SEATTLE – Dear Mr. Football: Has the 1998 Leap By the Lake been romanticized to the point of overkill?
A: In retrospect, it’s amazing Arizona needed Ortege Jenkins to somersault into the end zone to beat the Huskies.
Washington had been crushed 55-7 a week earlier by Nebraska and would finish 6-6.
Two things almost no one recalls on the 15th anniversary of that game: (1) the Huskies missed a 23-year field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter, and had another field goal and an extra-point kick blocked; (2) UA linebacker Marcus Bell, not Jenkins, was the best player on the field. He made what is believed to be a school-record 24 tackles and blocked a field goal attempt.
None of it mattered; the Wildcats were singing in the rain as if they had taken down Alabama.
Dear Mr. Football: Is it shameful that the UW, or any school, spent more than $250 million to rebuild a football stadium?
A: If there is any shame (in a football perspective) it’s that the Huskies didn’t name a room, a hallway or a field after the man who oversaw their rise to national prominence, Mike Lude.
The former Washington athletic director, who has lived in Tucson for 15 years, attended the debut of new Husky Stadium a few weeks ago and was denied access to the field.
He told a security guard to look at the towering upper deck that he designed 30 years earlier. “I built that,’’ he said. It has rarely been mentioned that Lude modeled that upper deck and its attendant stadium club after the 1975 expansion of Arizona Stadium.
Lude inherited a $400,000 athletic department deficit when he arrived at Washington in 1975 and left it with an $18 million surplus when he departed in 1991. In today’s dollars, that’s almost $40 million. At minimum, they should give him a lifetime sideline pass.
Dear Mr. Football: How did Rich Rodriguez spend the Saturday of Arizona’s bye week?
A: Just before noon, RichRod walked into the Target store on Kolb and Grant and shopped for food. Almost nobody recognized or stopped him.
This is not unique in Pac-12 football. With the exception of Wazzu’s Mike Leach and Oregon State’s Mike Riley, every Pac-12 coach can shop in relative privacy on his home turf.
RichRod could not have done that in Morgantown, W.Va., or Ann Arbor, Mich., without a mob scene or a film crew from a local TV affiliate. In Tucson, he’s Our Kinda Guy (OKG), a Target shopper in the Saturday rush.
My favorite coach-gets-recognized story was from ex-USC coach John McKay, who started 0-26 in his two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He once told me (I was a Bucs’ rookie beat writer) that he stopped at a red light one morning on the way to the club’s headquarters.
“The car next to me honked and I looked over,’’ McKay said. “It was an old woman. I waved to her. She flipped me the bird.’’
There’ll be none of that here.
Dear Mr. Football: Is Washington’s offense the most prolific in Pac-12 history?
A: The Huskies are gaining 629 yards per game, far exceeding the league record 579 set by the 2005 USC Trojans.
Equally impressive, UW quarterback Keith Price has completed 77.7 percent of his passes. Do you realize how good that is? The league record is 71.3 percent, set by Stanford’s Andrew Luck.
Perhaps the three most accomplished QBs in league history, John Elway in 1982 (.646); Rodney Peete in 1988 (.621) and Jim Plunkett in 1970 (.544) can’t match that.
How times change: Last year in Tucson, when Price’s team was routed 52-17, Price threw 23 incomplete passes and two interceptions. He might not be the Pac-12 Player of the Year, but he is surely its most improved.
Dear Mr. Football: How much money will Arizona linebacker Jake Fischer make from what could be a total gate receipt take of more than $4 million today?
A: Except for his books, tuition and meal money, Fischer will get a nice breakfast at the downtown Marriott Renaissance and a post-game meal on the flight home. He will also receive free medical care, if needed.
Yet the Just Sports store at the Tucson Mall has Fischer’s No. 33 Arizona jersey on sale in the front window, in red and blue.
If you hurry, you can get a deal for $49.95.
Dear Mr. Football: Is Washington’s Justin Wilcox the most feared defensive coordinator in the Pac-12?
A: Wilcox is Boy Wonder, only 36, and believed to be the highest paid assistant coach in the league, being paid $800,000 this year. That’s out of whack, but it’s also college football in 2013.
The three most accomplished defensive coordinators in the Pac-12 are Colorado’s Kent Baer, Oregon’s Nick Aliotti and Arizona’s Jeff Casteel, all of whom have won consistently at the highest level.
Of that group, Aliotti, at $502,000, is the highest paid. Baer is at $450,000 and Casteel $425,000, currently the top salary of an assistant coach at Arizona. Big money for an assistant doesn’t necessary lead to big success.
Basketball aide Kevin O’Neill, who was awarded a $750,000-a-year deal when the UA hoped he was the answer to Lute Olson’s declining power, was a bust.
Dear Mr. Football: Will the Wildcats be singing in the rain again tonight?
A: When Arizona meets a ranked Washington team in Seattle it is unofficially The Rain Game. In 1978, 1984, 1991, 1998, 2000 and 2001 it rained when Arizona met UW teams ranked everywhere from No. 1 to No. 22.
It rained so hard in 1988, against an unranked Washington team, that Arizona nose tackle Dana Wells forced a fumble at the UW’s 6-yard line with 53 seconds to play in a tied game. Arizona won with a field goal, 16-13.
“The ball was slippery and I got it out,’ ” said Wells, who was the Pac-12’s Morris Trophy winner (the league’s top lineman) in 1987 and 1988.
Maybe this is a good omen: Wells was invited to speak at Seattle’s Washington Athletic Club this year, the keynote figure in the annual Morris Trophy ceremony.
This is the 25th anniversary of his Rain Game fumble
But it’s likely Arizona will need more than a few slippery footballs to beat the Huskies. This is Steve Sarkisian’s fifth season. His reconstruction is done. He has a sizzling senior quarterback and a home-field advantage that is second to none, not even to the Ducks’ thunder at Autzen Stadium.
I suspect this game could get out of control and add to the Huskies’ gaudy statistical resume. It won’t mean much in RichRod’s big picture, but his “be comfortable being uncomfortable’’ mantra is apt to be seriously tested.
Washington 49, Arizona 27.