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Originally published Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Huskies' AD says "psychological disconnect" doomed stadium bill

UW was hoping to get $150 million to pay for half of a proposed $300 million renovation of Husky Stadium.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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As Sunday passed to Monday, reality finally sunk in at the University of Washington that Senate Bill 6116, which could have provided funding for a renovation of Husky Stadium, wasn't going to pass.

Despite what seemed like long odds from the beginning, UW athletic director Scott Woodward, however, said he held out "remote hope" until the end that something might get done, saying "there's always things that can happen and they usually do late in the session. But it was clear that we had some sticking points."

Foremost, said Woodward, was what he called the "psychological disconnect" that made it difficult for legislators to vote to potentially give money to a football stadium at a time when the budget is taking a big hit in a number of other areas. The legislative session ended Sunday night with no action taken on the bill, and Woodward doesn't expect any action to come even if the legislature convenes again later.

UW was hoping to get $150 million to pay for half of a proposed $300 million renovation of Husky Stadium. Its pitch to the legislature was that some improvements are needed for safety and keeping the stadium up to legal code and that it would have provided jobs in what is a tough economy. UW planned to raise the other half once it had funding from the legislature.

"How do you lay off teachers and cut back on programs and then build a stadium?" Woodward said Monday in commenting publicly on the bill's failure for the first time. "That was the psychological disconnect that a lot of people had a hard time getting around and I understand that wholeheartedly."

What Woodward said he didn't think was a real factor were efforts by fans of rival Washington State to kill the bill. Several led an organized campaign against it, including renting a plane to fly a banner over the Capital earlier last week urging legislators to vote against it.

"No, it was just irritating," he said, when asked if he thought the Cougars fans' effort killed the bill. "It was just an irritant, that's the best way to put it."

Woodard, however, had some sharp words for the way the WSU administration helped foster that protest.

"The most disappointing thing about it is that [WSU president] Elson Floyd and [WSU athletic director] Jim Sterk didn't do anything to try to contain that little group of Cougars that were out there doing that. It was a shame that they didn't show leadership or courage to curtail something like that."

Woodward said he had hoped the administration at WSU might support the bill — or at least try to dampen the protests against it — on the theory that if UW had gotten funding for its project, it would set a precedent that would allow the Cougars to get money at a later time.

"I talked to Jim about it and he made it clear that his president wasn't going to interfere with what his alums did, even if it was to his detriment or to the health of his department," Woodward said.

"It makes all the sense in the world that whenever you help someone, it helps the other. If this were hurting the Cougars, I wouldn't have even sailed it. You can't go into the legislature [with a proposal] and hurt another program. It doesn't pay to do that and I don't believe in it philosophically because I think all of our members in the Pac-10 should be strong. I'm a believer that a rising tide lifts all boats and if it would have helped us, it would have helped them."

Woodward has said all along the school has no stated "Plan B" on how to renovate the stadium without state or county funding.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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