By Chris B. Bennett
The University of Washington Huskies’ football team has a long and storied history. Depending on what side of the street you sit on that history can be either good or bad.
A few years ago, much to the dismay of many in the African American community, the University of Washington honored former head football coach Jim Owens by placing a statue of his likeness in front of the entrance to Husky Stadium. There are those who refer to Owens as a legendary coach, although his name is not among the four Husky football coaches inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Last weekend, I attended the first football game in the newly renovated Husky Stadium. There was much fanfare about the new facility and the venue is top notch. One of the things that caught my attention during the game was that two UW players were wearing the number “1” on their jersey – the same number worn by NFL Hall of Famer and former UW quarterback Warren Moon.
As I thought about the history of the UW football program, I wondered why Warren Moon’s jersey had not been retired. After all, he was the MVP of the 1978 Rose Bowl in which the Huskies upset the highly favored Michigan Wolverines. That game marked the Huskies first bowl appearance since 1964 and first bowl victory since 1961.
As it relates to Husky football, there is no doubt that Warren Moon is legendary. However, it was his accomplishments at the pro level that are even more extraordinary. Over the course of his 23-year career in the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the NFL, Moon threw for 70,533 yards and 435 touchdowns. In 2005, Moon became the first African American quarterback to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Upon further investigation, I discovered that the University of Washington has retired the numbers of only three football players – (2) Chuck Carroll, (33) George Wilson and (44) Roland Kirby. Carroll played during the late 1920’s and helped lead the Huskies to a 28-4 record during his collegiate career. He was inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1964. Wilson, a three time All-American halfback during the mid 1920’s, was Washington’s first consensus All-American. Kirby was a member of the Husky’s fearsome foursome backfield in 1950 that featured Hugh McElhenny, Don Heinrich and Bill Early.
In reading the UW Gameday magazine, I saw an advertisement for the Big W Club Jersey Retirement that highlighted four former Huskies who were having their jerseys retired during the 2013-2014 season. According to the advertisement, “For a jersey to be retired, a student-athlete must win the national player of the year award in their respective sport.”
This appears to be short-sighted by whoever implemented this policy. This explains why the last Husky football player to have his number retired played back in the 1950s.
It appears that this policy needs to be re-addressed and the school needs to seriously consider the retirement of Warren Moon’s jersey. When you talk about legends and ambassadors of the game of football, Warren Moon’s name is certainly among the best of the best. Personally, I believe that it’s a travesty that 35 years after leading his team to one of the most historic Bowl wins in school history the University of Washington has failed to properly honor the achievements of Warren Moon by retiring his jersey.
Warren Moon was part of the beginning of a Husky football legacy that laid the foundation for the new Husky Stadium to be built. Without the football tradition that began in the late 70’s, we probably would not be talking about Rose Bowl victories, national championships and competing for top recruits. Warren Moon is one of the prominent faces of Husky football and it’s time for the Huskies to retire his jersey and truly honor the most accomplished football player the history of the school.