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Times reporter Bob Condotta keeps the news coming about the Montlake Dawgs.

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July 24, 2008 12:14 PM

Wrapping up media day

Posted by Bob Condotta

As mentioned in the other post, I couldn't access the sound to the Pac-10 media day live streaming early on into Rick Neuheisel's comments (conspiracy theories abound in my head).

So I don't have anything else to throw your way that I gathered.

Instead, I'll pass along a few links that should give you about all you really need to know, and if anything else comes my way later, I'll pass that on, as well:

--- ESPN's Ted Miller hits the highlights of every coach (though I imagine right now he's hitting the buffet line --- that's what I'd be doing if I were there).

--- Here are some USC notes.

--- Here's UCLA from the Orange County Register and from the LA Times.

--- Here's more USC, including a lively debate sparked by coach Pete Carroll over some new rules at the coaches meeting with officials this morning.

--- Here's an Oregon State view.

--- Jon Wilner wonders who is the one person who voted Cal No. 1.

--- This has nothing to do with media day, but the creatively named "WSU Football Blog'' has some interesting takes on the Huskies contained herein.

All for now.

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Posted by bkiggy994

12:39 PM, Jul 24, 2008

NEXT year the Huskies will finish top 3 in the conference and, barring injury, Jake the Snake will finish in the Top 2 in the Heisman race. from the WSU blog...

Well really, I wouldn't mind that, however he states that we will be 9th this year so I guess if I doubt the latter I have to doubt the former.

Posted by Jordan

12:51 PM, Jul 24, 2008

I see no scenario where Locker makes it past week 7. Bob are you kidding me??? Why would you link something where the author is gleeful in the possibility of a kid getting hurt and makes an absolutely idiotic statement like that??? Stop posting this crap or I'm done reading your blog.

Posted by James

12:54 PM, Jul 24, 2008

Bob,
Does anyone cover the dinner the athletes have together? I think it would make for interesting reading what they talk about, if they share strategies, ect.
Has anyone broken from the pack and picked the dogs higher than 5th? Thanks!

Posted by Bob Condotta

1:10 PM, Jul 24, 2008

James --- Last year, when I attended media day, the players went to the same dinner the media did, but sat at a different table. They want the players to have some time to themselves there so we're not really encouraged to talk with them then. In the old days, however, I once ended up sitting across from Stanford receiver Troy Walters. I didn't get the sense they talk strategy much. It's more that a lot of them know a lot of the same people, teammates from high school who now play for that team, etc. Or they know all the same coaches from recruiting, etc. I got the sense there was a lot more of that kind of talk.

I haven't seen any media people pick UW above five.

Jordan --- Guess I didn't see that as gleeful as much as just in the spirit of the whole blog, which is a little more in-your-face or whatever. But I thought the take on UW, and ranking the Huskies ahead of the Cougars, might be something people would be interested in reading.

Posted by Ziasudra

1:24 PM, Jul 24, 2008

I just scanned some of the photos, and it seemed to be homosexually oriented. I'm not a "homophobe," but I can choose my reading. I chose not to read it.

Posted by 2000 Huskies Respond

1:29 PM, Jul 24, 2008

FROM DERRICK JOHNSON'S BLOG. THIS IS CALLED A STORY SEATTLE TIMES. WHERE BOTH SIDES ARE GIVEN

The 2000 Washington Huskies respond to The Seattle Times

It was during a 2004 interview with former Washington coach Don James that I asked him who he blamed for the downfall of his program back in 1993. “Well for starters, I think it’s The Seattle Times,” he said. “I live in this community and I watch them beat up everybody, not just the football program. I’ve watched them beat up on Boeing and Nordstrom and all the great industries in this community. They all get beat up by the local press. Maybe that happens everywhere. But I have lived in a lot of places and I haven’t see it elsewhere.”

In January 2008, for better or worse,The Seattle Times was at it again. Just days prior to Letter-of-Intent Day, with Washington coming off a terrible 4-9 campaign, The Times launched an investigative series entitled Victory and Ruins. It was written by journalists Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry, who unearthed details on criminal and boorish behavior by primarily three former Washington players: tight end Jerramy Stevens (suspected of rape and multiple legal issues), linebacker Jeremiah Pharms (convicted of shooting a drug dealer during a burglary) and the late safety Curtis Williams (disturbing pattern of domestic violence).

In an attempt to wrap the series up in a positive manner, The Times concluded with an article on the inspirational story of linebacker Anthony Kelley (Prop 48 case who turned his life around and excelled academically, despite a football culture that reportedly sought to prevent him from doing so).

Said The Seattle Times in their article that opened the series:

“Husky faithful look back wistfully to their last great team: the 2000 squad, winners of the Rose Bowl, owners of an 11-1 record, ranked no. 3 in the nation.

“`A mystical, magical season,” one sportswriter called it at the time. What happened on the field in 2000 may have been magical. But what happened off it was not.

“An unprecedented look behind the scene– based largely on documents unavailable at the time– reveals a disturbing level of criminal conduct and hooliganism by the players on that team.

“Former coach Rick Neuheisel and athletic director Barbara Hedges accepted most of it, demanding little discipline or accountability from their athletes. And other community institutions, including prosecutors, police, judges and the media went along.

“Beyond the roses, that was the legacy of the Neuheisel-Hedges era, and the ruins that (current coach Tyrone Willingam) and (former athletic director Todd Turner) inherited in 2004.”

The series ignited a firestorm of controversy in the Seattle region as well on the national scene. For several days it was the talk of radio airwaves, newspaper columns and message boards like that found on Dawgman.com. Husky football fans felt confusion and outrage over a local newspaper dragging the reputation of a deceased man (Curtis Williams) through the mud, and seemingly trying to undermine the football program again, this time with eight-year old news. Others felt the exposure served a good purpose by showing how football players are favored institutionally over “ordinary” students and citizens.

Despite the fact that the cited players, coaches and administrators were long gone from the scene, the University of Washington was branded widely (again) as an outlaw program. A popular national blog even ran the thunderously condemning headline: THE 2000 WASHINGTON HUSKIES WERE HORRIBLE PEOPLE.

As the wrath of Husky fans focused upon The Seattle Times, the series writers’ Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry refused all interviews and maintained low profiles. Seattle Times Senior Executive Editor David Boardman went public to answer questions, and claimed during a radio interview on KJR that he felt “immense pride” over the series. Boardman’s supporters felt he had tied the series up effectively. Boardman’s detractors believed he came off as an arrogant elitist.

————

While this situation raged, I found myself in a highly ironic situation. I was in the early stages of researching a book about the 2000 Washington Huskies and the late Curtis Williams. (Former UW coach Rick Neuheisel has recently written a foreword for it and the book will be published in late 2008 or 2009).

From the months of January through May of this year, I interviewed 26 players and 3 coaches off that 2000 Rose Bowl squad. I also spoke with Curtis Williams’ brother and caretaker David Williams, Manu Tuiasosopo, former recruiting coordinator Dick Baird and concluded finally with Seattle Times writer Nick Perry. Of note, Jerramy Stevens declined to speak with me and I failed to track down Jeramiah Pharms. Ken Armstrong and David Boardman did not respond to interview requests.

In each of the player interviews, I made sure to ask about the Times series. With the exception of former Huskies Kyle Benn and Chad Ward, I am unaware of any players who went public with their thoughts.

Given that set of circumstances, I felt it noteworthy to compile the players’ responses toward Victory and Ruins. Of note, during a long interview back in February with Marques Tuiasosopo, he declined to speak publicly about the series.


COMMENTS FROM THE 2000 WASHINGTON HUSKIES

What was your reaction to the Victory and Ruins series?


I was furious, confused and pissed. It was nothing much that hadn’t already been brought out. I didn’t understand why they decided to drag one of the best Husky teams in years through the mud. Obviously, Jerramy has had his problems, that’s no secret. J.P has had his problems and paid his due. And Curtis, we knew he had some family trouble in the past. That was the thing we loved seeing about him, was that after being given an ultimatum of being kicked off the team, he grew up and kept his nose out of a lot of stuff. He was sixteen credits away from graduation. Even regarding the things they said about him that were true, it should be considered that Curtis paid the ultimate price. We were really pissed that they dragged his name through the mud.

We were also pissed that they tried to tie in the other 115 guys on the team to that. Especially in putting Marques Tuiasosopo’s picture on the cover. Tui is the most stand-up guy I know, hands down. They painted a picture of a program gone wild. Of hoodlums and thugs, and just free reign to do whatever we wished, and it wasn’t like that. You paid a price if you messed up, for the most part.

Kyle Benn, offensive lineman

My response to The Seattle Times series is this: That 2000 season was the most special year I’ve had as a football player. The guys came from all kinds of different backgrounds and had different issues. Yet we all came together from the tragedy of Curtis Williams and every game was a fight. We weren’t the most talented team that stepped on the field every week, but our guys were going to fight and do whatever it took to win games. It’s unfortunate that we had a lot of guys that got in trouble or had unfortunate events that happened in the media. But for that year and that moment, there was none of that. There was no bickering or fighting, everybody was friendly. There was no racial divide, no economic divide. We had a true passion for trying to win. What happened to those guys before and after should not taint what happened in that 2000 season. Well over 90% of that team was comprised of really good guys. I was happy to be a part of that team and I haven’t been a part of anything like that since.

Larry Tripplett, defensive lineman

I didn’t like how they tried to repackage old information to make us look bad, including Curtis since he has passed. Why would a local paper want to dig up information that was eight years old and drag the team through the mud like that, I don’t know. They made us look like a bunch of criminals. And they made Curtis look like a raging monster. But he was a good friend and one of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet.

Chad Ward, offensive lineman

For me, growing up and living in the South in SEC territory, how does a local newspaper throw their local university under the bus more than the Seattle Times? If that kind of thing had happened in the SEC, that paper would probably lose their media credentials. And it’s not just what they wrote, but when they wrote it. And the main thing was that the story was the story.

It’s sad that the local newspaper would try to maliciously attack the local team that won a Rose Bowl eight years ago… Curtis Williams gave his life to Washington football. If that’s not punishment enough, I don’t know what is. It makes me sick to think that people would write about that for their own benefit.

John Anderson, placekicker

I found it highly disturbing that the local newspaper would try denigrate the memory of Curtis Williams and of the 2000 Rose Bowl team.

Elliot Silvers, offensive lineman

For the guys who messed up, they paid their dues. Jerramy has paid his dues. His career is looked at as a failure. And the animosity that people hold toward him is incredible. J.P. (Jeremiah Pharms) should be in the NFL right now and is not because of what happened. Curtis paid the ultimate price. For the Seattle Times to do what they did to him, and he’s not even here to defend himself!

The way I see that series is that somebody was trying to take away something that was really damn good. That’s what’s killing me. Football is a game, and now we’re getting personal and turning it into a soap opera?

The new president of the University of Washington (Mark Emmert) came out with a statement that the guys on our team weren’t very good guys, but Coach Willingham is cleaning things up now. That pissed me off. That is the president of my alma mater. He hasn’t even met me. He hasn’t met the guys on the team. This is the president of the university reading into things that were said in a newspaper article about the group of thugs on our team and feeling he can pre-judge us.

Wilbur Hooks, wide receiver

I was shocked. Teammates were calling each other grumbling back and forth. That 2000 season was one of the best things that has happened to U-Dub football in recent years and they tore it apart. They didn’t get both parts of the story. It was a dishonor to the entire team. We weren’t a bad group of guys.

–Braxton Cleman, running back

That whole series was slanted. They tried to make the entire team sound like ruffians and thugs. Don’t get me wrong, we had a few guys who did stupid things and had their indiscretions. At the same time, we had guys that did community service and spoke at elementary schools and high schools. They say that in journalism, you’re supposed to be objective. I could understand that if they wrote about Jerramy Stevens and his troubles, and then wrote about Marques Tuiasosopo and all the good things he did on and off the field, and then let people form an opinion. Or if they wanted to write about Jeremiah Pharms, and then write about good people like Pat Reddick who came back after two major knee surgeries. If The Seattle Times had written equally like that, then I wouldn’t be as angry about it. But they made it seem like we were Miami in the early 1990s. Just a bunch of guys running amok in Seattle; not going to class, taking drugs, raping women and raising hell.

Derrell Daniels, linebacker

I didn’t understand the timing of it or the relevance of it. Eight years ago seemed a little ridiculous. The deal with Curtis was completely inappropriate. The other guys are here to defend themselves. Curtis isn’t here to do so. They were stomping on his grave.

Todd Elstrom, wide receiver

I was quite disgusted with that. To bring these things up almost a decade later is ridiculous. The headline tarnishing Curtis as a wanted felon, as if that’s all he was. Especially when Curtis isn’t here to defend himself doesn’t sit well with me at all.

Willie Hurst, running back

My reaction was why? It was a great season for the whole team and staff, and they want to bring focus on three players and shed darkness on what was a great season. I knew that Curtis had been involved with some legal troubles, but I didn’t know the details that were in that article. By the time I met him, he was turning things around at that point. My first year, he was getting his grades back, and the year after that he was back in the mix. Nobody played harder than Curtis.

Omare Lowe, cornerback

In writing about Jerramy and Jeremiah, they picked the right ones to do a bad story on. Jeremiah was a different kind of man; he was a maniac. Don’t get me wrong, he was a good brother. But I’ve never seen anyone come with a reckless abandon like that man. I saw him clothesline (teammate) Matthias Wilson with one arm. This man was a beast. He would squat down before practice and piss all over himself and just get DIRTY. I’ve never seen a man who played in that kind of (psychological) place. I loved him on the football field, because he would always have my back. Off the field, Jeremiah was Jeremiah. People always said he was a bit off-kilter. I didn’t know he was caught up in bad stuff, but on occasion people would say things.

I don’t like to judge people, but when Jerramy arrived at Washington he had some case from high school where he hit somebody with a baseball bat or something. He had to get out of jail just to come to Washington. So that’s how he started his journey right away. I don’t have much bad to say about him because he’s my guy. But decisions cost us. There were times were we would say DAMN! COME ON JERRAMY. COME ON BABY. If you get into trouble once or twice, OK. Learn from it. But when it’s four, five, six times, well then it’s HEY MAN I’M TRIPPIN’. Even when he was in the NFL and got into trouble, I would think “You’ve got a blessing there baby, don’t mess it off.”

Hakim Akbar, Safety

It wasn’t just talking about the football season, it was talking in detail about people’s backgrounds and history and things that I didn’t know could be released. I wasn’t upset at first, I was just trying to figure out what the paper was trying to do. I’m not sure why they ran those stories. Newspapers are stretched thin and closing down or having cut-backs. Writers are doing a lot to stay ahead of the internet, because everyone is getting their information on line and not reading the paper itself… But the sad part about was the need to use people’s lives.

Jafar Williams, linebacker

I was a little offended that they decided to pick on the two dead kids (Williams and Anthony Vontoure). It was an attitude of “Let’s pick on the guy whose marriage was bad like many are, and let’s pick on the guy with such severe emotional problems that he couldn’t function.” The only thing that kept Anthony Vontoure from being homeless was football. But they decided to denigrate his memory too.

I thought it was typical of a lot of the mainstream media in the country, where it’s sensationalized in order to sell newspapers and draw attention. I didn’t read all the articles. After I read the article on Curtis I stopped participating in that whole thing. I thought the whole thing was way out of line.

I had known Curtis since he was a junior at high school. I didn’t recruit him while at Colorado (with Rick Neuheisel). When we got to Washington, I lobbied to get Curtis from running back to safety, because I thought he could be a great safety, which he was. Curtis was a young guy who had different things going on with his life that weren’t always positive. But he was an engaging guy, popular with his teammates, and a natural leader. Had he been able to continue with his life away from a wheelchair, or even in a wheelchair, I think he would have been an extremely productive post-graduate adult. That’s my take of him. I’ve got a picture of him in my office here (at the University of Montana), and another one of him at my home. To me, he was pretty inspirational. He was able to climb out of the negative, and turn a lot of things into great positives. I really wish that his life could have extended because I think he would have been a real productive person.

It’s still emotional for me to think about, because it was so devastating. When I sit and think about it, it still hurts me. When I saw Curtis go down (vs. Stanford 10/28/2000), I knew he was hurt bad because he didn’t move. The guys out there trying to tend to him knew it was bad. I remember that I had tears streaming down my face the whole fourth quarter.

Bobby Hauck (former UW assistant & current Head Coach at Montana)

It was particularly upsetting to read what they wrote about Curtis. He obviously didn’t have a chance to give his side. He did so many great things for the university and he was such a great guy, a lot of people’s last memories of Curtis are going to be what they read in The Seattle Times. That wasn’t the person that we knew and loved.

Paul Arnold, Running Back

What were they trying to accomplish with those articles? And why two days before signing day? Two of the guys were dead, and couldn’t defend themselves. They’re not here anymore. Let them rest in peace. When the reporter called me, I ended the interview halfway through. I could see where it was headed. I felt like it discredited a lot of the stuff we had accomplished. Like we were the Wild Wild West and tearing up the City of Seattle.

Dom Daste, offensive lineman

We were all clustered together with some negative aspects of that year. The Seattle Times whitewashed what we accomplished by putting the entire team in a negative light, which was super frustrating. It upset most of us.

I called Marques (Tuiasosopo) and said, “Wait a second! How do you feel having your picture front and center in that article?” Because obviously, Marques was the landmark for that whole season due to his contributions. When people think about the 2000 Washington Huskies, they usually think of him. Marques being Marques, he is really even-keeled. His reaction was way less than mine. Of course, mine may have been an over-reaction. He was like, “I’m a little upset, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Pat Conniff, fullback

I was shocked and upset. I had mixed emotions. I also understand that reporters’ jobs are to investigate and print material that people will read—they certainly accomplished that. But I’m not sure what their goal was. “Hey, if you want to have a winning team, this is what you will encounter.” They also went overboard, especially since most of this stuff happened eight years ago. And there are always two sides to every story… If you take 100 college students, you’re going to have a few bad apples. That’s just human nature.

