UW misses out on NCAA tourney

March 11, 2012 by  

SEATTLE — The bubble finally burst for Washington.

Without a miraculous assist from the selection committee, the Huskies’ three-year NCAA tournament run came crashing to a halt Sunday.

Gonzaga was named a No. 7 seed in the Midwest Region and will face No. 10 West Virginia in Pittsburgh on Thursday. A win would send the Zags to a matchup with the winner of No. 2 seed Ohio State and Loyola (Md).

As a consolation prize, Washington will make its first appearance in the NIT since 1997.

The past two years, the Huskies organized a Selection Sunday viewing party for fans and gathered around television sets. As conference tournament champions, they were guaranteed a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Back then they wondered what seed they would receive. Which opponent would they play? And where would the committee send them?

This time, only one question that mattered: Would Washington get in?

Before Sunday’s selection show the Huskies practiced at Edmundson Pavilion. In private they gathered and watched as the 68 NCAA tournament teams were revealed.

The Huskies (21-10) put their NCAA tournament hopes in jeopardy when they finished the regular season with a 75-69 loss at UCLA. They followed that defeat with a shocking 86-84 setback against Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals.

Washington has made five NIT trips and posted a 3-5 record.

Romar was a starting point guard for the Huskies in 1980 when they lost 93-73 at UNLV in the opener.

Washington returned in 1982 and beat BYU 66-63 in the first round before falling 69-65 at home to Texas A&M.

In their last appearance, the Huskies lost 67-63 in the first round at Nebraska in 1997. A year earlier, they fell 64-50 in the NIT opener at Michigan State.

Two Pac-12 teams will play in the NCAA tournament. Colorado, which won the conference tournament, is a No. 11 seed and will play No. 6 UNLV in Albuquerque, N.M. California will face South Florida in a play-in game in Dayton, Ohio. The winner will be a No. 12 seed and will play No. 5 Temple in Nashville, Tenn.

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or [email protected]. On Twitter @percyallen.

Live chat with U.S. freestyle skier Patrick Deneen of Cle Elum on Wednesday at noon

February 28, 2012 by  

SEATTLE — Patrick Deneen first hit the slopes when he was 11 months old and has become one of the top freestyle skiers in the world.

The Cle Elum native made his World Cup debut in 2005 and a year later won a bronze medal at the 2006 World Junior Championships.

He enjoyed a successful 2009 campaign as he won a gold medal in moguls at the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships in Japan and later won the U.S. Olympic Trials, which secured a spot on the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team.

In 2011, Deneen was crowned the U.S. Freestyle Moguls National Champion in Vermont.

On Feb. 19, he won the men’s FIS Freestyle World Cup dual moguls event in Naeba, Japan.

Deneen will be available to talk about his skiing career, competing at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and much more in a live chat at noon Wednesday on seattletimes.com.

Click here to join the chat

WSU hires Leach to replace Wulff

November 30, 2011 by  

SEATTLE — Mike Leach has been named football coach at Washington State. Leach agreed in principle to a five-year contract and will be introduced at a news conference Tuesday in Pullman, according to a release from the school.

“I asked athletic director Bill Moos to select the best head football coach in the country and I am convinced that he has done exactly that,” WSU president Elson Floyd said in the news release.

FILE - In this Sept. 19, 2009, file photo, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach waits as a play is reviewed during the first quarter of their NCAA college football game against Texas in Austin, Texas. Leach has reached a verbal agreement to be the new football coach at Washington State, an official within the athletic department told the Associated Press on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Moos said, “This is an exciting day for Washington State University and Cougar football. I have spoken about the need to re-energize our fan base and take Cougar football to the next level. I believe the hiring of Mike Leach accomplishes both of those goals. His credentials speak for themselves.”

Leach replaces Paul Wulff, fired Tuesday by Washington State after a 9-40 record in four seasons. The quick push for Leach was not unexpected. The Seattle Times reported last week that Wulff was likely to be fired, and that Leach would be the top target of the Cougars. An informed source told The Times the deal might be done quickly.

