The Washington Huskies will open spring football practice at 4 p.m. today, and you're invited.
Among the many ways first-year coach Steve Sarkisian differs from predecessor Tyrone Willingham is his attitude regarding public practices. Willingham wanted to protect his team from distractions, so most practices were closed to media and fans. Sarkisian figures there are plenty of distractions on game days, so his players might as well prepare in game-like conditions.
"I want our kids used to performing in front of people," he explained Monday. "I want them used to having eyes on them. I want them used to feeling that people are watching them. Because the last thing I want is for us to be enclosed, and it's quiet and we're just out there with ourselves. And then we show up to play LSU and there's 73,000 people here and our guys are looking in the stands like, 'Oh my gosh, they're here to watch me, they're here to watch us.' And now they're worried about the stands and the people watching; and not what's important, and that's the game."
Sarkisian said he also wants open practices so that fans and media can understand how hard his coaches and players are working. Finally, he believes "it's a big deal that we continue to create the buzz for Husky football." He said open practices allow fans who normally watch games from the upper deck to get a much closer look and better appreciation of the speed, skill and collisions of major college football.
"Those are experiences – especially with young kids – that you don't get every day," he said. "To get that opportunity, I think, is big; and I think people will enjoy it."
The open practices come with a few rules. Admission is free, but normal on-campus parking fees apply. Weekday practices start at 4 p.m., Saturday practices at 1 p.m. Practices will be held today, Thursday and Saturday this week; then Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays through April 25. Stadium entry is through the northeast corner, near the softball stadium. No still or video photography is allowed, and fans are asked to turn off the cell phones.