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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

December 31, 2011 at 5:59 PM

Reviewing the news of the day

Well, what I thought might be my first day off in a few months turned instead into a full day of work. Just the way it goes in this business.

And as we saw today, college football is as big a business as there is as UW coach Steve Sarkisian had to make what surely was the toughest move of his three-year career as a head coach, firing defensive assistants Nick Holt, Jeff Mills and Mike Cox. (You only need to hear all the times Sarkisian has talked about the value of continuity in a coaching staff to know how difficult this had to have been for him, especially Holt, who Sarkisian really had to work to lure away from Pete Carroll’s staff at USC).

Here’s my story for our print product and main web site, attempting to wrap up the news of the day. I also wrote this story on some possible candidates for Holt’s job.

Firing three coaches is obviously a major overhaul and any evaluation of what the 2012 Huskies will look like now has to wait until we see exactly how the staff develops.

But a massive overhaul is exactly what the defense appeared to need as the season progressed and this became — statistically, anyway — the worst defense in school history. Worse even than the 2008 unit that was saddled with injuries and the challenge of attempting to play through the chaos of an in-season coach firing.

Sarkisian displayed public faith in his defensive coaches until the minute the season ended, when he finally acknowledged that he would have to review things and see if it would be necessary to go in a different direction.

Today he made it clear a new direction is needed, and it comes at a key time for Sarkisian.

While his stewardship of the offense can’t really be questioned, a head coach is ultimately responsible for the whole thing.

It became clear this year that the Huskies were not going to take the necessary next step from seven wins to nine or 10 — which in my view is the harder step to take then the one they have achieved so far of going from hapless to respectable — without massive defensive improvement.

And it’s the ability to take that next step that will now define the rest of Sarkisian’s career at UW.

Sarkisian is 19-19 in three years at UW, and the program is now unquestionably his — only a handful of players will be left next year that weren’t signed by Sarkisian.

Selling the obvious improvement of the last few years from 0-12 to seven wins won’t really fly with the fan base anymore as a reason to be encouraged.

And the Pac-12 has only gotten better in the last month with the hires at WSU, UCLA, ASU and Arizona, while it’s just as evident that programs like Oregon, USC and Stanford aren’t going anywhere.

All are flush with fresh buckets of money thanks to the new Pac-12 TV deal, and today was Washington’s answer at some of the swings already taken by some of the other conference schools — expect the Huskies to be aggressive in going after the best defensive coaching talent they can find as they remake the staff on that side of the ball.

Football revenue is important everywhere, but specifically so at UW where it accounts for roughly 85 percent of the $60 million or so yearly budget.

And it’s even more important now to keep the fan base interested and energized with the need to sell ever-more expensive tickets and premium seats in the new stadium. UW needs to build some momentum in 2012 to properly kick off the first season in the new stadium in 2013.

Today was the first step in admitting there was a problem and setting about fixing it.

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