What happened at Washington?
Special report paints appalling picture of 2000 team
Posted: Thursday January 31, 2008 2:30PM; Updated: Thursday January 31, 2008 4:29PM
The headlines are a constant on SI.com's college football page, particularly in the offseason. Players at various schools get arrested and/or suspended for any number of criminal offenses, including assault and other violent crimes.
Sadly, these stories occur so often that they barely raise an eyebrow unless they involve a nationally known star. In the vacuum of big-time college football, we usually pay less attention to the off-field details than we do the possible on-field ramifications. How will the news affect a team's depth chart? Will any key players be missing for the big game?
What we rarely stop to consider is that for nearly every one of these stories, there is a victim or victims that were harmed. While their names are often withheld for their own protection, they are in fact real, human beings, ones who experience unthinkable nightmares while coaches and administrators often coddle the perpetrators.
That's the lesson I took away from this week's explosive Seattle Times investigative project about several unsavory members of Washington's 2000 Rose Bowl team.
The four-part series, "Victory and Ruins," should be required reading for any college football fan. It is the most thoroughly reported, meticulously written investigative project I've read in my nine years covering this sport. And while the particulars of these stories pertain solely to the Huskies, similar events have almost assuredly taken place within nearly every major program in the country.
With Washington's once-proud program still reeling from the upheaval of the Rick Neuheisel era earlier this decade -- the Huskies have gone 12-35 the past four seasons -- many of its fans have been calling for current coach Tyrone Willingham's head. Willingham, known for his scrupulous character, was hired as an antidote to the scandal that plagued the program during Neuheisel's short-lived tenure (1999-2002).
The lone bright spot of Neuheisel's reign was that 2000 team, which finished 11-1 and No. 3 in the rankings. According to the Times, however, at least a dozen players on that team "were arrested or charged with a crime that carried possible jail time. At least a dozen others on that team got in trouble with the law in other seasons."
While the off-field issues of several players on that 2000 team were reported at the time, they, like so many stories of this nature, were largely glossed over. In this week's series, however, Times reporters Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry lay out in excruciating detail what can only be described as downright revolting incidents. Any objective reader would come away wondering how these athletes were ever allowed to wear a Washington uniform, nevertheless be glorified as champions.
"The cases that have been portrayed in this series of stories are shocking and deeply disturbing," UW President Mark Emmert told the Times this week. "They are exactly the kinds of things you don't want the athletic program or any other type of program to represent."
Part 1 of the series focuses on Jerramy Stevens, a star tight end and future first-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks. Stevens gained unwanted notoriety when, in the spring of 2001, he was arrested for reckless driving after crashing his Toyota pickup truck into a nursing home. The Times reported that Stevens had been running afoul of the law long before that, however, starting in his senior year of high school, when he stomped on the face of an unconscious victim during a fight and spent time in jail after testing positive for marijuana. This unnerving behavior continued at Washington, most notably in a gruesome incident detailed by the Times, in which he allegedly raped an intoxicated 19-year-old UW freshman who claimed she was slipped a date-rape drug.