After Kalen Deboer’s surprisingly successful inaugural season, many pundits, publications and fans have been projecting quite a leap for year 2. With so much returning talent, those within the program have set their sights on the highest honor in the land: a National Title. But, with Deboer being in his second season, I wanted to look at past Husky head coaches in their second season and see how they fared. Whether the team met or exceeded expectations. Let’s dive into some history, to see what we can learn!
William B. Goodwin- 1893
The first coach to make it to year two for the UW was William B. Goodwin, who coached his second season all the way back in 1893. That season wasn’t the greatest for Washington, who opened the year with a win at Vivienda in Tacoma, 8-4, but then, Washington lost to the Tacoma Athletic Club at home, 6-4, tied the Athletic Club at Port Townsend, and lost to the Multnomah Athletic Club 30-0, and then Stanford 40-0. Just a brutal football season. Goodwin was dismissed after the year.
Ralph Nichols- 1896
Back in 1896, Ralph Nichols drilled his team exceptionally well, with a brand new training regimen centered on running around the track before practices officially began. A novel concept, to be sure. This regimen didn’t translate into wins however. UW went 2-3, losing their first 3 games and winning their next 2. They were outscored 40-20 combined for the entire season.
James Knight- 1903
The third coach to make it to the 2 season mark was James Knight, whose second year came in 1903. That season was by far the most successful of all the head coaches up to that point, with his team going 6-1 and their only loss coming against the Multnomah Athletic Club, losing 6-0. This included a 10-0 win against Washington Agricultural, now known as Washington State, in the Apple Cup.
Victor M. Place- 1907
Victor M. Place’s second team was captained by future UW coach Enoch Bagshaw, who played end, quarterback, and halfback. The team went 4-4-2, tying Seattle High School and Idaho to start and end the season, respectively. Washington’s fortunes drastically improved after this season, however.
Gil Dobie- 1909
The legendary Gil Dobie’s second season in 1909 was a lot like his first season, and his subsequent seven seasons, in which he went undefeated. Additionally, in 1909, he went untied as well, shutting out 6 of the seven opponents they played and outscoring them 214-6. Early college football was definitely weird, and this season for the Sun Dodgers was no exception, with games being played against the crew of the USS Milwaukee, Queen Anne High School, Lincoln High School, a neutral site game against Idaho in Spokane, as well as a game against Whitman College. The only semblance of normalcy as we would recognize it today were games against Oregon Agricultural (now Oregon State) in Corvallis, and the season finale against Oregon. Strangely, this season didn’t include the Apple Cup, but it was played in 1910.
Claude J Hunt- 1919
To find the sixth Washington coach to make it to the 2 season mark, we go to 1919, when Claude J Hunt’s Sun Dodger squad compiled a 5-1 record, with a 2-1 mark in Pacific Coast Conference play, the only loss coming against Oregon at home. Hunt’s tenure is a unique one in that his first season was in 1917, with very little college football being played in 1918 due to the United States’ entry into the First World War, and the subsequent need for draftees. The only games played by UW in 1918 were after the Armistice was signed on November 11th. UW split both games, first a 6-0 win against Oregon Agricultural, followed by a 7-0 loss against Oregon. The Sun Dodgers were coached by Anthony Savage in his only season, after which Coach Hunt returned.
Post WW1 football was so weird, and 1919 provides a shining example, with UW winning non conference games against the crew of the USS New York, the Pacific Fleet, and a 120-0 beatdown of Walla Walla’s Whitman College. After these games, it all seems pretty familiar, with wins coming against WSU and Cal and the aforementioned loss against U of O. That loss against Oregon kept Washington away from the Rose Bowl that year, but contemporary Dawg fans can take heart knowing that Harvard beat the Oregon Webfoots 7-6 in that Rose Bowl.
Enoch Bagshaw- 1922
Former UW football captain Enoch Bagshaw is the next coach to hit the two year mark, with his Sun Dodger squad, which would be the last to bear that moniker. In his second season his team posted a 6-1-1 record, with the loss coming against Pacific Coast Conference champion Cal, and the tie being a 3-3 snooze-fest against Oregon. After that season, he would steadily improve, with a 10-1-1 mark in 1923 culminating in a Rose Bowl tie with Navy, and his Huskies would reach a Rose Bowl again in 1926, ultimately losing to Alabama in a game retroactively dubbed “The Game That Changed the South”.
