Ask Coach Baird

Washington heads into Pac-10 play sporting a 2-1 record. They have shown improvement in the running game, an area that will be key as the conference games begin. We'll see just how far they've come on Saturday, when Stanford pays a visit to Husky Stadium. And now, on to the letters . . .

From Husky Steve in Mount Vernon
: Time to vent-I have been a Husky fan for many years. In fact I have some recruiting letters from you. In my current job I am lucky enough to travel the country and watch a lot of good college football. Most colleges make the game day experience an event that can last several days. Great tailgates, bands, bbq's and the like. Heck, a lot of colleges close off certain sections of the town and turn it into a great game day party and experience. Here at the University of Washington we get letters from Babs telling us to behave and cops patrolling the tailgaters handing out fines (another money generator for the U-Dub I guess). Leave us alone, let us have fun, yell and get crazy. We are adults we'll keep it under control. We don't need Barbara to tell us how to act. In fact a little craziness is encouraged at other schools. Here at Washington the Starbucks drinking snobs tend to look down on the people having fun. They wish we would just be quiet. The want us to leave midway through he fourth quarter like they do for a 5pm dinner on the waterfront. Lighten up for kripes sake!!!! Go to Ohio St, Nebraska, Florida, Colorado and I hate to say it Oregon. Fans are encouraged and expected to have some fun. Amazingly enough they hang around until 2am after the games and guess what? There are usually no problems. They have fun and revel in "their" team. I hate to see it but yuppiesville is taking over and it ain't a good thing. I loved your letter on Dawgman. I hope the true, old time native fans listen and take back the stadium. In fact that should be the rallying cry..Take back the Stadium!!!

A: Your vent is well received on this end. I too think we've become too much of a sophisticated crowd. I long for the days when Husky football games were an absolute blast. I am only suggesting that those days will come back once we get off our hands and start helping the defense. Get that party atmosphere going again!! Let's have some fun and get loud and rocking. People can still have the power. Husky football can be fun again no matter what anyone else tells you. Remember when you left the stadium and you were so drained you couldn't talk and the crowd was just buzzing all the way down the ramp? Let's get it back and let's start with Stanford and warm up for the rest of the home games. Have a couple of extra shooters at you tailgate (just don't drive) and let it go in the stands. Now is the time for all good Huskies to come to the aid of their defense.
From Scott - "Feel the bite"
: I totally agree with you Dick. Husky fans need to wake up and bring back the WOOF! to Husky Stadium. We need people to lead those around them in making noise. We have become way too spoiled. One of the big reasons we have been so successful has been because of such a monstrous home field advantage! Let's get it back DAWGFANS! I still believe that the Pac-10 slate will bring a packed Husky Stadium with more noise. The game is so much more fun when you are directly affecting the outcome of the game. Who can forget the 92 Nebraska game! I had to simply take it all in at times because that stadium was flippin' LOUD! I think that was one of those games where we got just about ALL our fans to make noise. Can you imagine what it would be like if we could do that every play of every game...on defense that is. I know that's too much to expect but if we set the tone as fans I think the team WILL respond. The whole thing than just snowballs...remember the 2000 cal game. Once we got it going it was unstoppable!

A: OK there are two of us on board and now we have it spreading. I'm bringing it up on my radio show, and we'll just make it spread there and here. I do remember that Nebraska game and the USC Todd Marinovich game and think it's high time to do our part. I promise you it will also have an impact on the players. They will respond. Bring back the Roar! Let's just do our part and get it rolling.
From Scott - "Feel the bite"
Dear Coach Baird,
: Any chance the DAWGS could play a little of the old 46 defense? No matter what anyone says about Jim Lambright as a head coach...the guy in my opinion was an awesome defensive coordinator. I loved the ‘93 apple cup. Every time WSU went empty in the backfield the Huskies blitzed and it worked. Hits on the QB, sacks and a overall disruption of the cougars offense was the result. Husky Stadium would be rocking again with the defense making some of those plays! I know it's probably not something a defense would do all the time but situationally at least coming from different disguises I think it would be awesome...What do you think?

A: Right now the 46 is not in their package but never say never. I still see it as a change up at the pro level and know it is effective there. I agree, Jim Lambright was a great defensive coach. I just wish it had worked out for him as a head coach. Still, his defensive genius is well recognized throughout college football by his peers.
From Aloha Mike
Coach Baird,
: After watching a crushing block by Rich Alexis and seeing several blocks down field by the receivers on Sat., have the receivers always been that effective blocking in past years? This year the receivers seem to throw great blocks down field.

