Who’s In A Worse Position Right Now, The Huskies Or The Cougars?

The simple answer is to say: the Cougs. Always the Cougs. But, I dunno. There are, as usual, good people idiots on both sides.

Earlier this week, Nick Rolovich was fired by WSU. The short story is that the governor of Washington instituted a mandate stating all state employees needed to be fully vaccinated by October 18th. The head coach of Washington State University is technically considered to be a state employee. Nick Rolovich is not vaccinated and does not wish to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Therefore, he was let go.

That’s obviously an oversimplification. Muddying the waters is the fact that the state is supposed to grant legitimate religious exemptions, Rolovich applied for one as a Catholic, and it’s unclear if he was granted one or not. I’m assuming it’s also an oversimplification to say that since the Pope encouraged getting the vaccine, that negates Catholicism as a viable pathway towards an exemption, but either way, even if he was granted the exemption by the state, Wazzu refused to grant the accommodation that would be needed to make everything work. With the accommodation denied, there was nowhere else to go but job termination.

It doesn’t really help Rolovich’s public relations cause that he spent EVERY press conference answering questions about the vaccine mandate like Marshawn Lynch at the Super Bowl. Then again, once people have their minds made up on an issue like this, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of leeway as far as listening to differing viewpoints. I’m not so naive as to think Rolovich could’ve changed any minds by speaking his beliefs. But, saying literally nothing on the matter, other than he’s going to follow the mandate or whatever, just makes this all look like litigation was his goal all along.

Maybe that’s just a college football thing, though. College coaches are notoriously tight-lipped about even the most innocuous of subjects. In that sense, Jimmy Lake of the Huskies is as bad as any of them. Just try getting a straight answer out of him about the program! At best, he’s going to give terse, meaningless replies about keeping things the status quo. That’s fine if you’re winning – because why give your opponent any information they can use against you – but when you’re 2-4 (after being projected to contend for the Pac-12 title), you better fucking come up with some different answers, or else it’s going to be your ass with a pink slip stapled to it.

My point of view on this whole vaccine mandate thing is: I don’t think these issues have any business being turned into a political conflict. I think there are lots of legitimate sources that provide quality information on the benefits of being vaccinated against COVID-19, and I think there are lots of bullshit sources raising questions that infect the minds of people who are on the lookout for contrarian viewpoints. The same people questioning the safety of vaccines – because of some bullshit they read on the Internet – are also people who will blindly gorge themselves on unhealthy foods and beverages, or take medications prescribed by their doctors that they haven’t themselves vetted. Everyone’s a fucking scientist all of a sudden.

But, I’m not here to solve all the world’s problems. I’m here to talk about the Huskies and Cougars.

In a vaccuum, it’s always better to be a Dawg than a Coug. We have access to better recruits, we have better facilities, we’re located in a more populous city with more things to do, and our history in the game of football is vastly superior. We’ve actually won a national championship! We’ve actually played in the College Football Playoffs within the last decade.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that it has to stay that way forever. If the Cougs ever found the right coach – who was willing to stay there for the long term – he could certainly build up a program that eventually surpasses UW. It’s not impossible.

But, it’s also not likely. What I see are two programs in need of new head coaches, and new directions overall. And, I see one program – Wazzu – that’s got a head start. The lawsuit is just a distraction, but it’s not like there’s any chance he gets his job back; that’s a headache for the university, not the football program. The football program is going to move on with a new coach by next season. When will Washington follow suit?

Jimmy Lake very nearly inherited one terrible offensive coordinator, but Bush Hamdan was fired at the close of the 2019 season. He hired another terrible offensive coordinator, who he finds himself tethered to. The decision at the time was justifiably panned, and it’s proven everyone but Lake knew best. As I’ve written about, he’s weirdly aggressive-yet-conservative in his decision-making. He goes for it on fourth down like no one we’ve had around here before, but he’s also committed to running the ball even though our offensive line sucks at it, and opposing teams are gearing up to stop it.

Lake is also supposed to be this defensive mastermind, but we can’t stop the run to save our lives, and he refuses to let his elite defensive secondary play man-to-man to open up extra defenders to try to stop the run. As I’ve written before, he’s coaching this team like it’s got Vita Vea in the middle, when he has no one even close to that level of talent along the interior!

I’d still be bitching if the Huskies were merely mediocre, but mediocre would be an improvement! The Washington Huskies don’t lose to teams like Montana or Oregon State. They don’t get consistently out-muscled at home. And they sure as shit don’t struggle this mightily to move the football on offense! This isn’t the worst it’s ever been for the Huskies, but it’s as bad as it’s been since 2008.

As for the Cougs, they’re actually 4-3, having won three games in a row. They managed to take care of business against Cal, Oregon State, and Stanford; we’ve beaten only one of those teams so far. They’re at least in the hunt for a bowl game, if not a full comeback to win the Pac-12 North. What do the Huskies have going for us right now? We’re 18-point favorites down in Arizona tonight, and you KNOW we won’t be covering that spread!

I’ll be honest, part of me is jealous that the Cougs have this head start on a new coaching regime! Not only do I think the Huskies are stuck with who we’ve got, but that’s probably going to extend into next year. We MIGHT get lucky with a change at OC, but I don’t think Lake is going anywhere. And, as long as we’re saddled with his philosophy, we’re going to continue to be disgruntled with the play-calling. Considering we’ve got a 5-star quarterback just sitting there, collecting dust on the sidelines, it’s a total nightmare.

No one expects anything from the Cougs. That’s why they’re able to delight their fanbase when they do anything well. That’s as beaten-down a group of fans as you’ll find across all sports, but they always come back for more like a fucking Whac-A-Mole game.

Huskies are expected to be great. Husky fans are a different sort of delusional, because we still believe this program has a chance in hell at competing for a national championship. The fact of the matter is: as long as we’re saddled in the Pac-12, recruiting is going to forever be at a sub-optimal level, and we will NEVER compete with those other national programs. The best we can hope for is Pac-12 success, and maybe a seat at the playoff table when they expand it so every major conference gets a slot.

What Husky fans don’t realize is, to the Alabamas and Georgias and Ohio States of the world, WE are what Wazzu is to us: the perpetual little brothers, ineffectual and unimportant. I would argue that we’re in the worse spot, because denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.

The Cougars succeed when they win the conference once in a blue moon. The Huskies are expected to contend every year. Falling short of that – settling for an Alamo Bowl or a Holiday Bowl, or God forbid a Las Vegas Bowl – is unacceptable. The Huskies have been trending in the wrong direction for a while now, and when your goal is to be among the college football elites, it’s much harder to turn everything around.

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