All told, Coach Bagshaw would last 8 years, posting a career record of 63-22-6. Two Rose Bowl appearances are however, nothing to scoff at, and that would set up our next coach for a longer tenure to come.
James Phelan- 1931
Phelan coached the Huskies for 11 seasons, with the high point coming in 1936, with a Rose Bowl loss to the Pitt Panthers, who were then coached by the awesomely named Jock Sutherland.
His second season with the Huskies in 1931 was good, but not great, posting a 5-3-1 record in 1931. Wins against Utah, Montana and Whitman are the highlights, with a 77-0 thrashing in the win over Whitman. However, there were also losses to Oregon, Cal, and a tie against Stanford, plus a 44-7 loss to USC in the LA Coliseum to close out the season.
After Phelan’s departure from the Huskies in 1941, he went on to coach the Saint Mary’s football and basketball teams (football from 1942-47, basketball from 1943-45), then moved up to the pro ranks, coaching the All American Football Conference’s Los Angeles Dons from 1948-49, and then moving to the NFL to coach the New York Yanks in 1951, after which they relocated, becoming the Dallas Texans in 1952 before they would cease operations at the end of that season. In his 11 years at the helm of the Huskies, Phelan compiled a record of 65-37-8.
Ralph Welch- 1943
The next Husky coach to reach at least two years was Ralph Welch, his second season coming in 1943. With the US fighting in WW2, college football was significantly pared back, with 4 of the 9 Pacific Coast Conference schools taking part in the season. UW did fairly well in this season, with a 4-1 record. Wins came against Whitman, the Spokane Air Service Commandos (at Gonzaga Stadium in Spokane, no less!), March Field (located in Riverside, California; their loss to Washington was their lone defeat and they would finish number 10 in the final AP poll) and a final home game, a rematch with Spokane Air Service. with the one loss coming in the Rose Bowl against USC, in a lopsided 29-0 game thanks to a depleted roster, as all the best players were serving in active duty at the time of the game. Wartime football had its wrinkles, as we would see in the Huskies’ schedule that year. Welch would coach UW until 1947, finishing with a 27-20-3 record, before retiring.
Howard Odell- 1949
The Huskies finished 3-7 in Odell’s second year, with wins against Utah, Oregon and WSU. The Huskies had 2 draft picks that year, George Bayer, who in addition to playing in the NFL, had a second act as a PGA Tour golfer, winning 6 events across the PGA and Champions tours, and Chuck Olsen who went to the New York Yanks. Odell finished his UW tenure in 1952, with a final record of 23-25-2. After his retirement, Odell became a sportscaster, a used car salesman, and successfully ran for King County Commissioner, serving from 1957 to 1962. Odell represents one of the less successful tenures in Husky coaching history, but we inch ever closer to a couple of legends...
John Cherberg- 1954
Before Cherberg became the state’s longest serving Lieutenant Governor, he was a coach on the Huskies’ staff, working his way up from coaching the backfield all the way to becoming the head man in 1953. His second season did not go well, with his Husky squad posting a 2-8 record in 1954, their only wins coming against Utah and Oregon State. Cherberg only coached until 1955, being fired along with the athletic director resigning two weeks later over allegations of a slush fund, boosters running amok and a revolt among players against Cherberg.
This mess also resulted in the downfall of the PCC, covered in a great article from 5th Down CFB. Cherberg went to the papers the day after he was dismissed from the UW and detailed the network of alumni that paid players cash and benefits, led by booster Torchy Torrance, and said that the University was fully aware of it. That old joke about Hugh McElhenny taking a pay cut to play pro football for the 49ers was, in fact, 100 percent factual.
In 2 seasons at the helm, Cherberg posted a mark of 10-18-2, a dismal record by any stretch of the imagination. After his dismissal, the Dawgs tapped a young Darrell Royal, who coached the team to a 5-5 record in 1956, his only season in Seattle before he left for the Texas Longhorns.