Leach, 50, had been expected to be a top choice at Kansas, where he had an old friendship with athletic director Sheahon Zenger.

Leach has been out of coaching for the past two years after a controversial exit from Texas Tech. He was fired just short of collecting on an $800,000 salary bonus. At issue was whether he mistreated a Red Raiders player, Adam James, by directing him to stay in a darkened equipment shed to help treat a concussion.

Leach coached 10 Texas Tech to 10 straight bowl games and favors a spread passing offense.

“First off I would like to express my appreciation to Paul Wulff for all his efforts and dedication to Washington State and wish him the best in the future,” Leach said in the news release. “It’s an honor to have the opportunity to work with Bill Moos, who is a legend in this business. To have the opportunity as a coach to work with someone like that is an experience few head coaches get. Along with Bill and Dr. Floyd, I’m excited about being a part of the future of Washington State.

“I have always admired the tradition of Washington State. It’s a university on the move that is experiencing growth. I’m excited about what they are doing with the facilities and it’s a team that has battled through some hard times and shows great promise in the future. I’m proud to be a part of this team.”

— Bud Withers

Cougars fire football coach Paul Wulff

November 29, 2011 by  

SEATTLE — Paul Wulff wanted just a little more time. Bill Moos, the Washington State athletic director, thought WSU had run out of it.

Tuesday morning, Moos dismissed Wulff after four struggling years of Cougars football in which WSU went 9-40.

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Moos said informing Wulff on Tuesday morning that he had been fired “was not an easy thing to do.”

Moos thanked Wulff for his contributions to WSU but said the Cougars were at a critical juncture and needed to make a change.

“I feel we have apathy in our fan base,” said Moos, who claimed a coaching change was necessary to raise the energy among WSU fans.

Moos said the search for Wulff’s successor will begin immediately and said he has had conversations with coaches on a “shortlist.”

Wulff said he hoped to have a new coach in the next two to three weeks.

“You’re looking at the search committee,” Moos said.

Moos said he talked with Wulff for an hour and a half Sunday and “pretty much” made the choice then to fire Wulff but elected to take another day to mull the decision.

Moos had been a consultant on a search committee when Wulff was hired in December 2007, urging the committee to consider a couple of WSU alums, including Wulff. In spring 2010, Moos became the school’s athletic director, and more than once voiced the thought that “nobody wants Paul to succeed more than I do.”

After a 3-22 start — results on the field which Moos said he largely disregarded because of the downtrodden state of the program in 2007 — the Cougars began to show improvement in 2010 and 2011. But hopes for gaining six victories and bowl eligibility this year were dashed, partly by some key quarterback injuries, and the Cougars went 4-8.

Almost since the start of the Wulff regime, there was divisiveness in the fan base. In 2008, the Cougars were shut out three times — they hadn’t been blanked since 1984 — and six times, they allowed 58 or more points.

There was improvement each year. There were fewer problems off the field, after 25 players were arrested in an 18-month span bridging the Bill Doba and Wulff regimes. The Cougars had a heavy representation on conference all-academic teams, after some Academic Progress Rate shortfalls caused them to be docked eight scholarships against a maximum of 85 as part of the problems Wulff inherited.

Two problems developed in 2011 as key to Wulff’s demise. One happened shortly into the opener against Idaho State.

Jeff Tuel, one of the underrated quarterbacks in the Pac-12, broke his clavicle on his fifth snap of the game after being inserted on the third series despite suffering from a virus. Tuel’s season was essentially ruined; after he tried to come back against Stanford and Oregon State in midseason, he took hits to that side and was unable to play in the final five games of the season.

The schedule, meanwhile, was initially kind but ultimately demanding. Some fans presumed a 5-0 start for the Cougars, who opened with Idaho State, UNLV, San Diego State, Colorado and UCLA. But without Tuel, WSU lost to San Diego State and a tight, 28-25 loss at UCLA, putting them at 3-2.

