My Two Cents On The Transfer Portal & NIL

I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I understand the ins and outs of these two huge, significant issues in college athletics (presumably just college football and basketball), but I don’t know if a lot of people really take the time to research these topics before spouting off about them either. So, why not me?!

I think one thing is pretty clear: college athletics is broken. It’s always been broken, though. Put me in the camp of the kids have been exploited for generations, earning billions upon billions of dollars for schools and the NCAA, while the benefits of a college scholarship don’t outweigh how these kids have been chewed up and churned through over the years.

So, at the very least, the NIL has been a long time coming. Let a kid make money off of his name, image, and likeness; what the fuck does the NCAA care? I don’t have the problem with it that a lot of people do.

I know one of the arguments against it has to do with certain schools – and certain conferences – having an unfair advantage, by having boosters who are willing to over-spend to bring in the best talent. But, those unfair advantages have been around since the beginning. Now, instead of money being slid under tables, it’s out in the open (to a bigger degree; I don’t think it’ll ever be truly transparent). The NIL thing isn’t a perfect system, and I can’t even say with any certainty that it’s better than what we had before, but it’s arguably on the right track.

My concern is that we’ll never get college athletics to the point where it should be, where it’s just a semipro league for football and basketball, with contracts and salary caps and actual fucking oversight into where all the money is coming from and where it’s going. College athletics before was the wild west, and instead of becoming more civilized, NIL has made things more out of control than ever.

What bums me out is the transfer portal. I’m not against it in theory, but in practice it just sucks the joy out of being a fan.

It’s one thing to sign with a school, then that coach moves on, and you decide to opt out because you never agreed to play for whoever is coming in. And I get the frustration from a kid who’s riding the pine and wants to go somewhere where he can actually see some action. But, now it’s morphed into this yearly excuse for players to leave on a whim. And worse, it’s morphed into coaches needing to not only recruit newcomers, but to recruit their own guys (while coaches also recruit other school’s players to get them to flip).

There was too hard a line before: where, if you left a school, you had to sit out a full year. But, now it’s too soft, and literally everyone is up for grabs.

As a Husky basketball fan, I’ve experienced the highs and lows of this new system. In the 2020/2021 season, the Huskies were as bad as I’ve ever seen them. Following that lost year, a bunch of players departed, and it was absolutely for the best: they all stunk. This was addition by subtraction to the perfect degree. Mike Hopkins was able to bring in a bunch of players through the transfer portal, and the 2021/2022 season was far more enjoyable as a result. I mean, granted, it’s not like we made any sort of post-season tournament. But, we were far more competitive and fun during the regular season, and sometimes that’s enough.

What’s more, it sort of felt like we were on the right track. Maybe, with a few key additions, we COULD parlay that into a return to the Big Dance. Sure, it was always going to be something of a longshot, but it wasn’t crazy to dream that dream.

Then, recently, word came down that Emmitt Matthews was departing. He was one of those transfer portal guys we brought back home last season; after the one year, he’s returning to West Virginia, for reasons that I don’t fully understand. He was a starter and a key player for the Huskies. He was set to continue being a starter, as we really didn’t bring in anyone to vie for his minutes. He was great in our system and had room to grow.

Probably, from his perspective, if his goal is to win – and to get more eyeballs on his game – he has a better chance on the Mountaineers. I guess I get that. But, this isn’t a fucking Baskin Robbins where you stand there tasting all of the 31 flavors! Fucking pick a school and stick with it! Clearly there was a reason why you left West Virginia in the first place; what makes you think it’s going to be good now?

I’m just sad and pissed off. The difference between an NCAA Tourney berth or not isn’t Emmitt Matthews; he’s a role player. But, he was one of my favorite Huskies to root for last year, and I’m annoyed that he opted to leave. If the NCAA had proper contracts for players, you wouldn’t see this as often, and you wouldn’t see other schools sniffing around trying to poach your guys.

I’m not mad at anyone in particular. The players have the right, the coaches are only doing their jobs by enabling boosters or whoever to go and recruit players from other teams; this is the system that’s in place and everyone who can take advantage WILL take advantage. I’m just mad at the system, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

And, the thing is, it’s only going to get worse. I don’t think I’ll ever see a day where the Washington Huskies are national champions in football or men’s basketball. That’s kind of a bummer. That’s not just because of the transfer portal or NIL, but those things certainly play a part. It’s just hard to adjust your expectations. You look at the professional sports leagues and can see a reasonable path to a championship one day. Hell, if the Cincinnati Bengals can make a Super Bowl, then ANYONE in ANY pro league can do it. Even the lousy, fakakta Mariners.

But, not the Huskies. The best we can possibly hope for is a conference championship. Yet, who’s confident we’re going to get there with Mike Hopkins, or this new coaching staff for the football team? You mean the guy from Fresno, and before that some Dakota school? Oh yeah, I’m sure he’s the next Nick Saban just waiting to happen.

The Seahawks Have Some New Defensive Assistant Coaches

The biggest news of the offseason for the Seattle Seahawks so far – that isn’t just talking head nonsense from hot take factories – is the firing of defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. It was a long time coming and, frankly, one of those hires where you knew it was going to go poorly as soon as it was announced. We let it slide – more or less – because we knew it was just a puppet hire of someone who would be running Pete Carroll’s defense.

Which leads me to my first question: were Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn also puppet hires who just ran Pete Carroll’s defense? Or did they just so happen to run a similar defense to what we know Pete likes to install? I don’t get the sense that this was the case with these two, yet it’s what we automatically cling to when we talk about the hires of Kris Richard and Ken Norton. It seems overly dismissive and simplistic.

Whatever the case, I think we can all agree that the Seahawks saw great success with the system ran by Bradley and Quinn, and their goal with Richard and Norton was to continue with what had been built. Unfortunately for the latter two gentlemen, they were saddled with a drastic downgrade in defensive talent. But, with Norton in particular, it sure didn’t seem like he brought anything to the table, and that was his ultimate downfall.

I don’t know if there’s a right way or a wrong way to hire a coach. You can hire from within, you can make a big splash on a retread who rehabilitated his coaching image, you can hire a hotshot coach’s assistant to hope you capture the same magic, you can pilfer the college ranks, you can hire a coordinator from another team. The possibilities are endless, and are riddled with successes and failures. So, I don’t want to say I’m down on Clint Hurtt – new defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks – simply because he was promoted from within the organization. But, I’ve seen what he’s done for this team so far, and I’m far from impressed.

I was already dissatisfied with the job Clint Hurtt was doing even before Ken Norton was fired. He’s been with the Seahawks since 2017 – as the D-Line coach, as well as the assistant head coach – but what has he done exactly to bolster our defensive line? Let’s go through our draft picks since 2017: Malik McDowell (bust), Naz Jones (bust), Rasheem Green (role player at best), L.J. Collier (not even a good role player), Demarcus Christmas (bust), Darrell Taylor (finally, someone good), Alton Robinson (role player). The Seahawks have consistently underwhelmed along the defensive line in his tenure. The pass rush has been up and down, and the run defense has been up and down. I don’t understand what it is, exactly, he does well.

At least when you’re talking about Kris Richard and Ken Norton, you’re talking about a former secondary coach and linebackers coach (respectively) who were phenomenal at those jobs! It doesn’t appear Hurtt has ever been successful at any of his stops. It certainly doesn’t explain this fast-track he’s been on up to this point.

When the Seattle Times announced his hire, it was with the knowledge that Ed Donatell was also going to be hired as a defensive assistant in some capacity. The two, in conjunction, both worked under Vic Fangio, who was and presumably still IS one of the best defensive coordinators in the game today. The obvious next question is: if we want to run his system going forward, why didn’t we just hire HIM?! But, whatever. Presumably, once you know the system, then it’s a matter of getting the right guys to fit within that system. You still need someone to call plays and make adjustments mid-game. I hate the fact that we’re going into a second consecutive season with a first-time play-caller (last year, Shane Waldron for the offense; now Hurtt for the defense).

This is worsened by the fact that Donatell was just hired to be Minnesota’s DC. Hurtt is more palatable with a veteran like Donatell backing him up.

I’m actually heartened with the new assistants the Seahawks hired to coach under Hurtt, though. Karl Scott was brought in to coach the secondary (and be the passing game coordinator). He’s another hot shot who’s on a fast-track, coming from coaching the secondary in Alabama (2018-2020) and the Vikings (2021). Nick Saban, obviously, is the greatest college coach who ever lived, and I have the utmost respect for the old Vikings coaching staff, especially with their defensive pedigree. So, at least he’s coached under some smart dudes.

