Sept. 29, 2007
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by Jeff Bechthold
It's fitting that the day that has been selected to honor the University of Washington's 1960 football team comes on a day when the Huskies are playing USC.
After all, aside from a long-forgotten national championship, that era of Husky football is primarily known for bringing about a geographical swing in college football.
The prior year, after the 1959 season, Coach Jim Owens' purple and gold squad went to the Rose Bowl and surprised the favored Wisconsin Badgers with a 44-8 rout.
After the 1960 season, the Huskies knocked off No. 1-ranked Minnesota, 17-7. One of only two polls that held its vote after the bowl games - the Helms Foundation - ranked the Huskies No. 1 in its final ranking.
(Why the Husky administrators of that era didn't more ardently claim that title is a good question. After all, both Minnesota and Mississippi have long claimed shares of the title that season.)
Regardless of all that, the Huskies' teams of that era changed the face of college football. Prior to the UW's win in the 1960 Rose Bowl, teams from the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) and the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU) - which became the Pac-10 - had won only one of the previous 14 Rose Bowls as the Big Ten powers held sway, not only over the Granddaddy of Them All, but also over college football as a whole.
After the 1961 Rose Bowl, the power shifted from the Midwest to the West Coast as Pac-8 and Pac-10 teams won 19 of the next 26 Rose Bowl.
More recently, USC has represented the Pac-10 and the West Coast in combating the widely perceived East Coast bias, which in recent years as it relates to football might be more accurately called the Southeast bias.
The Trojans won national championships in 2003 and 2004. They come to Husky Stadium today ranked No. 1, a position in which they've spent considerable time in recent years.
Whatever folks down south or in the east think of Pac-10 football, they have to concede that the Trojans have been, by nearly any measure, the most successful program of first few years of this century.
Like the Huskies of 1960 (and, one could argue, the UW teams of the early 1990s), the modern-day Trojans have marked their era.
What also makes today's match-up an apt one is that USC's considerable success of late has lessened the memories of what came before it. In fact, as the Huskies look to continue their reascent to the top levels of college football, they need look no farther than across the field today for proof that it can be done.
After all, the Trojans entered the current century with a 5-7 record in 2000 (the same as the UW's season record last year). They went 6-6 the following year and then jumped to 11-2 the season after that. In fact, USC has gone 6-5 or worse seven times since 1990.
So, while purple-and-gold fans throughout Husky Stadium join in saluting and honoring the 1960 Huskies, a team that set the UW standard for toughness and strength, perhaps the current Washington players can draw some inspiration to follow in the footsteps the men who have preceded them in successfully fighting their way back to the top.
After all, that very fight is a big part of what the tradition of Husky football is all about.