Over the long haul, with WSU playing the Oregon State game at CenturyLink Field and it being a year when it had only four conference games in its stadium, WSU went from Sept. 10 to Nov. 12 with just one game in Pullman — against Stanford. Home for consecutive games in November, the Cougars ambushed Arizona State and lost a thriller in overtime to Utah.

They ended with a 38-21 loss to Washington in the Apple Cup, but it’s believed the decision was already made on Wulff. On Nov. 18, the WSU regents approved Moos’ renovation plans for Martin Stadium — suites and club seats on the south side, and eventually, a football-only facility beyond the west end zone — and Moos was open in saying that the football coach, whoever he was, would be pivotal in rallying support from donors.

The Cougars have to pay the final year of Wulff’s contract. He was earning about $600,000 annually, the lowest-paid coach in the Pac-12.

Mike Leach, the former Texas Tech coach, is believed at the top of WSU’s list of possible successors. But Leach has been reported also to be coveted by Kansas, which fired Turner Gill over the weekend after two years.

 — Bud Withers/The Seattle Times

Source: Wulff likely out as WSU coach

November 26, 2011 by  

SEATTLE — Paul Wulff has likely coached his last football game at Washington State.

Sources close to the situation say Wulff, whose Cougars lost 38-21 to Washington on Saturday at CenturyLink Field, will be dismissed after a meeting with athletic director Bill Moos, barring a last-minute change of direction by Moos. It could happen as early as Sunday, possibly Monday.

John Sousley, left, greets Washington State University head football coach Paul Wulff at the Yakima Valley Night with Cougar Athletics Dinner & Auction at the Harmon Center in Yakima, Wash. Friday, May 19, 2011. (Andy Sawyer/Yakima Herald-Republic)

A reversal of thinking is unlikely, and sources familiar with the process say the Cougars will have former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach at the top of their list of possible replacements. Leach has been out of coaching since 2009 after a controversial exit from Tech that resulted in him suing the school.

Moos said through a spokesman after the game Saturday night that he and Wulff would determine on the plane ride home a time to meet on the status of the program and that “anything beyond that is pure speculation.”

The result of the Apple Cup was not a factor in the decision on Wulff, who has a year remaining on his five-year contract. Wulff has been under heavy scrutiny all season from Moos, who opted to retain him a year ago in a relatively close call.

Wulff would finish with a 9-40 record, a .184 winning percentage that is worst in school history.

Moos, who has been WSU’s athletic director for 18 months, has refreshed plans to renovate Martin Stadium and build a football-only training-and-offices facility at the west end of campus. Regents recently approved the $80 million stadium remodel project and there have been significant concerns about the ability to raise funds with a fan base divided on Wulff.

“He has to have a coach to do for him what he’s doing for Elson Floyd,” an informed source told The Times recently, referring to Moos and the WSU president.

Wulff was a lightning rod for criticism after taking over a disheveled program from Bill Doba after the 2007 season. There was a talent deficit, a scholarship hit because of the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate standards, a passel of injuries and other issues that put the program at an immediate competitive disadvantage.

With modest talent at quarterback and a general talent shortfall in 2008, the Cougars were shut out three times and gave up 58 points or more six times. They were compared to the worst teams of all time, but managed a double-overtime victory over Washington.

WSU was more competitive in 2009, but still managed to win only a single game, and after a 30-0 loss to Washington in the Apple Cup, Wulff had to survive a push to remove him after two seasons.

The Cougars gradually got better, but the victories were too sparse to turn the administrative tide for him in a significant way. With a 3-22 record the first two years — no matter how tough the circumstances when he took over — it was difficult for him to gain traction with many alumni and boosters.

WSU beat Oregon State last year in a big surprise, won an uplifting comeback game at Colorado Oct. 1 this year and had a rousing upset of Arizona State on Nov. 5 behind a memorable performance from quarterback Connor Halliday. But with a chance to notch a second straight upset, against Utah, the Cougars eschewed a potential game-winning chance at the 1-yard line in the final seconds, kicked a field goal and lost in overtime.

