Washington’s interim coach, Marques Tuiasosopo, met with reporters Thursday for the final time before the team departs for San Francisco on Sunday.
Obviously, he was asked about the pending investigation into defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi’s alleged recruiting violations, as reported by the Los Angeles Times last night.
Tuiasosopo said Lupoi is still coaching, and that “as of right now,” he expects him to coach in the Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 27.
Asked if he had been contacted by the UW compliance office regarding the investigation, Tuiasosopo said: “No, not yet. Right now the focus has been getting this team prepared to play. Like I said, I think the appropriate people are handling all the deals that are going to come up with that or whatever.”
He said he’s focusing on getting the team prepared for its bowl game.
“A lot of things happen,” Tuiasosopo said. “You’ve got to take it in stride, let it all come out. Right now, my responsibility is to prepare this team on the football field, make sure they’re acting well off the field, and that’s what I’m doing.”
Tuiasosopo also said that other than Cleveland Wallace, who has already left the program, he doesn’t know of anyone who plans to transfer.
Here’s the rest of what Tuiasosopo had to say …
(On the week) “I think we got back to the basics of playing football and focusing on that, and I thought we got better. We got a chance to take a look at BYU and get back to why we’re all here. That’s football.”
(On being the guy in charge) “It’s an awesome deal. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a great learning experience. Still is, each day, something new. I’m taking it all in. it’s fun to be around the guys. I think specifically since I played here and went to school here, too, it’s extra special to kind of share with them and do this with them. It’s been a lot of fun so far and I’m looking forward to next week as well.”
(On adjusting to being head coach) “There’s a lot more duties and a lot more responsibility, administratively, how you want to set the schedule, how you want to … where are we eating? When are we eating? What are we wearing? And all the stuff that doesn’t really have to do with football that ultimately helps the young guys prepare each day and gives them something to help them become the best that they can be. There’s a lot more of that stuff that I have to worry about.”
(Does the administrative stuff put you off at all?) “It doesn’t put me off. It is what it is. It’s something that I would love to do at some point down the road. This has just given me a look at it. It’s kind of fun. I was joking with one of my buddies, I’m like, ‘I don’t know if I can go back the other way.’ It’s just been a great experience.”
(On returning to normalcy after coaching change) “Yeah, I thought that was important. Obviously it’s very emotional for them. Kind of what they knew or what they signed on for Husky football, what that was all about, was like, gone in an instant. And now all the uncertainty and all the questions, is this now the place for me? What am I going to do? It’s a lot of things that as we looked at getting ready for a bowl game that have nothing to do with getting ready for a bowl game. And so to be able to get back to some normalcy, focus on the things that really matter for us to get ready to go play a bowl game, be competitive and ultimately go try to win the game, was very important for me to do that. Some coaches had left but there’s still a handful of the guys that had been here the whole season and they’ve done an outstanding job of just being there for the guys, because a lot of it is just making sure they’re OK. I think when we’re on the field, they don’t feel any of that. They handled it great, and I think it’s a tribute to the young men, but also the coaches that have stayed, and just ‘hey, we’ve had a pretty good year. This didn’t happen because we were not a good football team. On offense we did some good things. On defense we were very strong, and we have one more game to keep that going and to have Husky fans be fired up to watch us play and celebrate with us if we get a victory there on Friday.”
(On players adapting to change) “There’s always the initial phase of a change that you just want to make that sure no one does anything rash. Just, hey, I totally, completely understand if you’re not very happy. I understand if you’re down in the dumps, and we’re here to help you through it. But also, hey, we’ve still got something to play for, it’s a special year for you guys, you created an uproar here in the Seattle region bringing Husky football back, eight wins with the chance to go nine, and I think have the highest win total since 2001 when they played in the Holiday Bowl. There’s a lot of positives we can focus on that kind of get lost in the shuffle. I thought the kids, they came together. I think they grew as a team. There’s days, there’s points where it goes back to the uncertainty of it all but they’ve done a good job of managing each other and coming out to practice. They’ve practiced hard, had a lot of enthusiasm. When it wasn’t perfect they came back the next day and got better. All signs that I feel as a coach we’re ready to go and take this next step, getting down to San Francisco, four more practices to get ready to go play well.”
(Any interaction with coach Petersen through this bowl preparation process?) Yeah I’ve talked to him a couple times and he’s been great. He’s there for us and said if we need any help or have any questions to ask.”
(Have you taken him up on that?) “Yeah, we asked him what he thought of BYU.” (laughs)
(Much help there? They just played the Broncos) “Yeah. He said they are a pretty good team and went over their personnel a little bit. He thought they had a couple good players on defense.”
(What’s been your process to help some of the current players that are unsure about their futures?) “I want to be a friend to them and tell them – I know you have some feelings there and I don’t want to act like you don’t or tell you to not feel that – but let’s take a look at what you guys have built here. It’s a young team; we have great seniors. But it’s a young team. Yeah, you have a coaching change. I’ve been through it, so I’ve basically just talked to them through my experience when I went through Lambright and then the hiring of coach Neuheisel. Really, just to walk it with them. Sometimes as coaches you’re so used to, ‘Okay, run this play, do it this way, you didn’t do it right, that’s not good enough’ – blah, blah, blah. Sometimes you can get lost in the shuffle…these guys are young men, some are not there yet. They are growing to become men, and sometimes they just need, ‘Hey, I totally understand what you’re going through’. They need someone there to help them through and manage and navigate their emotions through this process. At that point they go, ‘Yeah. I like my teammates, they’ve been awesome, we are building something special here, so I don’t need to be thinking about anything crazy.’”
(Can you recount your own thought process when you went through it?) “You just kind of wonder about all the work you’ve done, where does that leave you? You’ve got a new coach coming in and you just keep competing. If you love being here, if you’re interested in doing something special – it doesn’t matter if you do it here or it doesn’t matter if it’s with your new coach or your old coach. Then, if I decided to leave – where does that leave me with that new team? You might be in the same place you were here, so you might as well just stay here. I committed to the coach, but I also committed to the University and to the team that I met when I came on my visit. I wanted to build something here.”
(Big night in the Tui household tonight? (older sister Leslie is coaching UW Volleyball in an NCAA National Semi-final game)) ”I’m excited. Husky Volleyball, let’s go win. Absolutely. It’ll be fun.”
(Any pep talk for Leslie?) “I don’t think she needs a pep talk, they are good. They are fired up. It’s a big-time. Final Four and they’ve been awesome to watch … the battle through the SC game and now they have a great shot to play a team that I think has won the whole thing five times in the last seven years. So it’s a great step for this program. I’m fired up. I’m a fan.”
(Are you going to go?) “Yeah, I think I’m going to be there. It’s going to be fun. How many people are going to be there? Twelve (thousand)…seventeen? Key Arena? That’ll be quite the atmosphere, quite the environment. I’m looking forward to it.”