Wallowing in Historical Muck

Larry Tripplett was asked the other day if he felt sorry for the Ducks probably not going to the Rose Bowl. Without even pausing for reflection, the big guy vehemently shook his head. "What they get is what they get."

I am sure many Husky fans don't care what happens to them. I am sure there are still even others that took personal glee that Oregon didn't get into the BCS final game, to be held at the bastion of all Pac-10 teams – The Rose Bowl.

These folks reside everywhere. It is when reality hurts the most that they come out of the woodwork to show their true colors. To wit, there resides in Portland a Duck friend of mine named Dave. Ostensibly perpetrating an act of kindness, Dave called at my work to check in on me following the Miami debacle. I wasn't available to take the call, but he spoke to Dawn, who is my boss.

The conversation reportedly went as follows:

Dave the Duck (trying to mask his glee): "So, how is Derek holding up anyway?"

Dawn: "Oh, overall, pretty well. He took this one kind of badly, but he's doing all right."

Dave the Duck: "You might want to keep him away from all sharp objects. Go to his desk and take away his scissors, pencils, etc. If he needs to write, he can use crayons."

Dawn: "I'll be sure to tell him that."

Dave the Duck: (feigning concern) "So truly, how badly did he take it?"

Dawn: "Well, from what he said, I know he was pretty upset that Miami was running up the score late in the game. I guess they were throwing into the end zone on fourth down. He says that Don James would never do that."

Dave the Duck: "Well, in the 1996 Cotton Bowl, Neuheisel was coaching Colorado against the Ducks, and he ran a fake punt on fourth down when they were ahead 31-6... So I am glad that it happened, as he deserves It. That Miami game was fun to watch."

So even among people considered as friends, humanity is not always the strongest of virtues.

Which brings us to this most recent of BCS debacles. In the wake of Sunday's announcement that Nebraska will play Miami in the Rose Bowl, Oregon is left out in the cold and will play Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl. This despite posting a 10-1 record while playing in the nation's toughest conference this year. This despite boasting the #2 national ranking from the Associated Press and CNN Coaches Poll. This despite having one of the most exciting offenses in the country.

Their lone loss was by a touchdown to the nation's 9th-ranked team. Unlike the teams ranked above them, they didn't lose a game by five touchdowns and surrender 62 points in their loss. They didn't lose twice during the season. They actually won their conference.

This has been a dream season for them, but they will always wonder if Nebraska played in the Rose Bowl due to their name and being a much bigger media draw. There will always be a nagging hollowness, a cringe-inducing sentiment of "what might have been".

Washington fans are familiar with this scenario. There have been a handful of times where the Dawgs were on the short end of the stick.

  • In the 1961 Rose Bowl, Washington played previously undefeated and top-ranked Minnesota. The Huskies prevailed 17-7, but in those days, if you were #1 heading into the bowl game, even if you lost 85-0 you still were honored as National Champions.
  • In the 1985 Orange Bowl, 2nd-ranked Washington beat #3 Oklahoma 28-17 to finish the season at 11-1. BYU, who was 13-0 but had not played a single ranked team, won the national championship by virtue of their victory over a 6-6 team in the Holiday Bowl. Interestingly enough, AP voters were polled prior to the Orange Bowl game. They stated that if Oklahoma beat the Huskies, they would be voted #1. Incredibly, the same did not hold true for Washington.
  • In the 1993 the Pac-10 conference itself levied severe sanctions against the Huskies. In just the last couple of years, I have finally brought myself back to cheering for fellow Pac-10 teams again, so let's not get me started on this topic. (plus, Dawgman gives me a 30,000-word limit to my articles)
  • In 1995 Washington tied for the Pac-10 Conference Championship with USC, but lost the Rose Bowl bid due to the strength of its schedule. Washington played #10 Ohio State on the road and #23 Notre Dame at home (both losses) while USC played the likes of San Jose State and Houston, as well Notre Dame. Result: USC went 3-0 OOC, while Washington went 1-2.
  • In 2000 Washington went 11-1 and was the only team to beat both Miami and Oregon State. The Hurricanes were incensed that Florida State was given the BCS Championship game berth, by virtue of their win over the Seminoles. Overlooked in all of this the fact that Washington had the same record and had beaten Miami. The Huskies went on to win the Rose Bowl and finish #3.

  • So the Ducks can begin writing their own chronological list of historic slights, adding to the 1958 episode when Washington's vote for Cal kept Oregon out of the Rose Bowl. From what I have heard, Oregon Quarterback Norm Van Brocklin still does not forgive the Huskies to this very day. But then again, he still probably never forgave a young Fran Tarkenton for scrambling so much and ruining his beautifully diagrammed offensive plays when he was his head coach before Bud Grant. Of course, Tarkenton turned out to be a nothing (tongue in cheek).

    Ducks, Husky fans know your pain.

    The bottom line is that I empathize with the Ducks, and I feel it is too bad that their presence as a Pac-10 representative will not take place in this year's Granddaddy of them all.
    Derek Johnson can be reached at djohnson@dawgman.com

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