BY Steve Rudman 09:44AM 10/23/2013

In Climb From 0-12, Huskies Still Going Uphill

Huskies have made incremental progress since the nadir of 2008, but still have quite a climb before they can successfully bang heads with the best in the Pac-12.

Washington receiver Joshua Perkins stumbles after making a catch during Washington’s 53-24 loss at Arizona State Saturday. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The cringe over Washington’s three-game losing streak as an encore to the school’s first 4-0 start since 2001 will abate over the next three weeks when the Huskies play winnable contests against California (1-6-0) and Colorado (3-3-0), both at Montlake. Assuming a rebound there, the Huskies will be bowl eligible by Nov. 9, a momentary sigh of relief for UW boosters before another stretch of angst arrives.

The Huskies play their final three at No. 12 UCLA (5-1), at No. 25 Oregon State (6-1) and at home against Washington State (4-4), which knocked down 38 points on Oregon last Saturday in a 62-38 loss.

As Washington demonstrated again last Saturday in its 53-24 erasure at Arizona State, the Huskies are never at their best when they play away from home. Under Steve Sarkisian, Washington is 6-14 in conference road games with only one of the six victories coming against a ranked opponent (USC, 2010).

It’s actually worse than that. Only two of the six wins came against a team with a winning record at the time of the game – 4-0 USC in 2010 and 2-1 Utah in 2011 – The four other victories came against clubs with a combined record of 11-30 at game time, including 2-9 WSU in 2010 and 1-9 Colorado last year.

In Sarkisian’s 14 road defeats (dating to 2009), Washington allowed 40 or more points eight times and 50 or more five times, including 53 Saturday, the most since surrendering 65 at Stanford in 2011.

Suddenly, Washington State looms as a threat to win the Apple Cup for the second consecutive year after rolling up 38 in Eugene against the Ducks (most allowed by Oregon this season), against whom the Huskies mustered 24 in Seattle. Washington State can’t stop anybody, but can Washington take a shootout from the Cougars? WSU averages 30.8.

It’s clear Washington is headed for a 7-5 or 6-6 regular-season finish, and that the Huskies, as Art Thiel pointed out in “Huskies Can’t Keep Playing Hurt Price,” are not yet ready to compete with top-tier Pac-12 teams, especially away from home. This is a major burr for Sarkisian and UW fans who expected better. On the other hand, what should the expectations have been?

Five years ago (2008), Washington went 0-12 under Tyrone Willingham, making UW one of 11 programs in NCAA history to finish 0-12 or worse in a single season. The “recovery” time for the seven teams before Washington and the three since is instructive in getting a handle on where the Huskies are and what expectations should be.

The short takeaway from 0-12 (or worse) teams: Recovery takes years and sometimes doesn’t happen at all.

The worst of the 12, by record, was Army in 2003, which finished 0-13. Army never rebounded. In the 10 seasons since, Army is 35-79 with one winning season (7-6 in 2010) and one minor bowl game (2010 Armed Forces). The current Army team is 3-4 and has yet to stir the ghosts of Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside.

The following are the 12 FBS programs that finished 0-12 or worse. It took the first of the dirty dozen, the 1981 Colorado State Rams, five years to reach .500 and eight seasons to receive a bowl bid. Three of the 12 have yet to produce a winning season:

Year School Coach Rec. Since The O-Fer
2003 Army Todd Berry 0-13 35-79, 1 winning year (2010), 1 bowl
1981 Colorado St. Sark Arslanian 0-12 5 years to winning record, 8 to a bowl
1998 Hawaii Fred von Appen 0-12 7 bowl games but 0-6 this season
2003 SMU Phil Bennett 0-12 3 winning seasons but twice went 1-11
2005 N. Mex. St. Hal Mumme 0-12 0 winning seasons, 0 bowls, 0-6 in ’13
2006 Duke Ted Roof 0-12 0 winning seasons, bowl game in 2012
2006 Fla. Intl. Don Strock 0-12 4 years to winning record (7-6), bowl
2008 Washington Ty Willingham 0-12 3 +.500 records, 3 bowls in 4 years
2009 E. Michigan Ron English 0-12 11-21, no winnning seasons, no bowls
2009 W. Kentucky David Elson 0-12 2 +.500 records, 1 bowl game (2012)
2012 So. Miss Ellis Johnson 0-12 Went 0-12 one year after going 11-2

After hiring June Jones in 1999, Hawaii made the swiftest turnaround, going 9-4 with an Oahu Bowl invitation one year following 0-12. Hawaii has posted four seasons of 10+ wins and played in seven bowl games since, including the 2008 Sugar Bowl. But the Hawaiians have managed only one winning season since and are 0-6 as we speak.

