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Sports >  UW football

Washington coaches looks to lean on each other to move forward during turmoil

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 8, 2021

Bob Gregory, a Spokane native and Washington’s acting head coach, stands on the field before a game on Sept. 9, 2017, in Seattle.  (Associated Press)
Bob Gregory, a Spokane native and Washington’s acting head coach, stands on the field before a game on Sept. 9, 2017, in Seattle. (Associated Press)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

They sat side-by-side, a surprising spectacle.

Bob Gregory: defensive coordinator, turned acting head coach.

Junior Adams: wide receivers coach, turned interim offensive coordinator.

At 3 p.m. on Monday, following the one-game suspension of UW head coach Jimmy Lake and the firing of offensive coordinator John Donovan, Gregory and Adams met a larger-than-usual assortment of media inside UW’s team room – the place where, less than two days earlier, Lake denied striking walk-on linebacker Ruperake Fuavai.

“I separated him,” said Lake, minutes after UW’s 26-16 loss to rival Oregon. “I didn’t strike him. I separated him.”

Of course, ABC cameras showed Lake – whose intention was to diffuse a sideline scrum between Fuavai and an Oregon player – hitting the redshirt freshman in the facemask, then shoving him in the back when he turned to walk away.

On Monday, Gregory said he didn’t learn of the incident until “I was at home and a buddy of mine texted me. I had no idea.” Gregory called it “an unfortunate incident,” while Adams added “it was an unfortunate situation and I feel bad for both sides.”

As for Fuavai, Gregory said: “He’s a very, very quiet kid. He’s a really good kid. I think he’s a little embarrassed by it. But he’s good.”

It’s an embarrassing situation for the athletic department at large, and Lake posted a statement on social media on Monday apologizing in part “for putting the University in this position.”

And yet, Washington (4-5) hosts Arizona State (6-3) at 4 p.m. on Saturday just the same. The college football machine churns mercilessly forward.

And now, same as ever, the objective is to win.

“I’m excited. I think we’re all excited,” said Gregory, who added that UW athletic director Jen Cohen asked him Monday morning to assume the acting head coach role . “It was a great team meeting we had (today). I think our guys are going to be energized and ready to go. We play a great opponent. So there’s no quit in this football team. That is not happening.

“We’ve had a lot of adversity this year. We’ve had some tough times, but our team has fought the entire time. We’ve been close. We’ve just got to get over the hurdle.”

This latest hurdle was put in place by the Huskies’ head coach. Gregory said he last spoke with Lake during a strategy meeting Monday morning before Lake was informed of the one-week suspension. It’s the final communication Gregory and Lake will be allowed to have until Sunday, when the latter is scheduled to be reinstated.

When asked if the coaches and players were aware of the ongoing investigation into Lake’s conduct, Gregory said “our kids were being talked to by the administrators and everybody knew that.”

Now, those same kids need to find a way to refocus on football.

And the remaining Husky coaches will have to help.

“They’re college kids, and they hear all the outside noise and they know that this is a challenging time for us,” Gregory said. “I’d be lying to you if I said they didn’t know that. Of course they do. But they also are competitors, and they want to go out and practice and win. So all that being said, I’m not sure if it matters if I’m the interim guy or whoever it is, these guys are going to compete and play hard.”

Added Adams, when asked if UW’s players still support Lake: “All I know is this – we’re here for those guys in that locker room. We’ve got some really good kids, good guys in that locker room. We love these guys. It’s unfortunate, the last 24 hours, what they had to go through at the age of 18 to 22 years old. And all coach Gregory and the staff and I can do is just wrap our arms around these guys and build them up, encourage them, keep the energy up and make sure they’re smiling when they come in the building tomorrow and get ready to play some football.”

Football will be played on Saturday, even without Lake and Donovan.

The season goes on, spectacle and all.

“I think we lock our arms, and we go,” said Gregory, on the subject of how the Huskies can overcome. “Everybody’s good in the good times, right? I mean, we all know that. It’s, how are we going to react to the tougher times? And this is a great challenge for all of us. It’s a great challenge for myself and for (Adams), all of our coaches, a great challenge for our players.

“But this is what it’s all about. And if it was all good right here (at UW), we probably wouldn’t be sitting here. But these are the times that we can teach great lessons to young men, and we’re all looking forward to it.”

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