One gorgeous blue-sky Saturday in October, the Huskies trounced the UCLA Bruins 44-23. But the number that matters here has nothing to do with a final score. It’s the number one. That’s how many midday home games University of Washington football fans enjoyed this season — just one.
Kickoff time for the 110th Apple Cup, the cross-state battle between the Huskies and WSU Cougars, is 5 p.m. Saturday. On that last regular-season game day, sunset in Seattle will be at 4:23 p.m. The bout for state bragging rights will be yet another after-dark affair.
My best memories of Husky games involve walking across the UW campus on golden fall days and, from the dizzying heights of 300-level seats, gazing out at boats anchored in Lake Washington’s Union Bay.
An Oct. 2 Associated Press article explained that this season’s many night games — two with 7:45 p.m. kickoff times — are due to the Huskies’ winning record. “In a way, Washington is a victim of its own success,” said The AP story, published on the Sports Illustrated website.
As UW football has improved under head coach Chris Petersen, “it’s become a desirable school to feature among the national broadcasts that are part of the Pac-12’s television package,” the article said. “But that means sometimes fitting into time slots that don’t lend themselves to optimal viewing.”
I’m a UW graduate. This past weekend, I was given four tickets to the UW-University of Utah game. My first thought was of my daughter’s family. My grandsons, about to turn 6 and 3, are growing up in a Husky household — their dad is a UW alumnus. This was his reply to a text I sent offering tickets: “7:30 kickoff, so probably too late for the boys.”
We ended up meeting my son-in-law and his friend at the game, which truly was too late for my grandsons. It had been dark a couple of hours by the time we arrived at Husky Stadium just before the 7:30 p.m. start.
During the game, which ended with a last-minute 33-30 win over Utah’s Utes, the crowd saw views of Lake Washington only on the big screen. How ironic that in a presentation touting what the university describes as “The Greatest Setting in College Football,” the spectacular views that make it so were seen only on video.
My grandchildren are hardly the only ones affected by the UW’s 2017 football schedule. Consider the players. Are they at their best in late-night games? What about elderly alumni, my favorite people to see sporting purple and gold? One fan was honored Saturday for having Husky football season tickets for more than 50 years. He should be able to enjoy some day games each season.
And then there’s Terri Stanton, of Lake Stevens, whose two children are members of the Husky Marching Band.
“We go to all the home games, and stay to the bitter end,” said Stanton, a 1991 UW graduate who teaches at Haller Middle School in Arlington. Her son, Patrick Stanton, 20, is a UW junior who plays trombone. Daughter Elizabeth, 18, plays a mellophone, an instrument similar to the French horn that’s used in marching bands.
After Saturday’s game, Stanton didn’t get home until about 1 a.m. Not wanting to drive back after some late games, she has taken Link light rail to downtown Seattle and stayed in a hotel. With a friend, she has come to Husky games by boat. They did that once in darkness, but have now decided against boating to night games.
“I get that it’s a money thing and a TV thing, but I worry about them broadcasting from an empty stadium,” Stanton said.
Petersen’s unhappiness with the schedule drew the attention of Washington Post sportswriter Patrick Stevens, who wrote about it in an Oct. 5 article. The Husky coach denounced the 7:45 p.m. (10:45 p.m. Eastern time) kickoff times in games against California and Arizona State.
“I just want to say something to our fans: We apologize for these late games,” Petersen is quoted as saying in The Post story. “We want to play at 1 p.m. It hurts us tremendously in terms of national exposure.” He said “it’s painful for our team, it’s painful for our administration and we know certainly the most important part is for our fans.”
Although she goes to Husky Stadium all the time, Stanton said “I miss the greatest setting in college football — you can’t see it.” Yet she’ll be there for Apple Cup, like always.
Stanton declined to pick a winner. “I’m predicting a good game,” she said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@herald net.com.