Reviving the Gonzaga Series – Follow up


My article the other day on reviving the Gonzaga series certainly did make an impression on some people. While this rivalry certainly does stir up a lot of passion, there is a lot of misinformation out there that probably needs to be addressed if there is to be an honest debate on the topic.

Let me start off by saying that I used to be a big Gonzaga supporter back in the days of Dan Monson (and early Mark Few before I learned more about him). I loved the idea that a little Jesuit school with just a few thousand students in my home state could surprise the basketball world and become competitive on a regular basis. I rooted for them hard for several years. In fact, in deep in my heart I still do…sort of.

So, let’s take a moment to clarify a few things with cool heads. To summarize; Washington leads the series 29-14, so they have been playing each other for many years. But, for most of that time Gonzaga was no different than playing Eastern Washington, Idaho, or Portland State. They were just a regional opponent that was relatively cheap to fly/bus in and play against. In fact, as much as I have watched UW basketball since the early 80’s, I have almost no recollection of playing Gonzaga until around the year 2000. In fact, the rivalry really didn’t begin in earnest until Mark Few became the head coach and the program was on the rise (yes, it rose under Dan Monson, but I don’t think most of us considered it a rivalry yet at that time because UW wasn’t very good and we had to think about that instead).

But, even so, I always felt like Gonzaga fans took the games much more seriously than Washington fans did until sometime around 2005. It should be noted that in the 10 years of the most latest games (1998-2007), UW was not really a very good team until 2004, the 2nd year after Romar took over at UW. So, while Gonzaga fans like to say 8-2, to be fair if you are trying to compare apples-to-apples, Gonzaga is 3-1 in the modern era. And, it is that 1-3 record that started getting Husky fans concerned and interested in the series. UW was supposed to be on the rise, we had two Sweet 16’s in a row (2005-2006), so why were we still losing to Gonzaga?

Anyways, let’s take a look at some of the comments people left on the last article to see if they have merit:

Several comments discussed the “weakness” of Washington’s schedules and their low RPI. Such as “Also, you haven’t looked at the numbers. UW finished 179 last year in RPI. That’s 3 spots below Dartmouth” and “Playing UW would only help Gonzaga’s RPI if UW started playing a stronger out of conference schedule. To improve its own RPI, Gonzaga is better off playing teams that have strong out of conference schedules and are in a strong conference.”

Well, let’s compare their RPI and SOS over the last three years directly (all data via

 2011 RPI2011 SOS2010 RPI2010 SOS2009 RPI2009 SOS

Clearly UW’s strength of schedule has been better, primarily due to playing in a stronger conference. That’s always been the thing too. UW plays weaker opponents in the non-conference because Pac-10 play is hard. Gonzaga has to play the tough opponents in the non-conference because the West Coast Conference is so weak. But, I concede that the final RPI’s for the teams are pretty similar.

As for post-season results, let’s look at that:

 2011 CT2011 NCAA2010 CT2010 NCAA2009 CT2009 NCAA
WashingtonWon2nd RoundWonSweet 16Semis*2nd Round
GonzagaWon2nd Round2nd2nd RoundWonSweet 16

* after winning regular season title

Again, these results are pretty similar. Which goes to show you that there are different paths to get the same results. And before Gonzaga fans talk about how wonderful their non-conference schedule is (and it is by necessity), here are just a few of the “other” opponents they have played the last three seasons (and those DII games were not exhibitions – I left those out such as the Alberta game).

Montana State-Billings (DII),  Augustana College (DII), Mississippi Valley State,  Lewis-Clark State (DII), Cal St. Bakersfield 

Everyone does it, its how it works in college basketball. Every team needs gimme games for practice and who don’t cost much to bring into your arena to fill out the schedule. So, you decide who has been playing the harder schedule the last few years and who has performed better in general. To me, its pretty similar and no one can claim the role of being superior.

Several commentors also commented on home games against weak opponents not bringing in any revenue. Actually, that isn’t really accurate. A Gonzaga game at Hec Ed would bring in no more money than a home game against Long Beach State. If the arena is full, its full. With only 10,000 seats to fill and a rabid fan base, the games are about equal. If UW played in an arena twice that size, I could see how it would be important to have higher quality opponents to keep people’s interests and the arena full. But, the only way to generate higher income is to play games in larger arenas. Thus, Key Arena at over 17,000 would generate much more income than Hec Ed would. Same is true for Gonzaga by the way with their 6,000 seats at the Kennel. But, Gonzaga has already figured that out with their annual games at Key Arena already.

As for why I no longer root for Gonzaga, at least under the current circumstances? What really started turning me off to them was when their fans started jumping on the Huskies boards like locusts every time the word “Gonzaga” was mentioned, with their superior attitudes, demeaning and denegrating language, and attacks on the UW team, Lorenzo Romar, and the fans. Like really what did UW ever do to them? Rather than each being mutually supportive of each other, representing the Pacific Northwest in completely different contexts, their desire to act superior really turned me off. I know from communicating with other Husky fans as well, that I am not alone in this sentimate.

It is this unfounded vitriol toward Washington that has turned this rivalry so negative. Now so many of us want it revived, just so we can beat each other up. Apparently, it was even enough to turn the coaches against each other. We really want to like you guys again, but you make it so difficult to do sometimes…