Back by popular demand: The Dawgs and Zags agree to a four-year contract of alternating, on-campus games. They will be the first meetings in the 43-game, in-state series since 2006. “The fans have shown” they want it, Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar says.
By Gregg Bell
UW Athletics Director of Writing
SEATTLE – The Dawgs and Zags are reuniting.
Washington and Gonzaga have agreed to resume their in-state basketball rivalry with a four-year contract of on-campus games alternating between Seattle and Spokane beginning in the 2016-17 season.
Whether the first game of the renewal will be at UW or at Gonzaga is still to be determined.
“This series is great for the fans of our state,” Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said.
Resuming the popular series had to wait until the 2016-17 season because both teams already had their schedules set for 2014-15, and because the Huskies already have international, non-conference commitments for 2015-16. Washington and Texas will become the first American teams in any sport to play a regular-season game in China on Nov. 13, 2015.
UW and GU have met 43 times since their first game in 1910. The last meeting was in December 2006.
The Evergreen State’s basketball followers have been clamoring for this renewal ever since.
“The fans have shown that they really appreciate the game with Washington and Gonzaga. I mean, every one of them since we’ve been here has been a sellout, or close to it,” Romar said. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm and hype centered around the game.”
This is the second time in a dozen years Romar has renewed the Gonzaga series. When the former Husky player first returned to coach UW in 2002, the four-year contract with the West Coast Conference program was ending. He and Gonzaga coach Mark Few agreed then to another four-year deal, which expired following the 2006-07 season.
A couple years ago an idea died to resume the series with games off-campus at KeyArena in Seattle, the venue with the state’s largest seating capacity for basketball (17,072). Both programs think having the games on campus instead is ideal.
“We have great fans and loud support. To reward our fans, a game like that with Gonzaga – or any other high-profile opponent – we’d much rather play on campus,” Romar said from his office on the upper floor of Alaska Airlines Arena, capacity 10,000. “So to reward them, they get to see it right here, where we are. The students are right here. They don’t have to get in a car and drive to where it is. It will be right here on campus.”
As Washington and the Pac-12 got more exposure with higher-profile non-conference games on national television beginning in the fall and winter 2008, the programs’ abilities and flexibilities to schedule each other changed.
That was back before the Pac-12’s recent national-TV contracts with ESPN and Fox, and before the league created its own network. Six years ago, UW and other Pac-12 teams getting non-conference basketball games on national TV was a coup.
“It started with thePac-10/Big 12 Challenge (a series of early season games between the Pac-12 and that league that ended a couple years ago), and then we had some tournaments and games at Madison Square Garden a few years,” Romar said of how Washington’s schedule stalled a continuation of the series with Gonzaga until now. “Our schedule was getting filled up.
“And the thing with the Big 12 Challenge and the games in New York, those had national television coverage. That was really important for us to get those games nationally televised. The Gonzaga game – although in Washington it is big and in the state it gains a lot of exposure – nationwide it’s hard to get the exposure that we got in these other games. So we made a choice.
“But,” Romar added, “if you’ve been around the last few years you’ve heard me say a hundred times, ‘We will play Gonzaga again.’
“And now we will.”
Washington and Gonzaga first met in Spokane on Feb. 14, 1910, in a, um, shootout: A 23-14 win for the Huskies. They played eight times in the 1920s and 15 times from 1930-45 -- then not at all from 1946 until 1971.
Beginning Dec. 30, 1997, the Huskies and Bulldogs played 10 consecutive seasons, alternating home games on each campus. The last four-year contract ended with the last meeting in the series, Dec. 9, 2006, when No. 13 Washington lost at 18th-ranked Gonzaga.
That’s the only time the Huskies have played inside the McCarthey Athletic Center (capacity: 6,000). In 2004 Gonzaga moved into its “new Kennel” arena from its old, bandbox gym that is attached to its new place.
Gonzaga hasn’t played at Alaska Airlines Arena since Dec. 4, 2005, a memorable Sunday-night game on national television which had Zags’ All-American Adam Morrison putting up 43 points. But Justin Dentmon scored all 13 of his second-half points in the final 13 minutes as the No. 18 Huskies pulled out a wild, 99-95 victory over the sixth-ranked Zags.
Vintage rivalry stuff.