Wulff’s fate might have been sealed on Sept. 3, oddly, in a 64-21 victory over Idaho State. Jeff Tuel, the standout junior quarterback, awoke that morning with a virus and the Cougars started senior Marshall Lobbestael.

But Tuel, after taking medication and asking to play, entered with 6:14 left in the first quarter. On his fifth snap, he tried to run right to escape a rush, was tackled and suffered a broken collarbone.

It essentially ruined his season and led to instability at the position through much of it. Tuel returned Oct. 15 but played only a game and a half before injuries sidelined him for the year — possibly torpedoing WSU’s chance to get to six wins and bowl eligibility.

Leach, meanwhile, coached Texas Tech to 10 straight bowl appearances but left amid controversy after the ’09 season. He had signed a five-year, $12.7 million contract with the school in February 2009.

But an incident in which he allegedly mistreated one of his players, the son of ESPN analyst Craig James, prompted the school to fire him, just short of a deadline in which he was to receive an $800,000 bonus. Leach sued for wrongful termination and after some legal wrangling over whether as a state entity, Tech had sovereign immunity, greatly limiting potential legal action, the Texas Supreme Court agreed to review the case.

Leach has been out of coaching the past two years, but has been open about interest in returning. He was interviewed for the Maryland job last offseason but it went to Randy Edsall, and speculation has been that Leach’s tangled exit from Texas Tech has hurt his chance at being rehired.

— Bud Withers/The Seattle Times

College Football: Welcome to the Pac-10, er, 12

September 2, 2011 by  

SEATTLE — Hey there, Utah and Colorado, welcome to our world. We get why you’re so excited to come west to make it a Pac-12 Conference.

Utah, you’re soon going to make about 15 times the TV revenue you were getting in the Mountain West Conference. And Colorado, well, let’s put it this way: Would you rather be making road trips to the Bay Area and Eugene and Seattle, or do the Stillwater-Ames-Waco swing in the Big 12?

You probably know this is quite the league you’re joining. Great diversity, colorful history, more geographic chops than any other conference in the nation. We’ve got mountains, ocean, desert, wheat fields and Telegraph Avenue. To win the thing, you might have to play in 110 degrees in Tempe in September and 15 in Pullman two months later.

But there are things you need to know, because, well, the seller occasionally keeps secrets from the homebuyer. We’re here to tell you where the bones are buried.

You knew already that USC was the alpha dog in this league. The Trojans claim 11 national championships, they’ve gone to 33 Rose Bowls, and they’ve won seven Heisman Trophies, some of which they’ve actually been able to keep.

O.J. Simpson might be the best back in college-football history, but his most riveting move was in a white Bronco in 1994. Now he’s one of the better players at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada for his shakedown of a memorabilia dealer in 2007.

Oh, and get used to the Trojan band plunging into another rendition of “Tribute to Troy.” It’s almost as annoying as Nancy Grace.

At least the Trojans win. Across town, UCLA won a national title in 1954 and pretty much called it quits. Well, there was a glorious stretch in the ’80s when the Bruins won seven straight postseason games. But lately, it’s been a battle just to make the Handi-Wipes Holiday Classic.

“Girls football” is what Brian Bosworth once alleged of the Bruins, and nothing against girls, but the program has pretty much spent years living down that image.

In a lot of areas, UCLA and USC are where it’s at in this league. Like, at the top of the Pac-12 in times busted for major NCAA football violations, at six apiece.

Thirty-three years ago, Arizona and Arizona State were the newbies in the league. The coach at ‘Zona then was Tony Mason, who was quotable, fat and, as it turned out, crooked.

Funny thing, a 1975 Sports Illustrated carried this quip from Mason, then at Cincinnati: “Ninety percent of colleges are abiding by the rules, doing things right. The other 10 percent are going to bowl games.”

Mason opted for the bowl games at Arizona, got whacked for major violations, and to this day, the Wildcats haven’t been to the Rose Bowl. Now the coach is Mike Stoops, and you’ll know him by his feverish behavior on the sideline, like there’s 40-grit sandpaper lining his boxers.

