2013 Ducks football = 1993 Huskies football???
The great Yankee catcher Yogi Berra once said “it’s déjà vu all over again”. And I can’t help but think of this when looking at where the University of Oregon’s football program is now and where the University of Washington’s was a 20 years ago. And although I’m sure a lot of Duck fans will bristle at any comparison to the hated Huskies it’s eerie how similar they are.
Let’s go back in time a bit…back to 1993. The Washington football program was penalized by the Pac-10 for players essentially receiving money from a booster in California who would hire them for “jobs” where they would do little to no work (the full story is here http://articles.latimes.com/1993-08-23/news/mn-27046_1_ncaa-rules-violations). The coach at the time, Don James, felt the penalties were way too severe and left the program.
Before that, Washington had been a national power for the past five seasons including winning a national championship in 1991. The Huskies used an unconventional defense based on speed to put opposing offenses on their heels and just enough offense to win the conference title three years in a row. However the sanctions crippled them and although the program rebounded around the turn of the century Washington hasn’t recovered. Most importantly the Huskies weren’t getting the top recruits in the area anymore and had lost their status as the “sexy” program in the West.
Right about that time, the University of Oregon‘s moribund football program started to gain steam…starting in 1994 with Kenny Wheaton’s infamous interception and has risen to where it is now. The Ducks, using an unconventional offense based on speed, have dominated their foes and established themselves as a national power and nearly won a national championship. Recruits that Washington used to get are now going to Oregon and the Ducks are now the “sexy” program in not only the Northwest, but the country to boot.
However, the wheels are starting to come off a bit. Recently it was revealed that the Oregon football program had committed NCAA rules violations (read about them here http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/NCAA-sanctions-on-the-horizon-at-Oregon.html). Their coach, Chip Kelly, left the school in the offseason.
So….let’s see what we have in common here. Both are football programs that have risen from the obscurity of the Pacific Northwest to a national power based on a speedy unconventional attack, one on offense and one on defense. Both contended for national championships but both, it appears, are going to be assessed penalties from the NCAA. What would really make this incredible would be if the Huskies benefitted from the Ducks’ penalties like Oregon did when Washington was penalized over 20 years ago. Although these programs are bitter, bitter rivals it’s amazing how similar their paths have been. I do think that Oregon’s penalties will not be as severe as Washington’s were, but can Washington and the other Northwest schools capitalize if things go south for the Ducks? That will be the storyline for the next few months.