First off, a big thanks on Memorial Day to all of our country’s veterans, which includes my own father, who served in World War II.
And on this holiday, I thought it might be fun to review what could be a good omen for UW this season — the historical success the Huskies have had in seasons ending in zero (with another season in a year ending in zero obviously on the horizon)..
In six of the last eight seasons ending in zero, UW has improved its record markedly and in the other two merely advanced to the Rose Bowl.
And it could be argued that each of the last six such seasons ranks among the top 20 or so in school history, including four that ended in the Rose Bowl (three in Rose Bowl wins) and a couple of others that featured some of the biggest turnarounds in school history.
Here’s a look:
1930 — Not necessarily one of the greatest seasons in school history. Still, the 5-4 mark in the first season for James Phelan was a nice recovery from the 2-6-1 mark of the last year for Enoch Bagshaw.
1940 — Phelan was nearing the end of his run as UW’s coach (his tenure lasted from 30-41) and in this season he rebounded from his only two losing seasons to lead the Huskies to a 7-2 overall record, 7-1 in conference play, and a No. 10 national ranking.
1950 — Featuring some of the most famous players in school history — namely, QB Don Heinrich and RB Hugh McElhenny — this team rebounded from three straight losing seasons to go 8-2 and finish ranked No. 11 in the country, which at the time was the second-highest in school history. There was no bowl game, but the season was capped by the famous Apple Cup when McElhenny rushed for what remains a school record 296 yards.
1960 — Maybe the high point of the Jim Owens era, this team finished 10-1 and won a second straight Rose Bowl. And while it finished sixth in the AP poll (taken before the Rose Bowl) the school a couple of years ago recognized it for winning a national title from the Helms Foundation.
1970 — One of the biggest rebound seasons in school history as Sonny Sixkiller led UW to a 6-4 record a year after the Huskies went 1-9 in a year also remembered for its racial strife. The emergence of Sixkiller allowed the Huskies to ditch the Wishbone and began a three-year run when the Huskies threw the ball as well as any team in the nation. Went 4-3 in Pac-8 play losing three games by combined 13 points.
1980 — UW went 9-3 overall and won the Pac-10 for the second time in four years as Don James began to make it clear that he was building a program that would be successful for the long-term. UW was led by QB Tom Flick, maybe one of the most underrated players at his position in school history — he completed 59.9 percent of his passes that season (still tied for fourth in school history) to finish his career at 59.7, which remains second in school history behind Damon Huard. Flick went 16-17 in a win over Arizona, which remains the best passing percentage game in school history.
1990 — The first of three straight conference titles to kick off the decade of the ’90s, punctuated by a dominating win over Iowa in the Rose Bowl. While UW was coming off a promising 8-4 season, no one quite saw the kind of dominant year the Huskies turned in — USC had won the previous three conference titles and was picked again to win the conference while UW had to replace departing QB Cary Conklin.
2000 — UW’s last Rose Bowl season, led by the guy who may have had the best season for a QB in school history, Marques Tuiasosopo (pictured). UW finished 11-1 a year after going 7-5 in what was the second season for coach Rick Neuheisel.
Taken in total, every team on this list bettered its record of the previous year except for the 1960, which had to match the ’59 team’s record of 10-1, and 1980 (the 1979 team is listed as going 10-2 but went 9-3 on the field, later receiving a forfeit win against Arizona State).
Two of the teams on this list improved from the previous year by five games, another by four. In total, they improved on the previous year’s record by 21.5 games, an average of 2.5 per year.
Does any of this mean anything for the 2010 season? Obviously not.
But as the 2010 season dawns, most are expecting the beginning of another revival of UW football. And as that effort begins in earnest in a couple of months, UW at least has history on its side.