Not to say Arizona hasn’t been salty. It’s easier to run on the border police at Nogales than it was on ‘Zona’s Desert Swarm teams of the early ’90s.

Up the road, Arizona State produced one of society’s iconic figures, Pat Tillman, who chucked a career in the NFL to pack an assault rifle in Afghanistan and died for it. Then the government war machine got involved, and you know the rest.

Way before that, it was the merciless Frank Kush who put the Sun Devils on the map, wildly successful first in the old Border Conference, then in the Western Athletic Conference. “I treat my players all the same: terrible,” Kush said. No kidding. A player once alleged that “he hit me with pipes, boards and a ship’s rope.”

Last time California went to the Rose Bowl, in 1959, Ike was butting heads with Khrushchev. Next year never gets here for the Bears. Well, back in 1982, they had The Play, the five-lateralpalooza to beat Stanford. Even that had a somber side, because Mariet Ford, who tossed the ball last, is doing hard time for killing his wife and 3-year-old son.

Strange things happen to Cal on its way to Pasadena. The Bears had a rough-and-tumble quarterback and coach, Joe Kapp, who once unzipped his pants during a postgame interview in Seattle. Pretty soon he was ex-coach Joe Kapp.

Most of the time, Stanford seems above this football business. Its fans didn’t even turn out for its best team ever last season.

If nothing else, they should show up for Stanford’s anti-marching band, which has offended more people than Chris Rock. One time, it used a white Bronco and parodied O.J.’s ride. It got banned in Oregon after a Eugene performance mocking logging that endangered the spotted owl, complete with a formation of a chain saw. And it got under Brigham Young skins when, as a band manager proposed one by one to members of Stanford’s dance team, the band announcer celebrated marriage over the P.A. system as the sacred bond “between a man and a woman … and a woman … and a woman … “

Speaking of Oregon, the Ducks took a long time getting it right. The alumni once fired a coach because they didn’t like his staff, which included George Seifert (who later won two Super Bowls), John Robinson (who would win four Rose Bowls) and Bruce Snyder (a head coach in the Pac-10 for 14 years).

Now the Ducks move the chains faster than a third-world virus, and when they need something, they speed-dial Nike. Or, if you believe the news lately, they call Texas scout Willie Lyles. Panicked when they didn’t have anything to show for their $25,000 payment to Lyles and prying media were onto it, the Ducks beseeched Lyles for scouting materials. He responded with, essentially, old family snapshots and receipts of his last few oil changes.

Back in the day, Oregon State had its moments. Terry Baker is still the only guy to win the Heisman and play in the Final Four. In 1967, the Beavers had the “Giant Killers,” so named because they beat No. 2 Purdue and tied No. 2 UCLA, after which Dee Andros, the rotund coach, bellowed, “I’m tired of playing No. 2 teams! Bring on No. 1!” They did, and OSU beat top-ranked USC.

Then it turned ugly, as the Beavers had a record 28 losing seasons in a row. That’s a tradition almost as long as Illinois governors going to prison.

Like everybody else, OSU has a few skeletons. On Google, one of them is headlined, “Drunk Beaver Found With Stolen Ram From Gay-Sheep Project.” You can’t make this stuff up.

In Seattle, Jim Owens and Don James are legends. At various times, the Huskies have been the baddest team in the West. The 1991 team was as good as any, ever.

They take their football very seriously up here. Hugh McElhenny, the great running back, used to say he took a pay cut when he went to the NFL.

Then there was Olin Kreutz’s early exit to the League in 1997, when he said, “Everybody talks about school, but we want to be football players. We really don’t want to do school.” The shudder on Upper Campus rattled the Richter scale.

Finally, there are the Cougars. They went 67 years without a Rose Bowl, then clicked off two in six years under Mike Price. He was one of many colorful characters who have marked the program, but there have been a few sketchy ones, too, like running back Deon Burnett, who, at halftime of the 2000 Apple Cup, took off his uniform and left, never to be heard from again.

