Blame Jim Sterk. He won’t be surprised, since he gets blamed for almost everything else.
It was Washington State’s athletic director who first dipped his toe into the icy waters of regional soul-selling last spring when he championed changing the Apple Cup game with Washington from the traditional home-and-away campus wingding to a “neutral” money grab at Qwest Field in Seattle – potentially spiriting the game to the west side of the moun- tains for good. Luckily, the Huskies couldn’t control their natural one-upsmanship reflex – they wanted more tickets – and the whole thing unraveled faster than Nick Holt’s prevent defense.
But, regrettably, there was now a precedent for this sort of thing.
And the Huskies didn’t hesitate to leverage it.
Late Tuesday, they e-mailed Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth with a proposal to revive the basketball series between the two schools dormant since the Dawgs declined to extend it – yes, they did – following the 2007 season. The pitch: a three-game contract, tickets and revenues split 50-50, at that grand old “neutral” site, KeyArena, four whole miles from the UW campus.
“I think it’s a great proposal,” UW athletic director Scott Woodward said.
Indeed, so giddy were the Huskies over their brainstorm that before the clock struck lunch on Wednesday, it had been leaked to their favorite KJR mouthpiece.
Wait, that’s probably a little presumptuous. Possibly he filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get the scoop.
Yes, nothing ensures thoughtful, sincere negotiating quite like the pre-emptive strike of blabbing it on sportstalk radio before the other party even has a chance to digest it.
Not that the Huskies care about negotiating. This is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.
And, as such, a hoax even more transparent than Balloon Boy.
“Now the ball is in their court, so to speak,” UW associate athletic director of athletic communications Richard Kilwien said.
Really? Could have sworn Gonzaga’s court is in Spokane.
And we know now that the Huskies don’t want to get anywhere near Spokane. They don’t want to play at the McCarthey Athletic Center on the Gonzaga campus. They don’t want to play at the Spokane Arena. They don’t want to come by car, they don’t want to come this far. They will not play home-and-home, they would rather play in Nome. They do not like gree…
“This is the proposal we’re interested in and I don’t see it changing in terms of any other sites,” Kilwien told the Seattle Times. “Having it at the Key really benefits both schools in terms of fans and financially as well.”
Say, it’s awfully nice of him to take it upon himself to decide just what benefits Gonzaga. He must think he’s a sports columnist.
The thumbnail history: When the contract ran out in 2007, so did UW’s enthusiasm for the series – thanks to losing eight of the last nine and hard feelings at Gonzaga having been one of the whistleblowers when Huskies assistant Cameron Dollar left his rulebook home while recruiting Josh Heytvelt. The Huskies explained that they wanted to pursue a more national schedule, which somehow couldn’t include the Zags.
So what exactly has changed in two years? Other than the Dawgs avoiding more pastings and having to eat a lot of PR doody, that is.
This week’s proposal is their idea of how to get off that diet, for they know quite well it’s unacceptable to Gonzaga. And for good reason.
As was pointed out during the Apple Cup tango, a site is not neutral if only one team has to make an overnight trip to play there, ticket distribution notwithstanding. The Bulldogs already have a long-standing Key game with rotating opponents that does quite well. Moreover, they will bring Michigan State, Wake Forest and Illinois to the Mac over the next few years, to say nothing of games with Washington State.
How do they continue to pursue deals with the likes of those programs if they sell out just to get the Huskies back on the schedule?
Woodward’s response, via SeattlePI.com: the University of Washington “is all I’m worried about.”
The shame of pulling the plug on this series was that the excitement it generated simply was good for basketball in the state. What the Huskies are proposing isn’t. It’s good for Seattle. Doesn’t do a thing for Spokane, other than put a few thousand people in cars over a mountain pass one more time in December.
But now the Huskies can puff out their chests and harrumph that, hey, we offered to play.
That’s called gamesmanship. It’s a lot different than actually playing the games.
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