BY Art Thiel 03:17PM 12/18/2020

Thiel: Huskies do the right thing, will skip a bowl

Coach Jimmy Lake, certain Monday his Huskies were headed for a bowl, was brought down Friday by the UW decision not to pursue a bid because of a lack of healthy players.

Jimmy Lake finally was made to understand a bowl game was not a good idea. / Scott Eklund, University of Washington

Apparently, somebody at the University of Washington got to Jimmy Lake.

The idea he offered up Monday that the football team he coaches was going to have enough players ready to practice and play in a bowl game, given the roster havoc wrought by COVID-19, bordered on the absurd.  Athletics director Jen Cohen finally delivered Friday afternoon the only plausible decision that could be made:

Nope.

“We have made a medical decision to not pursue a bowl bid this year,” she said in a department statement. “The last 10 days we have made every effort, including pausing all football-related activities and continued aggressive testing protocols, to be able to have our team ready to return to the field.

“However, with the number of positive cases, specifically at the offensive line position, we will not have a team ready for competition, due to our comprehensive return-to-play medical protocols.”

Head football-team physician Dr. Kim Harmon added, “We would have not been able to have a team that was ready to return to practice and safely prepare for and compete in a bowl game.”

For his part, Lake acknowledged that he was up against a foe too formidable:

“Despite the aggressive protocols we created and implemented at the onset of the season, and have strictly adhered to throughout the year, we still found ourselves in this position due to the power of this virus,” he said in the statement.

Lake in his Zoom presser seemed to rely on the fact that other teams infected seemed to be able to resume play after a two-week quarantine. But that didn’t jibe with his own disclosure that the entirety of the offensive line, including walk-ons, was placed either in isolation or quarantine, nor did he seem to get the drastic nature of the current virus surge across the nation.

UW refuses to disclose the number of football-specific cases, and which are infections requiring isolation and which are close contacts requiring quarantine. The school rationale is student-health privacy, even though media is highly unlikely to have requested names. UW indirectly violated its own policy anyway, by identifying one position group as the largest caseload.

Whatever the less-than-honest message, the Huskies season is over at 3-1, good enough to be declared the North Division winner by Commissioner Larry Scott. But the Pac-12 Conference title game went on without them Friday, with 3-2 Oregon representing the North and triumphing 31-24 over South Division champ Southern Cal (5-1) in Los Angeles. That ended any pretense of the Trojans entering the discussion for the College Football Playoffs. The four-team field will be announced Sunday.

Other Pac-12 schools Stanford, Washington State, UCLA and Utah have also opted out of consideration for bowls. At least 10 bowls also said they will not host games.

The Huskies lost out on playing two regular season games due to virus outbreaks Nov. 7 at Cal and Nov. 27 at Washington State, although they were able to replace the Apple Cup game with one against Utah. Because of their own outbreak last week, they couldn’t field a team to travel to Eugene to play the scheduled game against the Ducks.

Since no case reported by the athletics department has included serious symptoms, there is that one bit of good news upon which to go out. As far as the public knows.


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    Good move by UW. This season has been pretty much an exhibition season for the conference. Hard to gear up for a PAC12 championship with so few games played and no one qualifying for the National Playoffs, much less a pandemic and other issues affecting the country. Can’t wait for 2021.

    • Husky73

      Amen.

    • art thiel

      I understand the business decision. But from a standpoint of competitive fairness, outbreaks diminished different teams at different times. A true championahip season was not possible.

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  • Hockeypuck

    Could you elaborate as to how this was a “less-than-honest message”? On Monday 12/14 it was announced the Huskies couldn’t play for the PAC-12 championship – played yesterday 12/18. Yesterday 12/18 the Huskies announced they would skip a bowl game altogether – which would have in theory been played on 12/28 (give or take a day). So it’s possible some players on the COVID list MONDAY (infected or in close proximity with the infected) could have been cleared from COVID list by FRIDAY, thus providing a roster sufficient to play a December 28 bowl game. Timing is everything. It means everything would have to have gone ” just right” between Monday and Friday for this to happen. It didn’t. Quite possibly many players became eligible in the ensuing days between Monday – Friday, but even more new infections /close proximity players were identified during the four-day period. Hence the opt-out of a December 28 bowl game.

