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Tia Jackson "Put On Notice" by the "Socialist" Washington Huskies

"We’ll take some business principles and apply them but we are not a business. We are a socialist organization. We take all of our revenue that two sports generate and spread it out to the other 21." – University of Washington Athletic Director Scott Woodward (via Kitsap Sun)

Watch out Scott Woodward -- if any of those alarmist "journalists" on a certain faux-news network catch wind of your comments, they might try to get you fired.

To the more rational among us, Woodward’s comment about the UW athletics department being a "socialist organization" is certainly not a revelation, although his choice of words was probably a mocking response to the current political climate.

However, regardless of what economic model you choose to apply college athletics, the labor is evaluated based on one type of production: win percentage and post-season appearances. Unfortunately, UW women’s basketball coach Tia Jackson has not been a very productive worker in those terms…and is on thin ice this year, according to a report by the Kitsap Sun.

Coaches in two of the four sports (Willingham and baseball coach Ken Knutson, who had not taken the Huskies to the postseason for five years) were fired.

"The other two (women’s basketball coach Tia Jackson and veteran men’s soccer coach Dean Wurzberger) have been put on notice," Woodward said. "We demand a minimum that you make it to postseason play. That’s what we expect at the University of Washington."

The Huskies ranked #11 in the final Sports Director’s Cup standings for 2008-2009 and apparently Woodward wants to move up further. 

Nevertheless, I do believe that college coaches need to be given a longer grace period than professional coaches simply because it takes time to establish a program. So I have to wonder whether it is too soon to put Jackson on the hot seat after only two seasons. And as a NCAA women’s basketball neophyte, all I can rely on is the words of others.

When I wrote on Rethinking Basketball that I would be following the University of Washington women’s basketball team as my entry point to NCAA women’s basketball, Full Court Press writer Clay Kallam made the following comment, which I will quote at length:

Too bad you have to watch Washington -- a program in almost complete disarray, and Jackson has proven to be an abysmal failure as a head coach.

I'd have to write a long column to unpack all the issues going on here, but I'll stick with this anecdote from last year:

So Washington loses at Stanford 112-35 last year -- that's right, 112-35. Against Cal on Sunday, Jackson starts five kids who never play. After the loss to Cal (by a mere 62-34), Jackson says that the change in starters has been in the works for some time. She's asked the direct question as to when she made the decision to start the non-players, and she says right after Thursday's game, and it was based on the work of the players in practice through the whole season.

This of course makes no sense on any level. If the kids were that good all season, why did one of them only play six games all year?

And then one of those freshmen was asked when she heard she was starting: "Right before the game," she said.

So if Jackson is to be believed, she made the decision, had two days of practice, and then inserted the freshman. She had been asked if what happened in the two days of practice had made a difference, and then she said no.

Now, I'm not at all against blowing things up after a 112-35 loss, but why lie about it? Just a simple "We felt we needed to try something different," or "We wanted to send a message" -- but why say things that aren't true? There's just no need.

But then she was asked if she was disappointed with the weekend's trip (a reminder that the total score was 175-69), and she said "No, I'm not disappointed."

Now maybe this was just a bad moment in a press conference after a nasty weekend, but the history of transfers, controversies and losses since she took over pretty much speaks for itself.

Jackson herself may be a fine person, and obviously was successful as an assistant coach, but she has seemed overmatched in Seattle, and has taken what was a pretty good program and driven it right into the Pac-10 cellar (ironically, behind hapless Washington State, which is coached by June Daugherty, who the Huskies fired to get Jackson.)


Not exactly fun times for UW women’s basketball… and going from worst to tournament will probably be no easy task in the Pac-10 for the Huskies this year.

Definitely more to say about this…after the WNBA playoffs are over.