A: You saw the same thing I was seeing and that was improved blocking by the wide outs. Particularly the older kids. I actually coached the wide outs one year and we just happen to have Napoleon then, so whoever blocked the best got to play. Joe Kralik and Dave Janoski were just little mighty mites but they cracked like heck. Todd Elstrom took great pride a couple of years ago but it sure was refreshing. I thought it was really cool that the best and most talked about play in the game was Alexis' block.
From Ron - "Seattle Vandal"
Dear Coach,
: While I'm sure you are somewhat of a expert on college athletics, I'm not sure you understand the plight of teams like Idaho and many others on the I-A bubble. And by the way..Jim M who commented in you column sounds like a Boise State Alum to me. The bottom line is football carries other programs at most colleges. Our program, while it suffered in wins last year made $575,000. Conversely, a good I-AA team like Montana has a great year and loses $500,000. The mistake we made at Idaho, while being very competitive in the Big Sky (beating our instate rival Boise State for 12 consecutive years thank you very much), was not building better facilities. Just so you know, we are in the process of finishing a $13,000,000 facility which is totally dedicated to Vandal Athletics called the Vandal Athletic Center. We will also have a brand new outdoor practice field for next years football season. Win or lose (and yes we did win our first couple years in I-A and outdrew the WSU in attendance in 99' averaging 25K) our program must stay I-A or probably not exist. You will see many I-AA programs fold going forward because of budgets. Trust me on this..I help raise money for the athletic program at Idaho and see if from the inside. It's I-A or bust.

A: You need to know I have always had great respect for the Vandals. I am really happy to hear about the funding effort and just hope Tom Cable can hang around long enough to reap the rewards. No question, facilities need to be taken to another level in Moscow. And I'm not talking about Morts, Berrys', and the Corner Club. I didn't realize that the division 1AA teams were suffering that much but still would like to see Idaho play against more natural geographic rivalries and not having to spend all of that travel money heading to Louisiana and Arkansas. Heck, they used to be able to bus to almost every game. I know that Idaho has reduced its number of teams in both men and womens sports and that, too, is sad. Maybe, it's a good thing that Washington and Oregon keep paying to play the Vandals and helping their budget out. Thanks for your letter.
From Ken Franek
Dear Coach,
: This is the Carolina Dawg. Several months ago I asked you about Dashon Goldson and Fred Baisy. Well, it looks like we'll sign Dashon again. What are the chances that Fred Baisy is right behind him? Do we really have a realistic chance of signing Matt Eichelberger or Keauntea Bankhead?

A: Bankhead and Matt Tuiasosopo are the top targets for the Dawgs. Goldson is a great pickup for the Dawgs, he definitely fills a need. So would Bankhead and Tui is the top quarterback on the Husky board right now. Baisy is at Pima JC doing well, Washington will likely re-recruit him.
From Dean
Dear Coach,
: Hi Dick - it was great to see you before the Indiana game. Your column is not just informative but well written and very funny. I do, however, have a couple of questions- -(1) why do you think that it will take Gilbertson up to 6 or 7 years to successfully put his stamp on the program? It seems to me that the really talented college coaches like Don James, Bob Stoops and even Gary Pinkel turn things around in year 2 or 3. Personally, I think that Don was the best college coach of all time when you consider what he built at UW and what he had to start with. Too bad that Gerberding and Hedges were so obtuse (and perhaps jealous) that they essentially destroyed Don's program but that is another story. Don't you think that Gilby will be relatively successful transitioning the program to his style in the next two or three years? and (2) When the Dawgs were ostensibly considering a field goal in the 3rd qtr. of the Indiana game and the Hoosiers became confused resulting in a penalty, is it your assessment that Gilby may been testing the Hoosiers organizational skills? DiNardo accused Gilby of "gamesmanship" (which is too strong of a word) but it appeared that Gilby was genuinely not aware of the strength and direction of the wind when he sent the field goal unit on the field. Personally, I was hoping that Gilby did out smart the Hoosiers. It was almost a Hayden Fry type move. What do you think, if you feel it is appropriate to speculate? Finally, I concur with your prediction that Gilby will be a very successful coach at Washington. Initially I was skeptical because of his tenure at CAL and his offense is out dated (DBs have been sitting on the "Erickson" pass patterns for the last several years. It's just not a "new" and exciting offense anymore). However, Gilby's ability to change styles to fit his players and the obvious commitment to the defense and running game makes me think that your assessment of Gilby will likely be deemed prescient. Thanks for the great columns. Hope to see you in Phoenix.