    IF my chronology is accurate, Jimmy Lake (on Monday) was simply too optimistic or unrealistic in projecting the roster available to him by Friday. There’s a difference between too optimistic and “less-than-honest”. Like I said timing is everything. With regard to Jimmy Lake’s (inadvertent?) slip regarding the offensive line, I’m sure the UWs administration/legal teams are crawling up his ass on this one. He clumsily bounced off the privacy law – really no reason to bitch about it. Expect even less candor from JL going forward.

    I may not have recalled this week’s events correctly. If my understanding of the chronology is inaccurate, then everything I wrote above is moot (actually wrong) and accept my apologies. I’m not an apologist for college football or the UW athletic department. The wisdom of even attempting to play college football at all can be brought into question. But clarifications regarding the above would be helpful. To summarize:

    “What did the President know, and when did he know it?”
    – Howard Baker

    • Husky73

      Hockey, I agree. I don’t think that Cohen was being less than honest or violating policy, directly or indirectly. The school is dealing with students and their parents who probably prefer that their offspring have a degree of medical privacy, while still trying to be accurate and accountable to the media and the fan base that pays the bills. But, I also do not believe that what and when is important. The University made a decision based on the health of their players. That’s good enough to me.

      • Hockeypuck

        Bottom line – I would agree – the players health won out as it should. My only point is – that in a time of complete chaos – there’s really no need to cast aspersions regarding anyone’s honesty when facts change daily and no one can predict the COVID landscape over even a single day. And to to Coolguy’s point above, it seems that lawyers are behind the UW’s stance. Let’s just give everyone a pass and move on. Hopefully next year will see a return to “normalcy”

        • art thiel

          Regarding the decision made by attorneys — yes, of course. That’s been true every step of the way. That’s what drove the Pac-12/Big Ten’s initial decision not to play, and I wrote about it. The P12 bosses, given all the unknowns at the time, decided the risks weren’t worth it. Lake stood at a podium and said he was sure the other conferences would come around.

          Obviously, that turned out not to be accurate too. What seemed lost in the discussion was that every school’s chief counsel recommended not going against the public health mandates of local officials, otherwise it invites liability cases that would be open-and-closed verdicts of gross negligence.

      • art thiel

        It’s also a public health issue. I believe “what and when” are important. My experience in journalism tells me that a lack of transparency benefits the powerful at the expense of the individual. Perhaps you have seen examples recently in the other Washington.

    • art thiel

      By less than honest, I was referring to the secrecy around the test results. I believe Lake genuinely thought UW had a good shot at a bowl, but what happened that led him to believe that? How was it that he was allowed to look naive?

      And none of us on the outside were allowed to know when positives occurred, how many were on the football team, and how many were in quarantine and not isolation. None of that would have required identifying specific players, certainly not as many as Lake disclosed by saying the entire O-line was unavailable.

      I know that Lake believes the info would put UW at a competitive disadvantage, but this is a public-health issue too, not football injuries. If the Pac-12 mandated public disclosure from all schools all the time, there would have been no disadvantage. Apparently, no one made that a priority.

      I also realize all the decision-makers were in a tough, unprecedented spot. I just wish they believed in transparency in a time where facts can be abused by the powerful.

      • Hockeypuck

        Art – okay thanks for the clarification and i understand your point. Please accept my apology HP

  • 1coolguy

    Appears to be a decision made by the attorneys, not the AD and Lake.
    Ohio State won their Big 10 championship today without 22 players.
    Of the Big 5 conferences, the PAC-12 seems out of step. Of course if we find a problem caused in any of the other 4 conferences, we would all want to know about it.

    • art thiel

      And we still don’t know how many players Washington didn’t have because of COVID in the loss to Stanford.

  • Alan Harrison

    Gee whiz, if we could combine two or more schools like the two Pennsylvania NFL teams during WWII with their “Steegles” just to get enough players (The Coukies? The Duckers? The Dawgbeavcougquackers?), then there might have been enough players to play a football game in the middle of a pandemic that won’t be over for 6-9 months because money. Because SEC. Because ACC. Because recruiting. Because cowardice. It’s hard to call this a positive move when there was no other choice. It’s like saying that, post-iceberg, we made a positive move to stop playing shuffleboard on the Titanic.