Spring football at the University of Washington has shifted to a whole new practice – publicity.
And like he did for the on-field activities the past month, new coach Steve Sarkisian got through to his audience with flying colors.
Sarkisian was the fresh-faced member of the 38th annual Husky Coaches Tour, and the first of seven stops statewide was at Fircrest Golf Club near Tacoma on Thursday.
In a crowded banquet room of UW alumni and fans, Sarkisian spoke last, and gave a short assessment of his 41/2-month tenure, of how his Huskies look after spring ball, and he finished by answering a few questions about various topics.
Also part of the tour were basketball coaches Lorenzo Romar and Tia Jackson, who also gave brief presentations.
To understand how much curiosity there is about the new football staff and anticipation for the upcoming season, when Sarkisian, decked out in a sports jacket and collared shirt, was introduced by master of ceremonies Bob Rondeau, he received a standing ovation.
“It’s big. We’re trying to open ourselves up and make them feel they’re part of what we’re doing,” Sarkisian said. “And it gives us an opportunity as a coaching staff to let people see who we are, and that we are real. We’re not just something you read about in the paper every day.”
The Fircrest stop was a good time to meet Sarkisian and some of his assistant, especially since today is the first day the staff can go out and recruit for the class of 2010.
Coaches spent the morning breaking down spring-ball film. Then, special teams coach/recruiting coordinator Johnny Nansen, receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty, running backs coach Joel Thomas and defensive assistant Mike Anderson left for Fircrest to play a round of golf with UW alumni members to help raise money for scholarships.
“I love this,” Nansen said. “You get to know some of the people really behind us.”
Sarkisian did not play golf. Instead, he and his wife, Stephanie, and their two daughters moved into their house Thursday afternoon. They had been living in a hotel since late December.
He arrived in time for the early-evening dinner and auction, and talked 15 minutes to the alumni.
Some of the highlights:
• Sarkisian talked about the story a national reporter wrote after spending a day recently with the team. The reporter referred to the coach as “Captain ADD.”
“I don’t like sitting down for a long time,” he remarked.
• Jake Locker was a popular topic. And Sarkisian said in the first few days of spring camp, his quarterback looked uncertain and looked around “like a bobblehead doll.”
But by the end of camp, especially in the spring game, the coach said Locker’s growth was “indicative of (the growth) of our team.”
• Sarkisian even asked the crowd how many had season tickets for 2009. A few hesitated to respond, to which the coach said, “Raise your hand ... I won’t bite you.”
• The best question from a crowd member was about former UW defensive Jason Chorak, who terrorized Sarkisian when he was the quarterback at Brigham Young University during a 14-1 season in 1996.
The Cougars’ only loss was against the UW at Husky Stadium. Chorak had multiple sacks and big hits on Sarkisian.
“I got to Provo, had an MRI done on my left knee and all I was thinking was, ‘How do you pronounce that guy’s name?’” Sarkisian said.
The tour’s next stop in scheduled for Bellingham Country Club on May 4.
“I enjoy this,” Sarkisian said. “Anytime there is excitement about what you’re doing, it makes you want to do more.”
In the past five years, the UW Coaches’ Tour has raised more than $260,000 for scholarships. And for this event in Fircrest, two were awarded to Tacoma-area students – sophomore Alisha Babbitt (Spanaway Lake) and junior Rebecca Fountain (Foss). ... Fifty athletes from area high schools compete in athletic programs for the Huskies. ... The other stops are Everett (May 11), Spokane (May 18), Yakima (June 1), Port Orchard (June 8) and Longview (June 10).
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442