New Mexico State is still laboring with the effects of the 0-12 it had in 2005: No winning seasons, no bowl games, 0-6 this season.

More representative of the “O-Fer” bunch is Southern Methodist, 0-12 in 2003. Since the pratfall, the Mustangs have eked out three winning seasons but twice have plopped to 1-11. This year, they’re 1-4.

In contrast to the 11 others that have experienced O-Fers, Washington looks pretty good with three winning seasons and three bowl trips in four years and the opportunity to make it 4-for-5 with a positive finish this season. Also, of the 12 O-Fer teams, Washington is the only one to receive a national ranking any time within five years of 0-12.

The Huskies have spent eight total weeks in the rankings since Willingham departed, including six consecutive this season. That streak ended last Sunday when the Huskies predictably dropped out of the AP and USA Today/Coaches polls.

Based on the post-0-12 experiences of the 11 clubs besides Washington to endure such a downer, it’s impossible to say how long it will be before the Huskies become a Pac-12 title contender. They are closer now than they were a year ago, way closer than two years ago. But after losing by a combined 98-48 the past two Saturdays, the creep out of the mire is a long slog from done.


  • long time Husky

    No apologist here…
    Washington has all the;recruiting base, facilities,fan support and money to be in the top tier. I’m not buying it.
    Just compare the other teams that have gone 0-12.
    No contest.Washington has no excuse.

  • HuskyFanPodcast

    The 2006-2007 squads were the same in computer rankings as the 2009-2012 squads. There isn’t a big difference. 2008 was a total aberration. Sark won 5 his first year and 7 his second year and has barely improved the 3 years since then. The struggles are entirely bc Sark is not a good coach. Jim Harbaugh inherited a worse team and turned them into BCS contenders in 3-4 years. We need to stop using the 2008 excuse to defend a terrible coach in Sark. In 5 years he has not had 1 top 30 offense!

  • Seattle Psycho

    That is a terrible comparison. Army? Really? They cannot recruit like UW can (should) and the other teams (besides Duke, a b-ball school) are not in a top tier conference. I like Sark, appreciate what he has done for the program but the lack of quality in o-line/d-line recruits is holding us back.

  • FishDawg

    This is a horrible article that seriously lacks in meaningful analysis. Washington is not comparable to any of the other “0-fer” teams mentioned here. We have a new stadium, a rich tradition of winning Rose Bowls, a large fan base, and excellent recruiting. None of the programs mentioned in this article have any of that. There is simply no comparison. Washington and Sarkisian have no excuses this year to go 7-6 or even 8-4, which would be a miserable failure. Steve Rudman: Please write things in the future that are smart and well reasoned.

  • Matt712

    Among many possible other factors, the difficulty in recruiting coming off an 0-12 season is something all these programs shared. In Washington’s case, it was compounded by decaying facilities. And although for the last 2 or 3 seasons, Sark was probably able to at least unroll a blueprint for the new stadium, there’s nothing like the real thing. Point is, until this year, there’s no way he hasn’t been handicapped in recruiting. It will be interesting to how that goes from now on.

  • Effzee

    If you go 0-12, which we did, you get compared to other programs that went 0-12. It comes with the territory, and its entirely fair. No 0-12 team can claim than they were better than any other 0-12 team. Winning zero games removes the word “better” from the conversation. Like it or not, as Hugh Millen pointed out on the radio the other day, we are not Don James Husky Football any more. Our last Rose Bowl appearance was a dozen years ago! We are 80-94 since 1999. and 47-78 since 2003. That’s a Mariners-like 31 games under .500 for the past decade. You can blame it on anything you want, or use whatever excuses you want, justify it a thousand ways from Sunday, but the brutally painful reality is we are exactly what we are, which is, simply: Not yet back to being a top-tier program.

  • Stephen Johnson

    The issue today is twofold:
    1. The fall of UW football in the eye’s of the public
    2. The meteoric rise of Oregon football in the eye’s of the public

    As UW hit a tail spin, Oregon was there to gobble up everything UW dropped. Now that UW has awoken from it’s slumber, it not only faces the problem of trying to gain its reputation back (which is challenging by itself), but also take this perception; recruits & casual fans) away from Oregon as both schools share nearly the same region (recruiting battles are taking place every day, both directly and indirectly. Business/marketing brand analysis would say “It’s 10x harder & more expensive to take a customer away from a competitor than to just keep your own.” That means for the UW brand to get back to where they were with Coach James, it will take a lot of resources, money, and luck to change public perception.

  • Tired of losing

    So why not compare this to Auburns1 win season 2 years ago and subsequent rise this year? Clearly it should not take this long. Quit using 0-12 as a crutch. No more bs excuses