Friday, the Washington football team is part of a bowl season that will be winding down, playing Oklahoma State in the Cactus Bowl. The Huskies are 8-5, and should get to 9-5, and that’s going to be spun in some quarters as a pretty big season on Montlake. For example, it will be noted that Chris Petersen will have authored a year with more victories than any other first-year coach in UW history.
Lies, damn lies and statistics.
That’s true, of course, but it’s also a completely misleading and meaningless stat, the kind that publicists unearth because it’s true, and you don’t have to deal with the story behind the number.
The UW non-league schedule, of course, was mostly a phalanx of cream puffs, with the exception of always-dangerous FCS Eastern Washington. It’s a lot easier to get to 9-5 when you start 4-0 without real difficulty.
What’s much more meaningful than the overall-record comparison is a look at the league records of the first-year UW coaches, including Petersen, who was 4-5 (in a very tough league, I’ll admit, likely harder than any other UW coach).
In the interest of perspective, here are the league records, overall marks, and the all-important non-league schedules of first-year UW coaches preceding Petersen dating back to 1948 with Howard Odell. I’d submit this is a much more revealing evaluation of the Huskies’ first year under Petersen, whose league record is only tied for No. 6 among Husky coaches in that period.
You’ll see a lot of Ohio States, Notre Dames and LSUs on these non-league lists and not very many Georgia States.
2009: Steve Sarkisian 4-5 (5-7 overall); LSU, Notre Dame, Idaho
2005: Tyrone Willingham 1-7 (2-9); Air Force, Idaho, Notre Dame
2003: Keith Gilbertson 4-4 (6-6); Ohio State, Indiana, Idaho
1999: Rick Neuheisel 6-2 (7-5); BYU, Air Force, Colorado
1993: Jim Lambright 5-3 (7-4); Ohio State, East Carolina, San Jose State
1975: Don James 5-2 (6-5); Arizona State, Texas, Navy, Alabama
1957: Jim Owens 3-4 (3-6-1); Colorado, Minnesota, Ohio State
1956: Darrell Royal 4-4 (5-5); Minnesota, Illinois
1953: John Cherberg 2-4-1 (3-6-1); Colorado, Michigan, Utah
1948: Howard Odell 2-5-1 (2-7-1); Minnesota, Notre Dame
Regarding the ’14 Huskies, remember:
— They didn’t beat an FBS team with a winning record, something that can’t change in the bowl game.
— They were again uncompetitive with Oregon, for the 11th straight year.
— They didn’t break through the Oregon-Stanford 1-2 stranglehold of the Pac-12 North — despite Stanford’s vulnerability — something a lot of us thought was possible.
— The clock-mismanagement fiasco at Arizona took away from what could have gone down as a very strong finish, and ultimately, kept the Huskies under .500 in the Pac-12.
In the historical comparison of UW coaches, it would be next to impossible to catalog the varying degrees of material they were left, but that’s also obviously a factor. Neuheisel, for instance, inherited Marques Tuiasosopo, while Petersen took over a program with no proven quarterback, and then Cyler Miles’ off-field problem compounded the issue. That has to be balanced against the fact the UW had three first-team AP All-Americans in Shaq Thompson, Danny Shelton and Hau’oli Kikaha.
This isn’t to knock Petersen, who I believe proved he’s a very good coach with his impeccable record at Boise State. But I believe he’d probably tell you this wasn’t anything approaching an illustrious season — more like a reasonable start to his tenure.