I’m even more excited for Sean Desai, who looks like a brilliant football mind, coming over from the Bears (starting in 2013, working his way up to DC in 2021). He was in the hunt for numerous DC jobs around the league, before settling here as an Associate Head Coach for the defense.

I’ll be honest, I actually think the Seahawks are making a huge mistake. I think they should’ve just hired Desai to be the DC, and given Hurtt the boot. This seems like something that could backfire in a big way, with Hurtt ultimately failing (and being fired within four years) and Desai moving on to bigger and better things after 2022. Here’s hoping he can make a big impact in a short period of time.

Ultimately, though, we don’t know how good or bad Hurtt is going to be. I’m just assuming he’ll be bad, and am staking my claim right now that this is an uninspiring hire. I wish the Seahawks would’ve made another choice, but who knows? I could be totally wrong. Maybe he’s been a diamond in the rough this whole time and it was Ken Norton who was holding him back. Odds seem to be stacked against that. So, rather than be the usual homer that I am, I’m going to be a Debbie Downer instead, so when we look back in a few years, I’ll get to say I was right from the very beginning.

Yay.

Of course, that just means the Seahawks will continue to suck between now and then, and nobody wants that.

Next up, I’ll be writing about the shake-up along the offensive line coaching staff.

The Huskies Hired Kalen DeBoer To Be Their Next Head Football Coach

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I wasn’t thrilled to have Jimmy Lake be our successor to Chris Petersen. I’ll even admit there were times when he was still here when I had hoped Coach Pete would step aside to allow Lake to take over, rather than risk losing him to another program. So, yeah, I was pretty stoked when it was announced he’d take over after Petersen’s retirement! I figured: what better way to continue the roll of success we’ve seen at Washington, dating back to 2014? Really, dating back to 2013, after Coach Sark helped turn things around after 2008’s winless nadir.

Things, clearly, didn’t go according to plan with Jimmy Lake. Really, it’s hard to see how things could’ve gone any worse. A global pandemic decimated our 2020 season; an outbreak from said pandemic resulted in our missing out on an opportunity to play for the Pac-12 championship, or even a bowl game that season; a number of players transferred out of the program (possibly as a result of the pandemic reducing Lake’s effectiveness as a recruiter); and then the 2021 season happened, where the Huskies were 4-5 under Lake before plummeting to 4-8 after his dismissal. As we all know, the offense severely underperformed – to the point that the offensive coordinator lost his job days before Lake lost his – and Lake himself became embroiled in controversy over getting too physical with one of his own players (a trend that may or may not date back to 2019, when he was still the defensive coordinator).

It’s fair to question where things might’ve gone differently had COVID-19 never happened. We figured we knew two things about Lake prior to his ascension to the head coach job: he’s a helluva defensive backs coach and a helluva recruiter. It’s probably fair to also say he’s a helluva defensive coordinator, but I think a lot of that is predicated on how well our secondary has played since he got here. There were instances of this defense being frustratingly inconsistent in crunch time and against the run when we needed them to step up the most. But, that’s neither here nor there.

What transpired is the simple fact that Lake might not be a good head coach. He’s certainly not a good judge of who should be an offensive coordinator, that much is clear with the hire of John Donovan, and the constant support he gave him. I don’t think Lake is a good judge of what offense should be at the college level. The Huskies were wildly conservative, and clearly didn’t have the personnel to support a run-first, pro-style offense. Bubble screens and Wildcat formations can die a quick and painful death, as far as I’m concerned. It’s also not clear that Lake is a good motivator of men; I get the sense that his schtick can wear thin with some people.

Regardless, his firing boiled down to the Huskies not playing well on the football field. Chris Petersen was able to mold lesser recruits into stars and eventual NFL players; Lake’s players regressed and underperformed, even though by the time he was promoted we were regularly bringing in higher-level recruits in Coach Pete’s final years.

I mean, how do you have the kind of consistency along the offensive line that we were able to bring back for the 2021 season, and not be able to do ANYTHING on offense, neither rushing nor protecting our quarterbacks?

This brings us to Kalen DeBoer, the erstwhile Fresno State head coach.

