If there actually is a bulletin board in Washington State’s football locker room, and if motivational material is indeed posted there, you will not find any bearing the name of Bishop Sankey.
The Washington Huskies running back wants little to do with the very obvious story line involving his first trip to Pullman as a college player on Friday, when UW faces WSU in an Apple Cup game that many once thought Sankey would be playing in a crimson uniform.
“It’s a great rivalry,” Sankey said via telephone on Tuesday. “Has a lot of tradition. I’m looking forward to playing in it.”
Cougar fans might not be looking forward to watching him, considering the season Sankey has put together as a sophomore. He’s rushed for 1,105 yards through 11 games, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and solidifying a position that many thought would be one of UW’s biggest areas of concern.
Of course, those were the kind of numbers WSU partisans envisioned for Sankey – but as a Cougar. The Gonzaga Prep standout gave a verbal commitment to WSU just before Christmas in 2009, following a junior season in which he rushed for 2,011 yards.
But as time wore on – and more offers came rolling in for the four-star prospect – it became clearer that Sankey might be headed elsewhere.
And in late January 2011, days before national letter of intent signing day, Sankey switched his commitment from WSU to UW.
A strong relationship with UW running backs coach Joel Thomas helped influence his decision.
“I just made the choice that was best for me and my family, and I just fell in love with the university when I came here on my official visit,” Sankey said.
WSU message boards condemned Sankey for his act of treason. UW fans celebrated as if they’d just landed Walter Payton. Debates raged about the ethics of recruiting a player who had already given a commitment to another school.
Surely, Sankey heard an earful from classmates? Teammates? Friends in the area?
“A few people here and there,” Sankey said with a slight chuckle. “But not too much.”
As one of the Huskies’ most potent offensive weapons, Sankey will be in the spotlight Friday, for better or worse.
The plan this season was for Sankey to split carries with junior Jesse Callier after the departure of standout back Chris Polk. But when Callier tore his ACL in the season opener, it created an opportunity for Sankey to be an every-down guy, a responsibility some wondered if he’d be able to handle.
“I didn’t know it was going to play out like this,” Sankey said. “But it just happened that the coaches trust me enough, and our O-line has done a great job this season.”
Sankey has performed especially well in the Huskies’ past three games, carrying the ball 88 times for 490 yards and four touchdowns in that span.
“His confidence has risen,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “He’s got a real sense of belief in his own ability and what he’s capable of doing. I’m very proud of Bishop and the season that he’s having. He’s had a great one so far.”
He doesn’t have any family in the Spokane area anymore, Sankey says, but does have plenty of friends there he still talks to.
But despite attending high school in Spokane, Sankey said he really only knows one WSU player – senior Travis Long, a teammate of Sankey’s for one season at Gonzaga Prep.
“I knew he was committed here for a little bit,” WSU safety Deone Bucannon said. “After it happened, it just happened. We were all looking forward to him coming and he had a change of heart. We don’t really talk about it too much. It doesn’t really matter. He’s not on our team.”
And when he, ahem, runs into him on Friday?
“I’m not going to say anything to him, but I’m going to give him everything I have each time he comes through the hole,” Bucannon said.
“I’m not too much of a talker, but I’m definitely going to let him know I’m there.”
The soft-spoken Bucannon might not say much. The WSU students, on the other hand, could be a tad louder.
“Honestly, I have no idea how the crowd’s going to react,” Sankey said. “Like I said earlier, I’m just looking forward to the experience.”
According to Shaw
David Shaw’s Stanford education won’t allow him to speculate about whether the Cardinal might be in the national championship picture if they hadn’t lost to Notre Dame in controversial fashion earlier this season, joking that “you can’t win an argument with a computer.”
Stanford, at 9-2 (7-1 in Pac-12), can win the Pac-12 North championship with a win over UCLA this weekend.