Part I Part I

My Proposal: The Evergreen State Championship


This is Part III of the series on reviving the Gonzaga-Washington series. If you missed Part I or Part II, click on the links. Today’s post discusses a way each side could ease into their resumption of the series within the context of a greater event.

There are five Division I schools in the State of Washington. Several of these teams have a long standing tradition of playing each other on a regular basis. For instance, Washington plays Seattle University every year. Gonzaga plays Washington State nearly every season. The Huskies used to play Gonzaga yearly until the falling out occurred in 2007. The Huskies have played Eastern Washington off-and-on over the years. Of course the Huskies and Cougars meet twice a year as Pac-12 rivals. But, there has never been one season in which all five teams played each other in the same season to make for a true round robin.

In the debates over the years about who the best team in the State of Washington is, there is never a definitive answer. Sometimes it is Washington, sometimes it is Gonzaga, there have even been rare seasons where it has been Washington State. As for Eastern Washington and Seattle U, well they are mid-majors trying to compete in a world of big-time college athletics and they need to find games that will pay for their travel to keep their athletic budget afloat. Playing their in-state rivals makes a lot of economic sense for them and gives them a chance to better recruit that 2nd tier of local talent in the state.

So, one thing I have always wondered about is why isn’t there an Evergreen State Championship in the non-conference season? It really would not be that difficult to do, wouldn’t ultimately affect anyone’s RPI (since the quality of the competition for each team is similar to what they already schedule in the non-conference), and would make for some exciting local rivalries and excite the fan base and alumni in this great state.

Such a round-robin event already occurs in Philadelphia as part of the “Big 5”. Penn, La Salle, St. Josephs, Villanova, and Temple play each other every year to see who the champion of Philly is. In addition, a sixth team Drexel, while not officially part of the Big 5 plays many of these teams in the non-conference. The Big 5 is an intense rivalry that brings about major media attention, offers quality competition, while also reducing the overall travel load on its student-athletes. Those schools take great pride in winning the title.

Now, I know before I get any further, there will be some Gonzaga fans railing against having to play lowly Seattle U. It should be noted that new WCC invitee Pacific had a lower RPI than Seattle U this year. But, Gonzaga might consider who they play already by the likes of DII Augustana College, DII Lewis and Clark State, and Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne. Each of the five DI schools in the Evergreen State need  games against both top-notch competition and a few gimmes to practice and work out rotations. So, why not keep it local to save on travel time and expenses, as well as, earn a few bucks from the natural in-state interest that would be generated by the five alumni bases?

Wouldn’t it be nice for alumni of EWU, Wazzu, and Gonzaga who live and work in the Puget Sound area to get to see their beloved teams in Seattle? Wouldn’t it be fun for UW and Seattle U alumni living east of the mountains to see them roll into Spokane?

Now, there will be some who are wondering how UW and WSU could play each other in this mini-tournament given they have Pac-12 play to deal with. Well, it’s fairly easy. You set up two “neutral court” arenas on each side of the state and play it over two weekends in December. Since Pac-12 play actually begins on the last weekend of December and the Huskies always play Seattle U during the week of one of their WSU games, both teams simply need to ask the Pac-12 to play the first in-state game on that designated first weekend.

So, here’s how it could play out:

Year One, 2012:

Sat, Dec 8, Seattle U vs. Eastern Washington at Key Arena

Thurs, Dec 13- Washington vs. Eastern Washington and Gonzaga vs. Seattle U double-header at Spokane Arena

Sat, Dec 15- Washington vs. Gonzaga and Seattle U vs. Washington State double-header at Spokane Arena

Tues, Dec 18- Eastern Washington at Washington State

Thurs, Dec 27- Washington vs. Seattle U at Key Arena

Thurs, Dec 27- Gonzaga vs. Washington State at Spokane Arena

Sat, Dec 29- Washington vs. Washington State at Hec Ed

Sat, Dec 29- Eastern Washington at Gonzaga

Year Two, 2013:

Sat, Dec 7, Seattle U at Eastern Washington

Thurs, Dec 12- Washington vs. Eastern Washington and Gonzaga vs. Seattle U double-header at Key Arena

Sat, Dec 14- Washington vs. Gonzaga and Seattle U vs. Washington State double-header at Key Arena

Tues, Dec 18- Eastern Washington at Washington State at Spokane Arena

Thurs, Dec 27- Seattle U at Washington (Hec Ed)

Thurs, Dec 27- Gonzaga vs. Washington State at Spokane Arena

Sat, Dec 29- Washington at Washington State

Sat, Dec 29- Eastern Washington at Gonzaga at Spokane Arena

Under this scenario, each team would alternate appearances on each side of the Cascades, essentially creating a home-and-away series for each of the teams. The big weekend of games in mid-December would be hosted by Key Arena and Spokane Arena (the largest venues in the state), with much of that moving to a potential new facility if it ends up being built in SoDo or somewhere else. Whether the exact locations I listed above make the most sense could be negotiated among the schools.

But, wherever the games are played, the Evergreen State Champion could be crowned before New Year’s. Such a tournament would provide a bit of prestige and value to games in the pre-season while also giving each team the opportunity to play the types of games they already schedule; some against marquee names with high RPI’s and some against weaker opponents for practice. It’s such a no brainer that I realize it is virtually certain to never happen. But, you can always dream…