Pacific Northwest Magazine
'The Glory of Washington': A new book honors Husky athletic history
Edited excerpts from "The Glory of Washington: The People and Events That Shaped the Husky Athletic Tradition," by Jim Daves and W. Thomas Porter, Sports Publishing Inc., Champagne, Ill., $34.95. A leatherbound limited autographed edition ($74.95) is available directly from Sports Publishing (877-424-2665).
Since the late 1800s, the University of Washington has been creating history — and champions — through sports. Now that history is celebrated in a new book, "The Glory of Washington: The People and Events That Shaped the Husky Athletic Tradition." A collection of lore and lists, the book covers Husky athletics from the football team's first win in 1892 through basketball's Final Four with Bob Houbregs in 1953 to the world-record-setting feats of pole vaulter Brian Sternberg and the university's first NCAA wrestling title, won by Larry Owings in 1970. The highlights keep on happening, from the women's crew team NCAA championship of 1997 to the Husky men's Rose Bowl victory of 2001. Great players and revered coaches, memorable moments and distinguished achievements are told in more than 600 stories. Here are a few of the highlights:
Super Legend Hiram Conibear
Perhaps the most famous rowing coach in Washington history never rowed a stroke in a racing shell in his life, but his innovations revolutionized the sport. Conibear's love of sports led him first to coaching bicycle racers and then to training college athletes. In 1906 while at the University of Chicago, he met Bill Speidel, a medical student and former Washington quarterback. Through Speidel's contacts with the athletic manager at Washington, Lorin Grinstead, Conibear was offered the position as Washington's athletic trainer.
Shortly after Conibear moved to Seattle, Grinstead told him Washington was in desperate need of a crew coach. Conibear jokingly replied: "I'd make a good one . . . (but) to tell you the truth, I don't know one end of a boat from another." In the spring of 1907, he became Washington's crew coach. Then the experiments began. Conibear borrowed a skeleton from a laboratory and dragged it up the boardwalk of Brooklyn Avenue and set it on a rowing seat in his basement. Into the skeleton's hands, he slid an old broom handle to serve as an oar. Then, with painstaking patience, he moved the skeleton through a stroke noting the position of the bones at each stage. Next, he turned an old bicycle upside down and began turning the wheel with the palm of his hand. In his mind, the wheel was the water, his palm the oar blade. He began to realize that unless the oar blade struck the water at a speed equal to or greater than the water's speed, there would be a moment of unwanted "drag." His experiments led to a stroke with a shorter layback, a snap to the oar blade the instant it was inserted in the water, and a "shot" of the blade out of the water at the completion of the rower's drive.
With his enthusiasm and vision, he persuaded George Pocock and his brother, Dick, to leave their boat-building business in Vancouver, B.C., and set up shop on the campus. In 1913, Conibear received an invitation to have Washington compete in Poughkeepsie at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association regatta. Washington was the first Western crew to appear in the elite event. The Purple and Gold challenged the Eastern crews and threatened to win until Elmer Leader snapped his foot strap and was forced to pull himself back in the stroke with the strength of his stomach muscles. Despite Leader's difficulties, Washington finished third and the crew returned to Seattle as heroes.
Four years later, Conibear's coaching career ended when he died in a fall from a tree in his yard. "His men" continued on. Ed Leader, Elmer's twin brother, followed Conibear as coach and then went to Yale. His varsity eight won the 1924 Olympic gold medal. Conibear's 1916 coxswain, Ky Ebright, would coach at California and gather Olympic golds. Rusty Callow succeeded Leader as the Husky crew coach, and his 1923 crew won Washington's first IRA championship. Callow's 1924 and 1926 crews, stroked by Al Ulbrickson, won again.
Super Legend Hec Edmundson
In his 35 years as a coach at the UW, Clarence S. "Hec" Edmundson had a knack for building champions. Many called him the father of "race-horse" basketball. He was the coach who made it to the Helms Foundation Hall of Fame not once but twice.
In the Idaho Palouse, Clarence dashed down the road in his first makeshift track shoes — a castoff pair of his mother's rubbers. At frequent intervals, he criticized his own efforts with an "Aw, heck." Hec raced through high school and the University of Idaho. He participated in the 400-meter and 800-meter events in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, finishing sixth in the 800.
He began his career at Washington in 1919 as head trainer and track-and-field coach. He started to build champions. Gus Pope won a bronze medal in the discus throw in the 1920 Olympics and was the 1921 NCAA champion in the shot put and discus throw. Six other NCAA champions followed. Seven of his athletes participated in the Olympic Games and three — Steve Anderson, Herman Brix and Gus Pope — won medals. In his track-and-field career, his teams won three Pacific Coast Conference titles and finished second in the NCAA meet in 1929 and 1930.
Starting in 1921, he built champions in basketball. In his 27 years as head coach, he gained more national recognition than he had in track. His teams won three Pacific Coast Conference championships and 10 Northern Division titles. Six of his players won All-America honors. He recorded more wins — 488 — than any other coach in Husky history.
Edmundson introduced several major innovations in the game of basketball. His love of running led to the fast-paced "race-horse" style. He was the first coach to teach the one-hand shot. He and Husky baseball coach Tubby Graves established the Washington State high-school basketball tournament. He also originated the "hands in the huddle" of the starting five just before the tipoff of the game, a show of teamwork used universally now.
Super Legend Hugh McElhenny
No football player in Washington history has made more people say: "I don't believe that" or "Did you see that move?" than Hugh Edward McElhenny. He still is the most spectacular single offensive force in Husky football history.
McElhenny entered Washington in the fall of 1949. In the second game of the season, an away contest against Minnesota, he electrified everybody when he took the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. In the final game of the 1950 season against Washington State in Spokane, McElhenny ran for a school record of 296 yards and set a Pacific Coast Conference season rushing-yardage record of 1,107.
The next year, his senior year, McElhenny established another school record with a dazzling 100-yard touchdown punt return against USC. He is the only Husky to have a punt return, a kickoff return and a run from scrimmage all over 90 yards and all for touchdowns.
An All-America selection in 1951, McElhenny was eighth in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy. He played 13 seasons in the National Football League, was rookie of the year in 1952, named All Pro four times and played in six Pro Bowls. He was selected to the NFL Hall of Fame, the College Football Hall of Fame and was a charter member of the Husky Hall of Fame.
Husky Legend Lynn Colella
While women's swimming was not a varsity sport at the university when Lynn Colella was an undergraduate, she certainly ranks as one of the top performers in the school's history. After just missing out on a spot for the 1968 Olympic team by three-tenths of a second, Colella was going to make sure she represented the United States in Munich in 1972. Competing for the Cascade Swim Club, she placed second at the Olympic trials in 1972 in the 200 butterfly, turning in a time of 2:17.3 that bettered the existing world record. Karen Moe, who won the trials, would go on to reset the world record at the Olympics with a time of 2:15.6 and Colella (co-captain of the squad) placed second (2:16.34) to take home the silver medal. Colella's swimming career was filled with numerous AAU and international championships. She won both the 200 breaststroke and the 200 fly, and finished third in the 100 breaststroke at the 1971 Pan American Games. An electrical-engineering major at Washington, she came back to help coach the women's club team and was inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame in 1980.
Jim Daves, UW assistant athletic director for media relations, serves on the NCAA Communications Committee for the Division I Men's Basketball Final Four. W. Thomas Porter, retired executive vice president of Bank of America Northwest, was national chair of the university's $54 million Campaign for the Student Athlete.