A: My comments about giving Gilby 5-8 years have really been misunderstood. I meant to be stating that it would take that long to do a thorough and meaningful critique of recruiting and operations. You have to have a full 5 year cycle to even begin to look at how things have turned out. Then you merely readjust and try to learn from your own mistakes and evaluations. This cannot be done until at least a couple recruiting classes pass through the program. After a class completes its 5 years then and only then can you assess the quality of your recruiting. Its difficult to do if you replace the coach every four years, and that was what I was trying to get across. I will definitely be coming down for the Arizona game, and I'll bet you that there will be a change in that program after only three years. So goes my theory.
From Rob
Dear Coach,
: You were right on the money with your column today Coach Baird. It's about damn time someone steps up and brings this issue to the table. Thank God for guys like you who tell it like it is. I'm getting real sick and tired of all these well groomed 6-figure income earners with their Cutter & Buck jackets sitting on their butts too occupied with a Starbucks Latte to clap their hands and way too wealthy to raise their voices for the Huskies Defense. I mean heck don't get me wrong, I'm well groomed, too, and I wear C&B, and drive an SUV like the rest of them but I'll be damned if I'm going to just sit there quiet when my Dawgs need me. I just bought 4 extra tickets from some whiny season ticket holder who wanted to sell them because they're just too spineless to raise the roof when the Huskies go out to battle. I just wanted to puke listening to their bullshit excuses! I'm making it my mission this Saturday to go to the game and be as vocally infectious as possible. Come Sunday morning I won't have a voice and that's just fine with me baby!!!

A: I got goose bumps reading your comments. There we go, now we have it rolling. We have got to infect everyone and make it the toughest venue in the West, again. Even, when Nevada comes to town we have to explode when they come out of the huddle. By the time their offense gets to the line of scrimmage, it should be heard in Renton. I mean every play. Make it just like the time when Bill Walsh insulted us and took cheap shots at our program. It was the opening league game and the house was a rockin' and we stone cold kicked their asses. That's what Husky football is all about.
From Husky Heat
Dear Coach,
: I respect your article regarding the Husky faithful and the point regarding the noise!!! But coach, it starts with the Huskies....I mentioned many times, soft zones will not "pump up the volume!" Do you know the chill's that go through me when I watch the Huskies on Sports Classic. It's because of the DEFENSE!!! I get so tired of reading the "slow starts!!" We have to quit feeling people out and attack!! Create havoc!! That is the one disappointment about coach Gilby's style. And I have a problem with the phrase, "wait until he gets his people in.." We have talent.!! But I do like his style of getting speed on the field!! I really like some of the moves he's making with Eriks and so forth! But, this crowd is waiting for the BLITZ, and so am I!

A: I think it goes both ways. If the crowd takes the attitude of "show me something" before they support the defense then I say it's reflective of the softness of our crowd. There were a lot of times in Husky Stadium when we weren't a great team and yet the fans understood their role. They allowed us a home court advantage. You think the Ducks did anything last year to give their fans "a reason" to support their team? Heck no! They didn't but they set up their schedule perfectly and when Michigan came to town they were ready and willing regardless of what their team was going to do. It just depends on what angle you look at it from. We are not a great team yet, so we need to quit thinking it's their responsibility to carry the fans rather than the other way around. Everyone in Husky football has got to help. The coaches, players, and the fans. And isn't it more fun than sitting around and bitching negatively? I sure think so, and I know you do, too.
From Leonard from Bellevue
Dear Coach,
: Great job and I just love reading your insight in response to all these questions. I just had a quick question regarding the receivers. With the move of Justin Robbins and Isaiah Stanback to the slot, what does that do to the remaining four freshman receivers? Will one or two of them redshirt? I hope so, because the more 4th year Juniors and 5th year Seniors we have the better, right? Thanks for your time, Coach.