WSU hatched the term “Couging it,” which means blowing a lead and losing. Lately, the Cougars have taken care of that — they just never get ahead of anybody.

So there’s your new family, guys — loving, caring, welcoming, and at times a bit dysfunctional. Everybody has a crazy uncle, right?

— Bud Withers/The Seattle Times

College football: TV isn’t making it easy

September 2, 2011 by  

SEATTLE — Dennis Erickson, the Arizona State football coach, was asked earlier this week if he’d be tuned in to catch the Oregon-Louisiana State headliner Saturday, given that the Sun Devils aren’t playing that day.

“I’ll be surfing,” he said.

Ah, you can just see the 64-year-old coach, hanging ten on the Salt River in Phoenix, his pixie gray hair flapping lightly in the breeze.

“I’ll be surfing with the channels,” he clarified, just in time.

TV isn’t making it easy on any of us this week. On opening weekend, there are two rankings-rattling games, two that stand out above all others.

Naturally, they’re at the same time — 5 p.m. Saturday. That’s when the Oregon-LSU matchup goes off against Boise State-Georgia in Atlanta.

Oregon-LSU: This game needs to be played before somebody else gets suspended.

And talk about the difference between the pro game and college. In an NFL-without-lockout season, teams might start with a scrimmage. And then four exhibition games. And then a season so elongated that it’s impossible to eliminate yourself early.

By contrast, Oregon (No. 3) and LSU (No. 4) have to bolt out of the gate knowing that a misstep might prevent them from national-title consideration.

Boise State-Georgia: Five years ago, Kellen Moore was a ho-hum prospect from Prosser, mostly ignored by Washington and Washington State. Today, he’s 38-2 as Boise State’s starting quarterback, and eight more wins thrusts him past Colt McCoy’s national record of 45 for QBs.

Trying to outdo Moore will be Aaron Murray of Georgia in another big-stage game for Boise State. Before it began excelling at this, it ventured to Georgia in 2005 and got schooled, 48-13.

Four others of note

Northwestern at Boston College, 9 a.m.: Of all the promotional campaigns in history, Northwestern’s is the heaviest. In celebration of quarterback Dan Persa’s strength, the Wildcats sent out two 7-pound purple dumbbells (his number is 7) to media members, labeling them “PersaStrong.”

Brigham Young at Mississippi, 4:45 p.m.: Jake Heaps leads BYU into its era of football independence against an Ole Miss team largely rebuilt on defense.

UCLA at Houston, 12:30 p.m.: QB Case Keenum got a sixth year of eligibility, and the Cougars no doubt remember a 31-13 waxing given them by the Bruins last year, when Keenum went out with a knee injury.

Fresno State-California at Candlestick Park, 4 p.m.: “Playing up” was the Western Athletic Conference’s slogan a few years ago, and nobody personifies it like the Bulldogs, who are in their last year in the league. Cal, which missed a bowl last year after seven straight appearances, needs to be on guard.

— Bud Withers/The Seattle Times

UW will face Nebraska in Holiday Bowl

December 5, 2010 by  

SEATTLE — In returning to a bowl for the first time since 2002, the Washington Huskies will also get a chance to avenge one of their more frustrating losses of the season, facing Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl Dec. 30 in San Diego.

The pairing is something of a surprise given that the teams played Sept. 18 in Seattle, a 56-21 Cornhusker win, and that the two teams will play again next year in Lincoln.

But the Huskies had no say in the matter as the choices were made by the bowls.

UW landed in the Holiday Bowl after the Alamo Bowl took Arizona to face Oklahoma State.

And the Holiday ended up with Nebraska largely because the Insight Bowl selected Missouri, leaving the Cornhuskers for the San Diego game.

Nebraska also played in the Holiday Bowl last season, beating Arizona 33-0. However, Nebraska has a reputation for traveling well and will almost certainly help the Holiday Bowl fill its seats.

UW coach Steve Sarkisian and players echoed a common theme Saturday that they didn’t care who or when they played, just happy to again be in a bowl.

“I’ll play in Seattle,” said quarterback Jake Locker.

