bumps many times because you could actually feel the noise level. The players become caught up in it and its electrifying to say the least.

I miss those days, and I hope you do, too. Even the cheer when you come out of the tunnel to start the game has been weak. Did we get so sophisticated over the past five year that we cannot get back to that same sort of attitude? If we want to see the defense go back to a swarming, attacking, aggressive, turnover seeking, band of trained hitters, then adding the atmosphere back to Husky Stadium is the way to do it. It's done when they are on defense. It's done the loudest on third and fourth and short situations. It's done when the other team's offense is backed up like Idaho was. It's done when the defense comes out of the huddle and it increases when the opponents offense breaks their huddle.

When the game ends and you know you've been part of the group effort, then everyone will start appreciating each and every win no matter who the opponent is.

Never take anything for granted, because you'll really miss it when it's gone. Does anyone else miss the old Husky Stadium atmosphere? Bring it back, starting Saturday! 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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