A: Unfortunately, I was thinking the same thing about using all the freshmen wide receivers but then in the Idaho game Shakelford, Daniels, Williams and Whithorne all played so it appears that unless there is an injury, all could burn their redshirts. The positive there is that the cupboard won't be empty of veteran receivers next year. The negative is obviously they won't be there in 2007. It was still great to see Robbins back and what a great story. At least they will be redshirting Chambers and Russo and Smith and that will be enough for the future. It all goes back to Eddie Jackson and his selfish reason for quitting the team. But then that's one of the problems with recruiting JC kids. If they don't get enough playing time then they sulk because they have less eligibility. Dick Tomey at Arizona got caught with that problem and didn't recruit ahead enough to fill in the holes.
From Tom Wilkins
Dear Coach,
: I read your article regarding the relative lack of fan support with interest. Those of us who have been attending games for years definitely can tell the difference between the old levels of noise and what we are hearing now at Husky Stadium. I think you pointed out the reason and I don't think you can over-emphasize it. Simply put, the level of football is directly connected to the interest and enthusiasm of the Husky nation. I always feel like the relative excitement I feel when I am walking into the stadium is directly proportionate to the how the players themselves are feeling that day. For example, when the Dawgs were hosting Miami a couple of years ago, the stadium was noisy before the game even started. The crowd was jacked and so were the players. No one complained about the lack of noise that day-in fact I remember Miami saying that Husky Stadium was surprisingly noisy since they had heard that the fans were separated by the track from the field and they thought there was no way it could be as loud as it turned out to be. But Washington has played some pretty mediocre opponents recently at home and their level of lay has not measured up to the fans expectations; a deadly combination. Add to that the manner in which the Dogs have been blown out in recent games against nationally ranked competition (this year's Ohio State game, last year's USC game, the Sun Bowl loss to Purdue, just to name a few) and I know I feel like I don't have as much to get emotional about as I used to. Multiply that by 70,000 fans and that explains the reduced levels of noise. But like you, I want it back. It was so much fun to be at the Michigan games, the Miami game, the wins over Nebraska, etc. A good start would be for Gilby to somehow energize those guys and have them play hard and hit from the first quarter on. Anyone would have to admit that we have shown a remarkable ability to keep inferior opponents in the game until late in the second half. Likewise, when playing better teams, I hate watching both sides of the line of scrimmage get dominated by the other team, as they did in the opener this year against Ohio State. The Buckeyes haven't done that to anyone else this season, including San Diego State and Bowling Green for goodness sakes. I mean Picket couldn't get a pass off using a 3 step drop without having a hand in his face. Add to that a 17-14 score in the third quarter against someone like Idaho and you can't draw too many other conclusions than the obvious one-Washington is just not very good. It is hard to sell out the stadium and have fans scream like the old days when that is the perception and could prove to be reality. Who knows, before the season is over these guys may prove to be the best team in the Pac 10. But right now, I couldn't point to a lot of evidence that would give too many of us hope that they will be. And that lack of hope leads to a lack of noise.

A: Unfortunately a lot of fans believe it is the players responsibility to turn on the fans. I believe that the fans can help turn on the players. I've seen it in the past and we weren't real good teams all the time. Maybe it's because the Mariners got so big the last 5 or 6 years, maybe it is because we keep playing the NFL East at their stadiums and losing, maybe it's because the climate of Husky football has changed over the last 12 years because football is treated just like one of the other 23 sports. Maybe it's because we have a different style of defense, maybe it's because the level of opponents. Whatever, it's not the way it used to be, and all I'm saying is I want it changed back. I don't care what the reasons are, I'm sick of the Ducks having a home court advantage because of their fans. Our kids deserve the same, don't you think?. And don't tell me they always play good non-conference games because for the past 10 years they play patsies and 1 good team. What the bottom line is, their fans know their role and it is intimidating. I just wish our fans would embrace it as well, and I think a lot of them want to.
From UCP
Dear Coach,
: Your comments regarding stadium noise and attitude -- well said. There are no reasons, only excuses. We need a battery charge, and "we" is everybody from the team right down to the oldest, quietest fan. Lambo was right in 1993, Rick was right in 1999 and Gilby is right now, if you get the double meaning. We need USC 1990 replayed, and since you were there, you will recall that the electricity existed before kickoff. Why? How? I don't know. It was just "time", and it's overdue. Thanks for the wakeup call. We ALL need it.

A: Bring your voice and let's see if it works. "All I could see is purple" - Great game and the crowd started it all that day and the defense fed off the electricity. I tell you it's infectious and I know there are lots of fans ready to join in this game. 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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