By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Dennis Erickson admits he won’t spend much time this weekend reminiscing about all the Saturdays he spent at Husky Stadium.
The Everett native and Arizona State head coach has more important things on his mind. His Sun Devils play UCLA on Saturday in a game that could all but lock up a berth in the inaugural Pacific-12 Conference championship.
But the UW’s 92-year-old stadium won’t be entirely out of mind for Erickson.
“My dad used to take me down there all the time — that’s what we did with our lives, watch football,” said Erickson, who watched UW stars like Hugh McElhenny and Bob Schloredt with father Pinky Erickson in his youth. “I watched a lot of games there as a youth, and as an opponent, I coached a lot of games there, too.
“What a great place. What great tradition. What a great stadium. I’ve got a lot of memories, and most of them good.”
The University of Washington football team plays Oregon in its final game at old Husky Stadium on Saturday night. Renovation begins next week.
Husky football practices move to an adjacent field and the season’s final home game — the Nov. 26 Apple Cup — will be played at the Seahawks’ stadium, CenturyLink Field, in downtown Seattle. That also will be the venue for the UW’s home games in 2012. The new UW stadium is scheduled to open in 2013.
Former players and coaches — even some who spent many a Saturday afternoon getting booed there — have fond memories of Husky Stadium.
“One of the great venues and great atmospheres, and it will continue to be as they rebuild it,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said this week of his memories of Husky Stadium. “A lot of hard moments, and a lot of great moments, in that stadium.”
For current Husky players, the nostalgia and stories of a stadium that pre-dates even many of their grandparents will have to wait. The ceremonial goodbye to the long-revered venue isn’t their main concern. Oregon is.
The Ducks have beaten beaten the Huskies seven consecutive times, and each of those losses came by margins of 20 points or more. As senior receiver Jermaine Kearse said: “It’s a rivalry, but it’s a little more to me.”
Asked to expand on that, the UW senior stated the obvious: “I haven’t beat (the Ducks) yet. That’s something I would like to do.”
Oregon’s Chip Kelly, whose teams have averaged 48.8 points per game against UW in his four years as Oregon’s offensive coordinator and head coach, said he’s preparing his team for a unique environment on Saturday night.
“The fact that it’s the last game in it, we know that the Washington fans will be jacked up … and ready to go,” Kelly said. “We’d better be prepared for it, because we know it’s going to be loud.”
UW coach Steve Sarkisian doesn’t want his players too caught up in all the hoopla surrounding the ceremonial goodbye and the honoring of UW’s 1991 national championship team. His goal is to keep the Huskies focused on Oregon, and then enjoy the ceremonial stuff in retrospect.
“We can’t get caught up in the things that are going on around us,” said Sarkisian, who’s Huskies spoiled a similar goodbye last season when they upset Cal in the final game at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley.
The historical significance of Saturday’s game hasn’t been completely lost on the UW players, even though they’re trying to put it aside.
“It’s going to be emotional, I guess,” senior defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu said. “The last game in this stadium. A lot of great players have come through here, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Adding to Saturday’s emotions will be Senior Night, which honors UW players in their final official home game. The current group has endured an 0-12 season, seen a new coaching staff come in and been a part of the turnaround that soon will include back-to-back bowl games.
“Our seniors have been through a lot here,” senior linebacker Cort Dennison said. “It’s been as low as you can go, and we’ve come back and done some good things.
“… All those times we’ve practiced in that stadium, and all the times we’ve played there, they’re coming to an end. But you also can’t let the emotions get out of hand. You’ve still got a football game to play, and a very important football game.”
And after that, the walls will come down.
“The stadium means so much to this football program,” Sarkisian said. “But I can’t even imagine in 18 months from now, when the new Husky Stadium (is built), how much more it’s really going to mean to this program and university.
“I’m excited for the sledge hammer to come, for the process to start. Eighteen months can’t come fast enough.”
Ditto for former UW player and head coach Jim Lambright.
“It’s what should have been done 30 years ago,” said Lambright, who now works as a consultant for the construction firm doing the renovation.