Last week it was Ron Zook that made headlines when he was fired from his job, and Washington has decided its their turn to make a change. UDub just announced that it’s going to replace Keith Gilbertson and his staff after the 2004 season.
“Coach Gilbertson and I have talked for several weeks about the football program and we mutually agreed that it needs an immediate boost," said Washington director of athletics Todd Turner. "Keith will finish this season as our head coach and has agreed to assist me beyond that time to develop a strategy for reinvestment by our University in its football program.
“While I was not here when he accepted the head coaching position, I know this has been a difficult two-year tenure for him. He cares very deeply for Husky football and he wants to see it succeed at the highest level. We will always appreciate Keith stepping forward, in the most difficult of times, and attempting to get the program back on course. He loves to coach and he loves this team and he and his staff are going to do everything possible over the next three weeks to help their players win some games.”
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Now the big question how will this effect the Huskies’ recruiting efforts?
Gilbertson took over a Husky program in turmoil just before the 2003 season amidst gambling issues with then-fired coach Rick Neuheisel, who also lied to school officials about seeking other jobs. The Huskies are currently 7-13 under Gilbertson during his two seasons.
Possibly sensing that there was trouble in Montlake, the Huskies only had four commitments for the class of 2005. Santa Clarita (Calif.) College of the Canyons offensive lineman James Paulk was considered to be the top player in the Husky class, but he was already considered to be a soft commitment and was looking at other schools before he made a final decision.
Puyallup, Wash., three-star defensive tackle Adam Grant is considered to be the top high school player in the UDub class, and kicker Ryan Perkins of Lacey (Wash.) North Thurston is another solid pledge. His coach, Rocky Patchin, said he wasn’t really surprised by Washington’s decision to make a change.
“Any time that anybody goes through a losing steak, there is talk in the (coaching community) that they’re going to jump on them and make a chance,” Patchin said. “I’m surprised that they did it at this point. I’m not surprised they made the change, necessarily, but more surprised at the timing of it. I’m surprised they did it at this juncture, compared to waiting until at the end of the season to do it.”
Patchin said he expects Perkins to remain with the Huskies no matter what, unless the new staff doesn’t want him for some reason.
“I don’t think this will change his mind,” he said. “I just found out about it here a few minutes ago, and I don’t even think Ryan knows yet, but I don’t anticipate him wanting to go another direction, but I guess that’s something you’ll have to ask him. I don’t he’ll do anything different, though.”
Perkins said he’d been hearing for a while about a possible change in coaches.
“I found out during fourth period at my school today,” Perkins said.
“Some teachers were telling me and to make sure they weren't just saying the usual. I checked it on-line and it was true. I had had a sneaking suspicion that Gilby was going to be fired. There had been lots of talks on up to this day that he would, but seeing him and the whole staff go just blows me away.
“I feel bad for all of them, I got to know them real well when I was at their camp in June, they are real nice people and all true Dawgs at heart. They made me feel at home there and it’s too bad that things just haven't been going for them in the last two years. People have been telling me that a change is needed for the better, so we'll see how things work out.”
Perkins at this point isn’t too worried about who will be the coach or when it will happen. But he plans on leaning heavily on Patchin when and if he has to make a decision to look at another school.
“As for me and my opinion, I'm going to focus on my kicking and try and help take my team to state and then worry about everything else,” he said. “My focus right now is solely on my football team and its success. I also really want to go over things with my coach, and I really want his opinion on things because he is my football mentor, he's played a big part in my recruiting, and has helped me through quite a successful kicking season this year, along with the team's success.
“He's a great coach, one of the best I've ever been under.”
But what about the other commitments and what about the others interested in the Huskies?
With the college football season about three quarters done and the NFL still a long way from being done, Washington’s recruiting efforts likely will be stuck in idle for quite some time.
That will allow other teams to step in and work to take further control of Washington. Teams like Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Cal and USC have to be licking their chops right now and it’s likely that the nation’s No. 1 running back, Jonathan Stewart, will be playing his football someplace other than Seattle.
With UDub’s struggles on the field this year, that already was likely to happen, but that’s something that just wouldn’t happen in the early 90s or even when Neuheisel was coaching. The top players in Washington were almost always Husky locks, and the crumbling of that trend late in the Neuheisel era and throughout the Gilbertson regime has been tough for Husky fans to swallow.
And if the Huskies aren't able to get a head coach in place by early December, it can definitely have a lasting effect on the future of the Washington program. The Pac 10 is no place for a program to have an off year in recruiting, even when you're making a transition to a new coach.
If you miss in one class in the Pac 10, it can set you back for several years. Yes, indeed Gilbertson’s firing is bound to shake things up this recruiting season and could have a lasting effect throughout the Pac 10.
Mike Warchol of WashingtonPreps.com contributed to this story.