HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — The greatest example of Washington football changing its identity, according to defensive back Kevin King, is head coach Chris Petersen’s take on the Bart Simpson-writing-on-the-chalkboard gag.
“We have this thing called C.T.: Commitment Time,” King explained. “If you miss a class, or miss [study table], you’ve got to go to C.T. It’s after the games, or if we don’t have a game, Friday night…You’ve got to bring your books to the stadium and be at the stadium, doing homework, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
King credited C.T. as part of establishing a program built more on “a little more discipline and a little more structure.”
“Guys have a lot of pride, and they feel like they’re too grown to be in detention,” tight end Darrell Daniels said with a smile. “You take care of your business, you should never be in C.T. That’s what Coach Pete’s harped on.”
Neither player Petersen chose to represent the Washington football program at Pac-12 Media Days — Daniels nor King — came to UW as a Petersen recruit. Both witnessed firsthand the changes in the program as Petersen’s approach began to resonate.
“My class is the last [Steve Sarkisian-signed] class, but at the same time, we’ve all bought into Pete’s message,” King said. We know Pete knows what it takes to win.”
Alluding to Petersen’s success at Boise State, where the coach built on the foundation of a successful program and turned it into a nationally recognized powerhouse, King added: “Obviously, something he’s got going and things he knows works.”
Establishing a new tone and direction for a program isn’t an instantaneous process, even for one of the game’s most winning, active coaches. King described an initial “butting [of] heads” as Petersen and his staff took over for Sarkisian and Co. in the 2014 season.
Sarkisian left Washington after five seasons for a stint at USC that lasted less than two.
“It just takes a long time to get everybody on the same page and believing the same things,” Petersen said. “You can’t just say, ‘OK, this is what we are and we’ve got it.’ It’s like putting in a play one time and saying, we are good, OK, this is going to work.”
The analogy to perfecting a play in practice explains C.T. and relationship-building exercises Petersen described. It’s a process that requires effort, and at Washington
“Before last year, you could definitely see that divide of Sark guys vs. Petersen guys,” King said. “This third year now, though, you can see the change.”
The result in 2014 was an 8-6 final record, a regression from the previous year’s breakthrough 9-win finish, and below some expectations.
The 2014 Washington roster returned a number of highly talented play-makers like Shaq Thompson, Hau’oli Kikaha, Marcus Peters and Danny Shelton, all of whom were selected in the 2015 NFL draft. After losing that corps, the 2015 Huskies fought to the end of the regular season just to get bowl eligible.
But after a young team ended 2015 on a crescendo, blowing out Washington State and Southern Miss in consecutive contests to finish 7-6, Washington enters 2016 with hype not seen around the program since the turn of the millennium.
“It just feels better, for our coaches, and I think it feels better for our players,” Petersen said of the atmosphere around the Huskies.
Washington has an opportunity to win its first Pac-12 North championship and play for the league title ahead of it. If the Huskies handle their responsibilities, there won’t be any C.T.
The only after-game time will have to be allotted for trophy ceremonies.