LOS ANGELES – More than a decade has passed since the University of Washington football and men’s basketball teams have advanced to the postseason in the same academic year.
Now that Steve Sarkisian’s football team has done its part with a Holiday Bowl appearance Thursday in San Diego, the focus shifts to Lorenzo Romar’s basketball team, which continues its Pacific-10 Conference season this afternoon at UCLA.
This is the first time in Romar’s nine seasons at UW that the football team has gone bowling. And he sounds as happy about it as any other fan.
“It’s such fun,” he said this week. “Our (recruits) come in for most of their visits during the football season. ... I think that helps your team. For basketball, every time football is in the national spotlight, that’s advertising for our school, for our athletics in general. ‘The University of Washington’ – you keep hearing it. Regardless of why you’re hearing it, I think that helps with recruiting, and I think it helps with the entire self-esteem of the entire athletics department.”
However, it hasn’t worked that way very often at UW. For the quarter-century, when the football team was regularly going to bowl games, the basketball team rarely advanced to the NCAA tournament or NIT.
And over the past decade, when the basketball team has blossomed, the football team has struggled. And there are few cases across the nation where one university produces true powers in both spots.
“I think it’s purely coincidence,” Romar said. “Unless the administration has decided that we’re only going to support football or we’re only going to support basketball. Then it’s not coincidence. But here, the administration supports both. And I think in a lot of places they support both.”
And yet, UW’s football and basketball teams haven’t gone into the postseason in the same academic year since the football team went to the 1998 Oahu Bowl and the hoops team went to the 1999 NCAA tournament.
Since then, the football team has gone bowling four times and the basketball team has played in a postseason tournament six times – but never in the same academic year.
The football team capped its 1999 season at the Holiday Bowl, its 2000 season at the Rose Bowl, the 2001 season at the Holiday Bowl and the 2002 season at the Sun Bowl. But the basketball team didn’t qualify for the postseason in any of those academic years.
Meanwhile, the basketball team went to the NCAA tournament in 2004, 2005, 2006, the CBI in 2008, and back to the NCAA over the past two seasons – but the football team sat home.
Now the football team has broken its bowl drought in a season when Romar’s Huskies are widely expected to not only qualify for a third straight NCAA tournament, but also make a run in that tournament.
The Huskies took a solid step in that direction Wednesday, when they opened Pac-10 play with a 73-67 overtime win at USC.
Taking a rare win at Pauley Pavilion today would be another indication the school’s rise in one sport need not be accompanied by a decline in the other.
“I hope that is a coincidence, because if football is about to do what I think they’re about to do, then we’re in trouble,” Romar said. “But I think it’s coincidence. And I always felt like you can feed off of each other.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports