The State of the Huskies

If Husky fans didn't know about the "Big Dig" going on right next to Husky Stadium, they got an eyeful Saturday when they saw the huge mount of dirt and fenced off area in the south parking lot. How is Sound Transit working with the University of Washington? Dawgman.com spoke with Scott Woodward over the weekend and he updated us on all the happenings on Montlake...

"They had an official groundbreaking yesterday with all the dignitaries – Senator (Patty) Murray, Mayor Greg Nickels, the county council with president (Mark) Emmert – beginning this long process that will be a really neat thing for Husky fans once it's done, but it's going to be a mess in the interim," Woodward said when asked about the equipment and dirt already present in the E-12 parking lot. "It's going to be a massive hole. They're going to be digging out holes all the way from Capital Hill to the Montlake Cut so it's a lot of dirt."

With so much construction going on for the next few years, the question from Husky fans is how will it affect tailgating on Saturday afternoons in the fall?

"We're not going to have as much space and we're going to have to move to various areas of campus, but it's not going to be the same," Woodward admitted. "We're going to have to be smart with how we do it and we're going to have to communicate with the fans the plans that we have and we'll do that in due time.

"I think our fans are smart and they understand what's going on. They vote in these ballot initiatives and they know that Sound Transit is doing this "light rail" link from downtown to the University of Washington and they're prepared for it, but yeah, when you go out there and see it with your own eyes you're like ‘oh wow, it's here'.

"Obviously it's going to effect this season and then hopefully we'll be working on the stadium so we'll play the 2010 season at Qwest Field and then there will be the full construction of Sound Transit so it's not going to affect the area you see now, it's going to be further west."

And with that Woodward also addressed the public funding working its way through the state legislature and where things stand in that department as well.

"It's all kind of ‘inside baseball' in Olympia right now and there's not much movement, but we still feel pretty good about our chances and that is that there is a blanket authority that lets the King County Council vote on how they spend these tax dollars," Woodward said.

Because of the economy being in shambles right now, many wonder how Washington can possibly get funding for a stadium, but Woodward said the need for jobs actually is something that will come into consideration.

"It actually plays into our favor," Woodward said matter-of-factly. "People are looking for 'shovel ready' jobs right now and we'll have 7,000 of them ready to go in October/November and that's pretty quick to the starting line for big time jobs in the middle of Seattle with a ‘1 to 1' private-public match."
Aside from the stadium funding and Sound Transit project, things couldn't be rosier on Montlake as far as the sports programs are concerned.

Woodward could barely contain his excitement with the way things have transpired so far this year with the Husky sports teams, including the win over Washington State on Saturday that gave the basketball team it's first Pac 10 Championship since 1953.

"It's great," Woodward said when asked of the overall health of the sports programs at Washington. "We're eighth right now in the Athletic Director's Cup that measures all of our sports with all the other schools across the country, so we're feeling pretty good.

"We're reigning champs in women's cross-country, we're first in the nation in softball in one poll and in basketball we're Pac 10 champions so it's been great."

While several programs have proven to be winners of late, the one revenue generating program the Huskies need to be stellar has struggled since early in the decade, but a coaching change has many in the Graves Building excited, including their boss.

"(Last year) was miserable," Woodward admitted. "It felt like we had failed our student athletes and that's what keeps me up and night – that we didn't do the best for them. I'm convinced now that we have the right guy (Steve Sarkisian) and he's going to give them the best opportunity to compete not only on the football field, but in the classroom as well.

"It's a new energy and people are feeling it, not only about the way they talk about the football program and it's future, but how (the coaches) recruit and how they go about doing their daily business. Everyone's excited from the fans to the student athletes, you can feel the energy level is ‘up' a lot."

Spring practice will be the first chance for everyone to get a glimpse of what lies ahead for the Husky football program and Woodward said he's excited with the change in focus.

"It's going to be open," Woodward said excitedly. "Coach wants an ‘all-inclusive' spring practice and I think you're going to see a lot of aggressive play and a lot of people fighting for positions on the field. Up in the stands I hope we have some great participation from our fans so the kids get used to playing in front of people."

Finally, Woodward said the offseason conditioning program being headed by Ivan Lewis is being well-attended by the football team.

"It is a night and say difference and I'm happy to talk about it," Woodward said. "I think Ivan Lewis is doing a great job and I think the kids are responding to it. You can talk to (the players) and I think they will tell you to a person that they feel a lot more close to the weight staff and they feel a positive ‘buy in' to what we are doing in the weight room right now."


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