The Alamo had the choice of all remaining eligible Pac-10 teams after Oregon and Stanford went to the BCS. But that ended up being just Arizona and UW, which got bowl eligible when it beat WSU 35-28 in the Apple Cup Saturday.

Arizona has lost its last four games and at 4-5 in Pac-10 play finished behind UW, which finished 5-4. But Arizona was 7-5 overall and beat UW this year 44-14. Also, Arizona is closer to San Antonio than Washington and its quarterback is Texas native Nick Foles. The Alamo had been certain to take Arizona before it lost to Arizona State on Friday night. Alamo Bowl spokesman Rick Hill said that defeat had the Alamo considering taking UW. But the Alamo apparently grew comfortable that Arizona fans would still be enthusiastic enough to make the trip, a key factor in bowl selection.

That left UW to the Holiday, which picks after the Alamo.

UW and Nebraska have played five times since 1991, with UW sweeping a home-and-home in 1991 and 1992, and Nebraska sweeping a home-and-home in 1997 and 1998.

Cy, oh my: Felix wins AL pitching honor

November 18, 2010 by  

SEATTLE — Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez won the American League Cy Young Award on Thursday.

Felix Hernandez captured just the second American League Cy Young Award for the Mariners on Thursday, beating out rivals C.C. Sabathia of the New York Yankees and David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays in voting conducted by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Felix Hernandez consistently proved the lone standard of excellence in an otherwise miserable Mariners season.

FILE - In this May 23, 2010, file photo, Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez throws against the San Diego Padres during a baseball game in Seattle. Hernandez won the AL Cy Young Award for the American League's best pitcher, winning by an easy margin in results released Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010, by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

And Thursday, with the franchise still reeling over 101 losses and the death last week of Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Niehaus, the 24-year-old Hernandez once again provided a rare glimpse out of the darkness.

Hernandez captured just the second American League Cy Young Award for the Mariners, beating out rivals CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees and David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays in voting conducted by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Hernandez received 21 first-place votes and 167 ballot points. Price of Tampa Bay was second with 111 points (four first-place votes) and Sabathia was third with 102 points (three first-place votes). Two BBWAA members from each of the 14 American-League cities cast votes

“It is a very emotional day for me,” said Hernandez in a statement released by the Mariners. “I’m very proud that I was able to accomplish this not only for myself, but for my family, my country and my team. I don’t have the words to describe the way I feel.”

Hernandez’s win could provide a historic shift in the emphasis Cy Young voters place on wins by a pitcher. The 13 wins by Hernandez sets a new low for a Cy Young winner, trumping the 15 by Tim Lincecum of the Giants in the National League race last season.

Instead, voters focused on Hernandez’s league-best 2.27 earned-run average and 249-2/3 innings pitched. He was also second in the league with six complete games and 232 strikeouts.

Dave Niehaus, voice of the Mariners, dies

November 11, 2010 by  


SEATTLE — In the crowning moment of his legendary broadcasting career, Dave Niehaus stood on the podium in Cooperstown, N.Y., and saluted the power of his medium.

“Radio plays with the mind,” he said upon accepting the Ford C. Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008. “It gives you a mental workout and delusions of grandeur.”

For 34 years in Seattle — the entirety of the Mariners’ life span—  no one was grander, or more beloved, than Niehaus, who died Wednesday of a heart attack at his home in Bellevue. He was 75.

“This is truly devastating news,” Howard Lincoln, the Mariners chairman and CEO, and team President Chuck Armstrong said in a joint statement released by the team. “… Dave has truly been the heart and soul of this franchise since its inception in 1977.”

Lured away from the broadcast team of the California Angels at age 42 to become the voice of the expansion Mariners, Niehaus was there from the first pitch in organization history at the Kingdome on April 6, 1977, to the final game of a dismal 2010 season Oct. 3 at Safeco Field.