Jim Owens- 1958
Following Royal was Jim Owens, who had been an assistant under the legendary Bear Bryant when Bryant was at Kentucky and Texas A&M. Owens’ second campaign of what would be an 18-year run at Washington resulted in a 3-7 record in 1958. Some of the players from the 1960 team that won a National Championship (depending on who you ask, of course), were on this team, including quarterback and future Rose Bowl MVP Bob Schloredt. After coming out of the gates strong with a 2-0 start, the Huskies lost seven of their next eight games. Owens’ tenure would markedly improve the next year, as the Huskies would go 10-1 and beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl in 1959. Over the next 17 years, Owens would post a record of 99-82-6, never quite matching the success of the 1960 National Championship team. His successor, however, needs no introduction among Husky fans.
Don James- 1976
Don James was the Huskies’ 4th choice upon Owens’ resignation in 1974. Other names floated were then Packers coach Dan Devine, Cal coach Mike White and San Jose State coach Daryl Rogers. Devine was once thought to be a lock for the Washington job, but once the Notre Dame job became vacant, Devine jumped at that chance. White and Rogers both stated their non interest for the job after several premature reports by Seattle papers, and so that left James.
Coach James took over a program that had a ton of vets on defense, but the offense was in less than stellar shape, and it took time for James’ I-formation offense to really click. You can see evidence of that in Warren Moon’s passing numbers. In Coach James’ second year in 1976, Moon put up better numbers than his first campaign, posting 1106 yards, 6 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, compared to 587 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in 1975, albeit only in 8 games. That offensive progression, however, did not translate into wins on the field as the Huskies went 5-6 in 1976. They went winless against the California schools, swept the Oregon schools and took out their frustration on the Cougars in the Apple Cup, winning 51-32.
That positive momentum carried over into the next season, with the Huskies going 8-4, beating Michigan 27-20 in the Rose Bowl. This marked the beginning of sustained success for both the Dawgs, and the Dawgfather, as James came to be known. In 18 seasons at the helm, James posted a record of 150-60-2, winning 4 Rose Bowls, a National Championship in 1991-92 (and I would argue, a valid claim for one in 1984), and a reputation as the greatest coach in Husky football history. He would shockingly resign on August 22, 1993, in protest over the NCAA’s charges of lack of institutional control levied against Washington and the resulting penalties.
Jim Lambright- 1994
Jim Lambright ultimately replaced Coach James, and was an appropriate successor, having been the defensive coordinator for the Dawgs for the previous 15 seasons. Despite being bowl banned for 2 seasons, Lambright’s squad put up a solid 7-4 record in his second campaign, the 1994-95 season. Led by Napoleon Kaufman’s 1,390 rushing yards, and a defense that ranked 31st in points allowed per game with 21.2, the Huskies were fairly strong, even as the shadow of sanctions hung over the program. Lambo would coach the Dawgs for 6 seasons, with a final record of 44-25-1. After a 1998 season where the Dawgs went 6-6 and lost in the Oahu Classic to Air Force, he was fired.
Rick Neuheisel- 2000
After taking over for Lambright, Neuheisel immediately set to work turning the team around from 6 wins, to a PAC 10 champ in his second season. Leading the way was dual threat quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo, who passed for 2,146 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, while finishing third on the team in rushing with 394 yards and 6 scores. The Dawgs finished 11-1, with a win against #4 Miami, Neuheisel’s old team in Colorado and a Rose Bowl win against Drew Brees and the Purdue Boilermakers, making coach Neuheisel’s second campaign with the Dawgs a resounding success. However, issues off the field with both the players (legal issues) and Neuheisel himself (the infamous NCAA tournament bracket scandal) led to his firing in 2003. In his 3 seasons as Husky head coach, he posted a record of 33-16. He was then replaced by a familiar face within the program.
