Go Huskies! Author W. Thomas Porter talks about Washington football and Don James

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Porter has written a number of books on Washington football and followed the program for more than 50 years.

I recently had the chance to do an interview with W. Thomas Porter, who has written a number of books about Washington football that I'm sure a lot of Husky fans have. He recently released a new book about Washington football titled Go Huskies!: Celebrating the Washington Football Tradition which you can find on Amazon.

The book does an especially great job at capturing the experience of a home game at Husky Stadium. What's your background with the program and going to games?

I grew up on the east coast and attended Rutgers University where I played varsity baseball and basketball and never played teams located past the State of Illinois. In baseball I was selected All-east and All-America and did follow the College World Series from 1950 to 1955. Rutgers finished tied for second in 1950 and in the five years after only eastern and mid-west schools won the title. So I did not know much about West Coast schools and nothing about Washington.

After graduating, I attended the Infantry Officer's Course in Fort Benning Georgia in early 1955 followed by attending Airborne School. After that I was assigned to Fort Lewis and as I drove west I marveled at the national parks in the west, the mountains and eventually Puget Sound.

That fall, I attended a few Husky games including the 7-0 upset of 10th-ranked USC. I met Dixie Jo Thompson in August of 1956 who was the Seafair Queen and a UW sophomore and we attended a few games.

As an MBA student at Washington from the winter quarter of 1958 until May of 1959, I started to attend most home games and continued to do so until we left Seattle with two children to attend the Ph.D. program in business and economics at Columbia University in New York.

I returned to teach in the UW Business School in 1966 and from then on we started to attend most games and I became a season ticket holder in 1984.

In the early nineties I became a member of the Athletic Department's Tyee Board and was asked to chair the Campaign for the Student Athlete which raised over $54 million for the remodeling of Edmundson Pavilion and the building of the Dempsey Indoor facility.

Were you able to make it to the Don James memorial game, and how were you able to get Coach James to write the foreward to the book?

My wife and I attended the Don James Memorial Service. I began to know Don James pretty well when I co-authored my first of four Husky-related books in 2001 - The Glory of Washington - in which we featured the great moments in his coaching career. He was also a member of the National Committee for the Campaign for the Student Athlete. Also, I was an Executive Vice President at Seafirst from 1992-1999 and he joined Seafirst in client relations after he resigned from Washington in 1993.

I asked him to write a foreword to another book I co-authored - Husky Stadium: Great Games and Golden Moments in 2004. And so based on our relationship for almost 20 years and the scope of the Go Huskies book it was very appropriate and easy to ask him write a foreword to the book.

I spent much time with him in the writing of Chapters 8 and 9 on his era and he gave me some wonderful insights about his career and coaching style. He truly was an outstanding coach and person.

What prompted you to write the book?

I was prompted to write the book after I wrote A Football Band of Brothers: Forging the University of Washington's First National Championship to get the Athletic Department to recognize the 1960 team as national champions after besting #1 ranked Minnesota in the 1961 Rose Bowl.

In doing research for that book, I realized that nothing had been written about the complete history of Husky football since 1975 - Bow Down to Washington by Dick Rockne - with a somewhat complete history by Steve Rudman in 1990. A lot had happened after those books had been written and I thought it would great for the fans and supporters of Husky football to be able to read about the entire history of the program, its major eras, and the greatest teams and players.

Did you learn anything interesting about the program while writing the book that most Husky fans might not know?

I think the most interesting part of the program that most Husky fans do not know is the Gil Dobie era. They might know about his record of 59-0-3 but few knew about Dobie's very different upbringing, his coaching background, his coaching philosophy, the greatest games of his Washington era, and the factors surrounding his firing by UW President Henry Suzzallo. What brought all this information to light was Lynn Borland's book Gilmour Dobie: Pursuit of Perfection. It is the most comprehensive and extensively researched book on Dobie's life.

If you had to choose one memory about the Washington program that most fondly sticks in your mind, what would it be?

I am going to pick two memories rather than one. The first is Washington's first Rose Bowl win - the 44-8 victory over heavily favored Wisconsin in the 1960 Rose Bowl (Coach Owens' third season). When the team arrived back in Seattle, a large crowd greeted them at Sea-Tac airport and lined Route 99 all the way to the University District and down to the UW crew house. Former KOMO sports director Keith Jackson said: "It was like we won the war. It was the first time in my life that I fully realized how a college football team could pick up an entire state and region and revitalize it."

The second memory is the 1991 perfect season and the defeat of fourth-ranked Michigan in the 1992 Rose Bowl 34-14 to win a national championship. Steve Emtman was dominant and became the most decorated player in Husky history.

How do you feel about the current state of the program; is there a time period in the history of the program that you feel it is comparable to?

I believe that Steve Sarkisian in his fifth year has brought the Huskies back to a very competitive level. Although he has not been as successful as Coach Owens and James in turning the program around. Owens' 1960 team won the conference title and the Rose Bowl in his third year as coach of the Huskies. James' 1977 team also won the conference title and the Rose Bowl in his third year.

Who is your favorite Husky coach and player ever and why?

Again, I am going to pick two rather than one - Owens and James. Both turned the program around and won national championships. Both coached for 18 years. Certainly, James had a much better overall coaching record in his 18 years (153-57-2) versus Owens (99-82-6)

As to players, I pick two - Quarterback Bob Schloredt, the first two time MVP in the Rose Bowl (1960 and 1961) and the first Husky to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He was also an outstanding punter and defensive back in the era of one-platoon football. The other is Steve Emtman who won every award a defensive lineman could get in 1991, was a unanimous All-America selection, the 1992 Rose Bowl Co-MVP, and was 4th in the Heisman balloting - the highest in Husky history.

Assuming you have been to the new stadium, do you feel it does a good job of hanging onto the tradition while taking the program into the future?

First of all, the renovation was necessary for safety purposes. Built in 1920 with concrete covering a berm of dirt built from the dredging of the Montlake Cut and wooden seats built over the concrete, there was plenty of evidence that the concrete was crumbling in the lower stands. The press box was woefully outdated. And the stadium was not up to the level of the newer stadiums in the Pac-12.

The renovated Husky Stadium keeps many features of the old stadium and honors the history of the program - conference champions on the ring on the west side, the 23 best players in Husky history in the Ring of Honor, the two national championship years on the ring on the south side. It also brings the stadium closer to the field - a big change - and also many information technology and concession improvements and better restrooms. It provides club seating and luxury boxes necessary to help fund the cost of the renovation.

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