Sarkisian starts Year 5 at Washington

When he arrived at Washington, Steve Sarkisian was the newest

member of the then-Pac-10 coaching hierarchy.

When his fifth season in charge of the Huskies begins on Monday

with the start of fall camp, he’ll be among the more established

veterans coaching in the conference.

”I can believe it because I look at our guys and look at our

players and see them all grown up,” Sarkisian said in an interview

with The Associated Press last week.

”I don’t know if I’ve ever been more excited. I’m excited about

this team, this season, the opportunity we have.”

Sarkisian may be full of excitement, but his fifth season begins

facing increased scrutiny after failing to top seven wins in a

single season and as the Huskies move back into their renovated

home stadium.

While a seven-win season seemed like a dream when Sarkisian

arrived and the Huskies fresh off a 0-12 season, that standard is

no longer acceptable by a fan base that expects to compete for

Pac-12 titles.

Championships were the goal Sarkisian set when he arrived.

And now, as he preps to move into his palatial new office atop

the west end zone of the renovated Husky Stadium and gets ready for

the season opener against Boise State in less than three weeks,

it’s time to deliver.

”Like I tell the team now and like I tell our coaches, we’re

judged on one thing and that’s winning and losing,” Sarkisian

said. ”Are we better today than we were three years ago when we

went 7-6 and beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl? Yeah, we’re a

better team. But until our record changes we’re 7-6. I don’t mind

saying it.”

Washington enters 2013 still smarting from a thud to end 2012.

The Huskies were on the cusp of finally topping that seven-win

plateau they’ve reached in three straight seasons, before blowing

an 18-point fourth-quarter lead in losing to rival Washington State

and then losing 28-26 to Boise State in their bowl game.

Sarkisian knows there is grumbling has he enters 2013. Couple

that with what appears to be indecision by Sarkisian around whether

there will be any extra punishment coming to two star players –

Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams – who ran into trouble

with the law in the offseason, and there has been a rising amount

of pressure.

If he’s feeling the weight from outside the program, Sarkisian

wasn’t showing it on the verge of camp.

”I chose to come here, these players chose to come here to win

a championship and that’s our mission, that’s our goal,” he

said.

Sarkisian is 26-25 as a head coach. He’s gone to three straight

bowl games, the first time Washington has reached that benchmark

since 2000-2002. He’s 3-1 against rival Washington State – although

last year’s loss against the Cougars still stings – but has yet to

solve Oregon’s dominance of Washington over the past decade.

He’s no longer a new, young head coach. He’s still young at age

39, but he’s one of the more established vets in the Pac-12, with

only Mike Riley and Kyle Whittingham having longer tenures at their

respective schools.

When he arrived at Washington in late 2008, Sarkisian was a

bombastic cheerleader for a program that was coming off the first

winless season in school history.

He wanted to promote his program like a salesman, hoping to drum

up support and interest in a product that was at its lowest point

in a long and storied history. He needed fans to care about a

program that had become fractured during the disappointing tenure

under Tyrone Willingham.

The calculated decision worked at the start. Season tickets

rose, fan apathy diminished and not surprisingly the Huskies got

better on the field.

But some backlash soon followed when Sarkisian made changes that

appeared to close off the program. Practices are no longer open to

fans.

Media access to practice, players and coaches has been limited.

What Sarkisian now believes the Huskies need to be successful is

outweighing a program that’s open to all.

”It was very intentional when I came here to raise the

excitement about the University of Washington’s football program

and I tried to find every avenue to promote this program in a

positive light as best I could and I think it was effective.

”I think it helped us in recruiting, I think it got our fan

base excited in a product that we were trying to develop on the

field and we saw that in season ticket sales and whatnot,”

Sarkisian said.

Sarkisian also no longer needs to manage every aspect of the

program the same way he did in his first season. The first couple

of seasons were spent establishing foundations for various aspects

of the program.

He says because there has been little staff turnover on the

fringes of the program that’s created continuity and allowed him to

get back to focusing more on coaching.

”It’s allowed me to really find myself back into the cylinder

of football more often than I use to be and I love that,”

Sarkisian said.

”That’s why we do what we do, that’s why I’m in the profession.

… I think a lot of things have changed in five years and in turn

for me it’s helped because I’m back to doing the majority of the

time what I loved to do which is coaching football.”