It’s fair to look at this hire – compared to what USC was able to do in bringing in Lincoln Riley, compared to what LSU was able to do in wooing away Brian Kelly from Notre Dame of all places – and come away underwhelmed. After all, there are reports we tried to hire Matt Campbell away from Iowa State (offering him upwards of $7 million per year) and were rebuffed (which is unfortunate, because what he’s done for the Cyclones is truly remarkable). You never want to hear that. You never want to hear that your school is unable to bring in a big name. If it’s because we didn’t offer him enough money, then that sucks because you don’t want your school to be perceived as tightwads. But, if it’s because he just didn’t want to come to Washington because he didn’t believe in the program and our ability to win it all, then that’s far worse. I tend to believe it’s the latter; I don’t have any faith in Washington winning it all because I don’t believe the Pac-12 as a conference is set up for success in the major college sports of football and men’s basketball (for any number of reasons I won’t bore you with here).

As a Washington fan, you kinda have to look at the situation for what it is. Washington is one of the top three or four programs in the Pac-12. But, what does that mean in the grand scheme of things? Being top three or four in the Pac-12 probably equates to being in the top 30 or 40 in all of college football; you can’t like those odds when the programs who are truly in the Top 10 are so far and away more advantaged than everyone below them combined. Matt Campbell isn’t the difference between where we are now and a national championship; nothing short of Dabo Swinney or Nick Saban would be able to turn Washington into a national powerhouse.

That means we have to settle for lowered expectations. Being one of the top three or four programs in the Pac-12 means we need to be competing for a conference championship every single year, period. Washington is worthy of that much. And there’s reason for optimism that Kalen DeBoer could be the guy to take us back to those heights.

I’m going to spend a lot of brainpower comparing DeBoer to our previous two offensive coordinators, because he’s an offensive-minded coach. Unlike Bush Hamdan and John Donovan – who were both miserable retreads who’ve never succeeded at the college level – Kalen DeBoer has improved the offenses he’s taken over at every stop on his coaching journey. He was tremendously successful at the lower levels of college football, with Sioux Falls, leading them to multiple national championships. He then became a coordinator with Fresno State and saw immediate improvement there; he did the same thing for Indiana in 2019, in the same capacity; and when he returned to Fresno State as their head coach, he continued their turnaround, leading them to a 9-3 record this past season (with, I might add, Jake Haener at quarterback, who transferred out of Washington after the 2018 season). This all speaks to a head coach on the rise.

It’s also not lost on me that he actually HAS head coaching experience, which is more than we could say for Jimmy Lake when he was hired. We’ll have to wait and see, but my hunch is that DeBoer will have these Huskies playing much better through sheer coaching ability. What’s uncertain is: how many of these Huskies will want to stick around? And, what will future Husky recruiting classes look like?

I don’t know what DeBoer’s reputation is as a recruiter. Considering everything I’ve read about him so far hasn’t featured that as any great asset, I’m assuming he’s just okay. Of course, he’s never had the kind of resources that he’ll have with Washington, so a lot of that is unknown as well. My guess on this point is that he’ll be worse than Jimmy Lake, at least at first. And, he’s going to have to coach his ass off the first few years to lead Washington to the kind of success where he’ll be able to start bringing in the higher-rated recruits.

Which leads me to the age-old question: what’s more important, recruiting or actual coaching? Obviously, you need both; Lake was perceived to be an excellent recruiter, but it turns out he wasn’t much of a coach, and the Huskies cratered accordingly. DeBoer is perceived to be an excellent coach, but if all he can bring in are nobodies, then it won’t matter how good of a coach he is if he doesn’t have the talent to even hang with the teams of the lowly Pac-12. If we’re doomed to repeat another endless string of losses to the Oregon Ducks, his time here won’t be long.

As with anything new, it’s impossible to judge this move without seeing any results. We can speculate all we want, but we can’t say anything with any certainty until we see how the Huskies play on the field next year. Even that might be too soon; a more fair assessment probably couldn’t be rendered for 3-5 years, to give him enough time to build the culture, bring in a few recruiting classes, and see how he does with “his guys”.

