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Lawmakers honor football winners past and present

OLYMPIA – Basketball season may be reaching its peak, but the Washington Legislature was more focused on football Friday morning.

With Washington State University football coach Mike Leach looking on, the Senate adopted a resolution that declared the 1915 Cougars the national champions for going undefeated and winning the 1916 Rose Bowl.

Over in the House, representatives had the Seattle Seahawks’ flying mascot, Taima, which they previously honored as an example of cooperation between Eastern and Western Washington.

The augur hawk and his owners, David and Robin Knutson, live on the West Plains but make the trip to CenturyLink Field for every home game so Taima can lead the nonfeathered Seahawks out of the tunnel and onto the field at the start of each game.

Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, who sponsored the resolution and gave the bird and his owners a tour of the House floor, called the bird “a symbol of excellence and possibilities.”

Despite requests from some members, Taima didn’t do his signature flight above the House chamber. Speaker Pro Tem Jim Moeller said that would be against the rules, which prompted one member to shout, “What rule?”

David Knutson said the bird has worked bigger, noisier crowds, so that wouldn’t have been a problem. But Taima is molting and out of training, so he isn’t up to his game-day performance standards.

Both Taima and Leach attracted a fair amount of attention from legislators, staff and visitors in the Capitol Building, although more people asked to have their picture taken with Taima. And no one reached out to stroke the coach’s head the way admirers petted the bird.

The Senate resolution honored the 1915 WSU squad as the first West Coast team to win a Rose Bowl, beating Brown University 14-0. That victory “helped restore the nation’s faith in college football and put an end to the practice of celebrating the Pasadena Tournament of Roses with events such as ostrich races, polo matches and chariot races, beginning the annual tradition of the Rose Bowl Football Championship,” the resolution said.

Technically, Cornell University was the national champion in 1915 – at least according to CollegeFootballPoll.com, which lists champions recognized by the NCAA. That team went 9-0 but didn’t play in a bowl. The website lists several organizations that determined a national championship through the years, but the Washington Senate is not among them.

The sponsor of the resolution, Spokane Republican Sen. Mike Baumgartner, acknowledged that the practice of naming a national champion didn’t take hold for decades after the 1916 game. But for much of the last half-century, any team that went undefeated and won the Rose Bowl would have been declared the national champion, he said.

Leach started his remarks by saying he watched “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” in preparation for his visit to the Senate chamber. “So I stay up here and talk until I collapse,” he said.

But he didn’t. Leach thanked legislators for everything they do to support higher education and said he hoped “to put a team out that everybody can be proud of” in the fall.



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