Keith Gilbertson- 2004
Keith Gilbertson was the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach on the 1991-92 team that won the National Championship, cementing his legend in Husky history after just one year. In the intervening period, Gilby became a kind of drifter, serving four seasons as Cal’s head coach, then as a Seahawks assistant for two seasons before returning to Washington as an assistant head coach for 3 seasons, also serving as an offensive coordinator again for Neuheisel’s final 2 years. Following Neuheisel’s dismissal, Gilby was elevated to head coach.
So how’d he do in his second season? Not well, it turns out! After a 6-6 campaign which was respectable enough, Gilbertson failed to progress his program, instead overseeing one of the worst regressions of a team in recent memory. The Dawgs went 1-10, with their only win coming against San Jose State. In November of 2004, Gilbertson announced he would step down at the end of that season, and then-AD Todd Turner would swing for the fences for the next hire, or so he said.
Tyrone Willingham- 2006
Turner ended up picking former Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham, in an attempt to clean up the program. After his first season at the helm in which he went 2-9, the Dawgs came out hot, winning 4 of their first 5. They then lost their next six games before a win in the Apple Cup, finishing 5-7. Willingham would get 2 more seasons at the helm, finishing 4-9 in 2007, before the bottom completely fell out in 2008, with a winless season. Willingham was fired after that. In his place came an injection of life for a program that badly needed it.
Steve Sarkisian- 2010
Sark’s second season is one that I remember quite fondly. After a 5-7 debut campaign, the Dawgs returned a bunch of talent, including quarterback Jake Locker, running back Chris Polk, and receiver Jermaine Kearse, in addition to Alameda Ta’amu and defensive back Desmond Trufant on the defensive side. This resulted in an up and down season, however. A loss followed a win for the first seven weeks of the year, going 3-3, then the Huskies lost 3 in a row, and then won their next four to finish at 7-6. This included revenge against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, which the Dawgs won 19-7, after losing 56-21 in Week 2. This was the Huskies’ first bowl win in a decade, which was a marker of progress, considering where the program was when Sark was hired. Sark finished his stint with the Huskies when he took the USC job in 2013, compiling a 34-29 record in Seattle.
Chris Petersen- 2015
After landing former Boise State coach Chris Petersen, the Dawgs, it was felt, were in a prime position to build up their program. After going 8-6 in his first campaign, Petersen’s Dawgs appeared ready to take another step forward. This, however, did not happen. Still though, Petersen and Co. put together a solid season, going 7-5. The season culminated in a bowl win against Jeff Monken’s Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. The foundation for the best Husky team in the 21st century was laid here. Key pieces of that 2016 playoff team such as Jake Browning, John Ross, Myles Gaskin, Greg Gaines, Vita Vea, Sidney Jones and Kevin King were on this team. The Dawgs would go on to have sustained success under Petersen aside from the Playoff appearance, with 2 PAC 12 titles, 2 New Year’s 6 bowl appearances and several future pro stars having played on their teams. The same can’t be said for Petersen’s designated successor.
Jimmy Lake- 2021
Jimmy Lake was trusted to lead the Dawgs after a sterling reputation as one of the country’s best defensive backs coaches and then one of the country’s best defensive coordinators. Fans, myself included, felt that he was the best man for the job, given his experience within the program, and his youth. In 2020, he led the Huskies to a 3-1 record in a pandemic shortened season. Of course, you all know what happens next.
On September 4th 2021, UW played Montana in what was expected to be a tune up game before going to the Big House to play Michigan the next week. Besides coming out to a 7-0 lead, the offense looked terrible for the majority of the game, with Dylan Morris tossing 3 picks. Montana used a strong ground game, and UW’s pedestrian offense to stun the Huskies, 13-7. Lake went 4-5, before being fired on November 14th. He was replaced by defensive coordinator Bob Gregory. who did about as well as he could, considering the circumstances. This, along with Cherberg, was the worst second season in UW football history given expectations.
So what does the future hold for Kalen Deboer and company? Are second seasons predictive of success? Is past prologue in football? I don’t know. What I do know is this: Talent and consistency matter in football, as we saw in Jim Lambright’s 7-4 second year and Sark’s 7-6 second season. With the sheer amount of returning talent on both sides of the ball and the return of key staff on both sides of the ball, such as OC Ryan Grubb, and receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard, the future seems bright for Husky football!