All I can really talk about his how I feel, given the knowledge I have at my disposal. I’m cautiously excited. I’m probably less excited than I was a couple years ago, when Lake was tabbed to take over, but that was coming off of a run of success we haven’t seen around these parts in decades. Coming off of a down year, with all the question marks surrounding our current roster and our incoming freshmen next year, I think it’s fair to be underwhelmed with this move. That doesn’t mean I don’t expect immediate improvement. I think the 2022 Huskies should be, at minimum, a bowl-eligible squad. A record of 6-6 isn’t too much to ask. Where we go from there is up to DeBoer, and who he ultimately decides to bring on as his assistant coaches. I’ve read people talking about how he needs to bring in excellent recruiters; I think that’s a great (if obvious) idea. We’ll see how it goes!

The 2016 Washington Huskies Are Pac-12 Champions!!!

Honestly, I didn’t know if I’d ever see this day come.  Part of that is from being a heavy drinker and liking to run around in traffic, but most of that is just looking at how far the program had fallen, and the landscape in college football.

Washington’s not a power school.  We like to think it is, as we look back at the good ol’ days of Don James and whatnot, but we’re not Alabama.  We’re not Ohio State or USC or Texas.  Ours is not a destination school; we’re not going to draw coaches like Urban Meyer or Nick Saban.  We can pull from smaller schools, or we can elevate up-and-coming coordinators to their first head coaching gigs, but ours is just a stepping stone school.  Come here, turn the program around, get a better job somewhere else, as Sark did.  Or, come here, make the program worse, and never coach in college football ever again, as Tyrone Willingham did.  Oh sure, you might get lucky and have everything click for a season, but that’s when you strike!  When the iron’s hot!  You parlay that to your dream job where you can compete for national championships every year, as opposed to once in a blue moon!

I would try to console myself from this line of thinking, by pointing to Oregon.  They rose from the ashes of nothingness to be a perennial college football powerhouse!  That’s true, but they also had a head coach with a gimmick system that it took the rest of college football too long to adjust to.  And a benefactor in Phil Knight who doesn’t mind pouring all of his riches into the school.  What are we talking about here, a one in a million confluence of wealth and genius?  Unlikely to be in the cards for a school like Washington.

And yet, here we are.  In Chris Petersen’s third year since coming over from Boise State.  He doesn’t strike me as a guy who would cut and run for a bigger job at a bigger school (but, then again, I suppose Boise State fans thought the same way).  In Washington, he’ll be able to earn the same as anywhere else; he’ll be the highest-paid coach in the conference at a minimum.  And, it’s so early in his run, he can really build a dominant program over the next decade and really bolster his resume!  He’s done it without a billionaire putting his name on the stadium and paying for recruits (allegedly).  He’s done it without a gimmicky offense that – oh by the way – won’t help you one bit in raising your NFL draft stock, because they’d rather go with guys who’ve run a pro-style offense.  I mean, this is as old school as it gets!  Solid recruiting on a foundation of recent success, building your team up in all areas, and then going out there and beating the snot out of everyone you play.  This is how Alabama stays so good every year!

WE’RE PAC-12 CHAMPS!!!

I just can’t say enough how cool that is.  Started from the bottom in 2008; now we’re here in 2016.  I couldn’t be more proud and more happy that I was so wrong about all of that I wrote above.

Last night, we beat Colorado 41-10, in spite of the fact that Jake Browning had a God-awful game.  Nevertheless, we were able to run the ball at will, gobbling up 265 yards on the ground, including 100-yard games for both Gaskin and Coleman.  Sheer domination up front, with some smart, powerful running by those two backs.

John Ross had one of the most impressive TD catches I’ve ever seen.  Browning was about to be sacked, trying to throw the ball away, and Ross ended up jumping as high as he could, snagging it with one hand, breaking a tackle, and scampering for 19 yards to paydirt.  Darrell Daniels had the other receiving TD on a nifty little catch inside the 10 yard line, breaking a bunch of tackles on the way to the endzone.

Game MVP Taylor Rapp had two interceptions right after halftime, one returned to the house.  The rest of our secondary played to their usual brilliance as we held Colorado’s QBs to a combined 81 yards passing.  Our guys up front were just as good, as we held their ground game to 82 yards and a 2.9 yards per carry average.  Just a totally dominating performance from a world-class defense.

The Huskies are 12-1, 12-game winners for the first time since our national championship in 1991.  I just want to sit here and bask in this for a while, as we only have until tomorrow morning at 9am before we know our fate.  Playoffs or Rose Bowl.  The Huskies are back!