A couple of nights ago, I was watching my Gonzaga Bulldogs put a finish to the Washington State University Cougars at the Kennel in Spokane, WA. While its always enjoyable to watch my Zags prove that they are the best team on the east side of Washington State, I can't help but share my frustration with the University of Washington basketball team. The reason being that I believe they are afraid to play the Zags in a fair manner.
2006 was the last year that the two teams played one another, with Gonzaga beating Washington in convincing fashion with a score 97-77. The Huskies though defeated, probably were not surprised to lose that game, it was pretty much the norm for the team when competing against Gonzaga. From 1996 to 2006, the Huskies and the Zags played each other ten times, with Gonzaga wining eight of those contests. This probably was not well received by the Huskies, who were vying to become one of the better programs in the Pac10 and yet, they couldn't manage to prove that they were even the best basketball team in the state.
At some point near 2006,University of Washington decided to not continue their yearly contest with Gonzaga. There are rumors that the reason UW walked away because Gonzaga reported that the UW violated some recruiting requirements, while trying to sign Josh Heytfelt to a letter of intent. That is hardly surprising, considering Barbara Hedges was the athletic director and lets just say that she was willing to overlook certain violations (Rick Neuheisal). Another rumored reason for UW backing out of the annual game is because Gonzaga played too well against Husky coach Lorenzo Romar. After the 2004-2005 annual game between the two schools, Romar intimated that he felt the Zags had done something unethical by discussing how they had been a little too well prepared. He then quit allowing open practices after that loss.
When you combine the fact that Gonzaga routinely beat the Huskies during their annual contest, and that the Bulldogs were able to out recruit the UW for local talent (Josh Heytfelt and Robert Sacre), its no wonder that the Huskies decided to pull out. If you are the lesser of two teams, demonstrating that annually, why would you play a better team every year? All it does is undermine your ability to recruit in the area as a result.
So what is Washington's plan as of now? Well, they have offered to play Gonzaga yearly at Key Arena or a two games at the UW for one game at Gonzaga. Either of these proposals are laughable as Gonzaga has been the better basketball school that last several years and why would they forfeit home court advantage just to play the Huskies? So instead, the Huskies have taken the easier road as proven by their pre-season schedule: in 2008 Portland, Florida International, Lehigh, Morgan State, Pacific, Cleveland State, etc. In 2009 Wright State, Cal State Northridge, San Jose State, San Francisco, etc. In 2010 McNeese State, Virginia, Long Beach State, Portland, ect. In 2011 Georgia State, Florida Atlantic, Houston Baptist, South Dakota State, etc. Each year they do actually play approximately two national programs in pre-season, but the rest of the games sound like the Sisters of the Poor and the School for the Deaf.
Meanwhile, Gonzaga is famous for playing the hardest or second hardest pre-season schedule every year. Too bad they cannot add Washington to that schedule. Mark Few has adopted an any time any place attitude for Gonzaga, while Lorenzo Romar would rather play inferior teams. The two programs couldn't be any more dissimilar. For my money, I will take Gonzaga any time; they aren't afraid of a fight.