Two Seattle Times reporters meticulously recount the legal and moral misadventures of the University of Washington’s 2000 Rose Bowl–winning football team.
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, some of America’s top universities still perpetuate the myth of the “student-athlete.” Armstrong and Perry sound the death knell of that hoary fable by exposing the win-at-all-costs deprivation that thrived at UW under golden-boy coach Rick Neuheisel. The coach, aided by university administrators and boosters, lorded over an atmosphere of entitlement in which football players accused of crimes as heinous as rape and attempted murder played on while their victims received little aid from crooked lawyers, judges and city officials, many of whom were UW alumni. The authors delve into the players’ sordid array of off-the-field misadventures while chronicling the season as Neuheisel, lured to UW with an obscene salary, attempted to resurrect a historically renowned program that had descended into mediocrity. Wins accumulated even as star tight end Jerramy Stevens faced rape charges (ultimately dismissed despite a preponderance of evidence against him) and hard-hitting linebacker Jeremiah Pharms faced attempted-murder charges in a drug deal gone wrong (ultimately plea-bargained down to a robbery charge that resulted in three-and-a-half years in prison). Numerous other players were accused of underage drinking and illegal drug use while performing poorly in the classroom. In their conclusion, the authors draw on a line from the 1925 silent film The Freshman to sum up UW—“a large football stadium with a college attached.” Ten years ago, such behavior, and such a conclusion, might have still been shocking. Sadly, during the past decade it’s become commonplace for alleged bastions of academic excellence to earn such a dubious distinction. Still, that doesn’t diminish the quality of the authors’ diligent reporting, or the chilling nature of the victims’ accounts.
Less shocking than it should be, but will make plenty of fans uncomfortable on fall Saturdays.