Click here to hear Niehaus’ call of Edgar Martinez’s 1995 ALDS-winning double

Niehaus broadcast 5,284 of the 5,385 games played by the Mariners, and did it with contagious enthusiasm. His call of Edgar Martinez’s double to beat the Yankees in the 1995 playoffs has been emblazoned in the memory banks, characterized by Niehaus as “my seminal moment.” But his audible frustration during poor Mariners performances was just as endearing — and no one witnessed more poor Mariners performances than Niehaus over the years.

Niehaus’ catchphrases became buzzwords for generations of Seattle baseball fans: “Fly away!” for home runs,” “Get out the rye bread and mustard, Grandma, it’s grand salami time!” for grand slams, and “My, oh, my!” for any impressive feat on the field.

“Dave loved baseball and loved the Mariners,” former broadcast partner Ron Fairly said. “That ‘My, oh, my’ was genuine. When the team was not playing well, it tore him up. When the Mariners did run out some really good teams, he was the happiest guy in the world.”

Niehaus’ death led to an outpouring of appreciation from all corners of the baseball world, but it was felt with particular force in Washington. Gov. Chris Gregoire said in a statement, “Today the Pacific Northwest lost one of its sports icons.”

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said, “Seattle has lost a friend. … From now on, there will be just two eras of Mariner baseball: the Dave Niehaus era and everything else.”

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig called Niehaus “one of the great broadcast voices of our generation, a true gentleman, and a credit to baseball. He was a good friend and I will miss him. … Dave was a Hall of Famer in every way.”

No one had a closer association with Niehaus than Rick Rizzs, his longtime broadcast partner, and Kevin Cremin, producer/engineer on the broadcasts for 28 years.

“What a loss,” Rizzs said. “Holy cow. I feel numb. He meant everything to Mariner baseball. Everything. He was not only the voice of the Mariners, he was the Mariners. He was the face of the franchise. When you turned on the radio, everything was right with the world when you heard Dave’s voice.”

“Dave was the best there ever was,” Cremin said. “Best guy, best announcer, best friend. No one could draw you into the moment, the drama of a game, like he could. They broke the mold when they made Dave. His style, his mannerisms, he was one of a kind. He was like a brother, an uncle, a relative to me. He brought me here. It will never be the same without him.”

Niehaus often said his most meaningful award was a citation from the Washington Association for the Blind.

“They said their members could see the game through my eyes, which is the ultimate compliment for a broadcaster,” he told The Seattle Times in 2006. “And you can only do that on the radio.”

Niehaus had a particularly close relationship with the Mariners’ greatest player, Ken Griffey Jr., and his calls of Griffey’s accomplishments are among his most memorable. Griffey often engaged Niehaus in warm, teasing banter, and admonished Niehaus to lead a healthier lifestyle after his 1996 heart attack.

“He meant everything,” Griffey said of Niehaus in an interview Wednesday night on 710 ESPN. “Everybody talks about the players who went there and the players who left, but he made the Mariners who they are. Without him, the guys out there are nothing. Day in and day out, he brought the excitement and drove thousands and millions of people to the ballpark to come watch us.”

Niehaus became enamored of baseball while listening to Cardinals’ announcer Harry Caray as a child in Princeton, Ind. He was enrolled in Indiana University’s dentistry program when he had an epiphany.

“One morning I woke up and thought I couldn’t bear staring down someone’s throat at 9 o’clock in the morning for the rest of my life,” Niehaus told The Times last year. “Then I stopped by the college’s radio and television station, and I’ve been doing this ever since.”

Cremin said Wednesday that Niehaus had planned to do a full schedule of Mariners games in 2011. In a 2008 interview, Niehaus said retirement was not in his plans.

“I can’t imagine not doing it,” he said. “I can imagine not doing it, but you might as well dig a hole and put me in it.”

Cremin said Wednesday, “The Voice has been silenced, but we can still hear him. We always will.”

Niehaus is survived by wife, Marilyn; their three children, Andy, Matt and Greta; and six grandchildren, Zach, Steven, Madeline, Alexa, Audrey and Spencer.

The family has requested privacy. Services are pending.

— Larry Stone/The Seattle Times

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