At long last, Gonzaga and Washington have moved a mountain. It appeared things were moving in this direction, and Monday, they made it official, announcing they’ll resume their basketball series in 2016-17. The fact it will have been a decade since they last played speaks to the obstacles — both in scheduling and raw feelings — that have stood in the way.
* I had always hunched they’d somehow meet in the NCAA tournament, which was quite possible in a couple or three years, including in 2009 when they were evenly matched and both played at the Rose Garden in Portland. But they were in different regions. Got to believe that would have been a hot ticket.
* Among the reasons this is a good thing is that rivalries in our state have fallen flat in recent years. WSU checked out of relevance during the Ken Bone regime, and the UW-WSU series has been mostly a yawner. Cameron Dollar can’t seem to get traction at Seattle U., which Washington has been scheduling regularly. And Eastern Washington hasn’t been a factor. So Gonzaga-Washington is a natural for regional interest. It’s also a cheap trip.
* I get a kick out of fans on both sides, arguing that the the other program “needs us more than we need them.” The fact is, neither one “needs” the other. It’s the fans who need, and deserve, the rivalry. (Funny how fan loyalties can color logic.) Washington has more quality games within the Pac-12, so it hardly has to lean on Gonzaga for such opposition. And if you think the Zags need the Huskies because they play in a lesser league, well, you’ve been off in a cave for too long. A program that has recently had home-and-home agreements with Michigan State, Illinois, Oklahoma State, Butler and Baylor doesn’t “need” the Huskies.
* It will be interesting to see who gets first crack at hosting in the four-year agreement. I know the Zags felt that because it was Washington that chose to stop the series, Gonzaga should get the first game. But sometimes those preferences have to take a back seat to scheduling balance, and if, for example, one school has a heavy tilt toward home or road games in 2016-17 or 2017-18 and needs to square matters, that can take priority. (In scheduling, it’s also seen sort of as oneupmanship to get the first game, which then leaves the first host the option of buying out the second game and bailing. That doesn’t apply here, though. After 10 years of frayed relations and schedule difficulties, ain’t gonna happen.)