Of course, in the end neither case will matter much. I anticipate – should the Seahawks make the playoffs – that they’ll get thumped at home in the first round; likewise, I see the Dawgs getting taken to town by a much better Big 12 team in the Holiday Bowl should they advance as far.
That having been said, there’s still something to the notion of just Being There being important.
For the Seahawks, that would mean pride for one thing. A return – if ever so slight – to the glory days of the last decade. From a historical perspective, it’s another notch on the belt. Instead of 6-Time Division Champs, we’d be 7-Time Division Champs (counting AFC West championships); not much, but it’s one better and that shit adds up over time. And, of course, a division championship is a huge morale boost from the last two disasterous years. To go from winning 4 and 5 games to winning 8 and a division is pretty important, especially what with the new coach and GM regime trying to gain traction and start something special. Finally, for the players – especially the new ones and the rookies – it’s important because you want to cultivate a culture of winning; and what better way to start than by going to the playoffs your first year out of the box?
Leaving the financial aspects out of it, I still contend it’s a bigger deal for the Dawgs to make a bowl.
You want to talk about turning around a program? The Seahawks have nothing on the Huskies. 0-12 two years ago. 1-10 as recently as 2004 and 2-9 in 2005. This team hasn’t made a bowl (i.e. hasn’t won 6 games) since 2002. So, there’s that drought.
I’ll hedge a little bit by saying that anything less than a Rose Bowl pales in comparison to an NFL divisional title; but the Holiday Bowl isn’t too shabby. This bowl has seen its share of quality Pac-10 teams come through, so to make it at 6-6 is pretty damn random. Normally I’d be complaining about getting stuck in the Sun Bowl (all the while wishing we’d made the Las Vegas Bowl); but hell, San Diego … now that’s a destination I’d actually consider visiting (if I thought we had a snowball’s chance in hell of competing).
Beyond that, this too is about a return to the culture of winning. We’ve played a lot of true freshmen this year, guys who figure to play prominent roles on this team the next three years. What better way to advance the program than having these kids gain some much-needed post-season experience their very first year?
Then there’s the coaching staff. Like Pete Carroll with the Seahawks, the Huskies are breaking in Steve Sarkisian. Granted, this is his second season, but he’s still got a lot to prove. Yes, he’s made great strides in recruiting, but what’s truly important is what happens on the field. You’re primarily judged by wins and losses, not necessarily by how many blue-chippers you acquire. Taking an 0-12 program and putting it in a fairly significant bowl in two years says to me and every other Husky fan out there that this coach is a winner. It says he’s bound for great things with the University of Washington. Getting that first bowl out of the way, after the years and years of losing this past decade, is a huge monkey off the back.
And not only that, but winning begets winning. Good players want to play for good programs. You’re not likely to get too many stud players at key positions if you’re not going to bowl games on a regular basis. Nobody cares what the Huskies did in the 80s and 90s. Hell, nobody cares what the Huskies did in 2000 or 2001. They care about what you’ve done in the recent past and what you’re doing right now. Well, as you can clearly see, the Huskies are getting better. It’d be pretty huge to sit down with a recruit and his family and be able to tell them, “I took one of the worst teams in college football and brought them back to respectability in only two years. Just imagine what I can do with your son, and others like him, in the years to come.”
Finally, I can’t help but think of Jake Locker. Our resident hero. The guy who turned down millions upon millions of guaranteed dollars from the NFL (to say nothing of the money he could’ve made right away playing baseball) to return to his University for one more football season. This is his ultimate goal. This is the only reason why he’s back with us. To make this bowl game. To finish what he started, bringing the University of Washington back into the picture. From punch-line to punch-out! From Goat to Great! Say it with me now!
The Huskies Are Back!
And that significantly more important than the Seahawks winning the worst division the NFL has ever seen.