My strongest emotion in reading that was probably relief that they didn’t use my name in those articles. I have a wife and three kids now, and I’m a commercial real estate broker. I don’t need to be associated with those types of articles.

Spencer Marona, defensive lineman

It was a shocking article. I was thinking “Why now? It’s been eight years.”

Ken Walker, fullback

If these things are happening, then they need to be brought up. My take on it is are we bringing up things just to smear everybody or are we going to make some sort of change? It would have been better if The Seattle Times had brought these things up it would be better while they’re going on, so the people involved can be helped to make change. But when its years later, after people have passed away or moved on, it doesn’t affect them so much as make the University of Washington look like hell. I don’t know what their point was. The only constructive question to ask is, “What do we do as a community or society to make sure that this doesn’t happen anymore?”

(After being informed that David Boardman seemed to imply he had endorsed their series):

No, I wasn’t endorsing what the Seattle Times did at all. I didn’t hear what Boardman said. I wrote my response to them and never went back (to The Seattle Times website). I don’t have a problem with people bringing things forward for the right reason. But just to smear people or sell newspapers– what are you doing it for?

I think Curt did some bad things while he was there, but he was not a bad person. His way to deal with things was to be physical. But if anybody ever met Curt outside of football and away from Michelle, you would think he was a great kid. He had a big intoxicating smile, and he was funny and fun, and would stop and help you with any problem you had.

But early on he got into that bad situation of getting Michelle pregnant and getting married at 17 years of age as soon as he got up to Washington. There’s no way in hell any seventeen year old should be getting married. He didn’t know how to handle the bad situations, and his reaction was partially taught on the field, because in football if you’re hit you then hit back. Curt got into bad situations and I don’t condone how he handled it at all. I just wish I could have been closer to him at that point because I think I had more influence on him than most other people.

David Williams (Curtis Williams’ brother and caretaker after his paralysis)

Posted by jh

2:16 PM, Jul 24, 2008


...great posting 2000...I can't wait to read it...

Posted by ja

2:36 PM, Jul 24, 2008

WSU Football Blog = biggest garbage I have ever read. Seriously though, at least Bob makes an honest attempt to keep this blog somewhat unbiased. I guess I was entertained.

Posted by James

4:08 PM, Jul 24, 2008

Bob,
Thank you for your reply! Troy Walters would have been very interesting to talk to. I was always curious what they talked about, and at that level it makes sense they know quite few friends on other teams.
As for the posts about 2000, the Tui family is one of the most outstanding, honest, hardworking, and respectful I've ever had the privilege to know. Your book should be interesting.

Posted by Jordan

7:09 PM, Jul 24, 2008

Hey Bob,

Never mind about my suggestion to interview Don James. It would be really interesting but I doubt he would talk to you. At least while you work at the Seattle Times. The above quote sure sounds like he is not a big fan of your company.

Posted by Bob Condotta

9:15 PM, Jul 24, 2008

Jordan --- Don James actually talks with us all the time. You could probably google my name and his and find a dozen stories or so where I have quoted him the last few years. I wasn't around in 1993 so I don't know how that all transpired personally. I do know that Don has moved on and is very happy with his life and appears to hold no grudges with anyone, us included. I think he thinks life is too short for that.

Posted by Bob Condotta

9:22 PM, Jul 24, 2008

James --- To clarify, it's not my book, it's Derek Johnson's. You can find info on him and his book at DerekJohnsonBooks.com.

Posted by Jordan

8:22 AM, Jul 25, 2008

Bob,

What am I suppose to Google? I Googled your name with Don James with and without parenthesis and not much came up. While I do not doubt that you have quoted him and talk to him all the time, I guess what I was trying to say (which I didn't do very well) was I am not sure he would tell you much. It does not surprise me that he would talk to you out of a perceived duty to continually represent the University of Washington but he is not going to give you or anyone that works at the Seattle Times any earth shattering opinion on the program, Tyrone Willingham, or its direction which is what I hoped to hear from him. I don't think he would give that to you because I am not sure he trusts your paper. But I could be wrong. Wouldn't be the first time. Just one person's opinion.

As far as not holding a grudge, if that quote really came from Don James then I don't know what holding a grudge means. It sure sounds like 11 years later (when the quote supposedly came from) he still thinks the hometown paper beats up on people in the community. 11 years would qualify as a grudge to me. I don't know about you. I don't know what you want to call it a grudge, mistrust, animosity, but something exists there.

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