The buzz around the Washington program is at one of its highest in recent memory. The Huskies boast a 10-2 regular season with a 6-game winning streak, a dynamic offense, a top 10 road win, and a matchup with a blue blood program.
Then the return of key players for the Huskies started coming.
Husky quarterback Michael Penix got the ball rolling announcing at the post-season awards banquet that he was coming back.
Defensive tackle Tuli Letuligasenoa was next.
Offensive tackle Troy Fautanu kept the momentum going.
Edge defenders Zion Tupuola-Fetui and Bralen Trice announced that they’d be conducting position meetings in opponent’s backfields for one more season.
Then Jalen McMillan decided to come back.
Now all eyes now turn to the intentions of Rome Odunze to see if he and McMillan will be conducting their own position meetings in opponent’s end zones for another year.
Outside the program down south the green and yellow are celebrating the decision of Bo Nix to return for one more season in Eugene. Across the country several key players are returning when in year’s past the riches of the NFL were hard to pass up.
With all of these decisions to stay one cannot deny the impact that the NIL deals are having on these decisions.
While the ramifications of this new NIL era are yet to be fully understood, one point of view is that it could usher college football into an era of a higher quality product on the field. The financial incentives for Washington’s star players to return, if any, are unknown but are thought to be a factor for Washington.
The return of so much star power for Washington reminds me of the quality of the product of competition in college basketball in the 80’s and 90’s. While I didn’t experience this first hand, documentaries about Michael Jordan and the Fab 5 come to mind. Players sticking around for more of their college eligibility cementing themselves as campus legends.
Granted, with the transfer portal some of the issues might creep up where a player might not be around long enough for a fan base to embrace an athlete on a deeper level the idea of a more quality product is still a possibility.
With all of the announcements the Huskies are poised to start the season in the top 10 and in serious conversations for the College Football Playoffs.
In the coming years, as more players make the choice to stay in school, coaches will have another year to implement their systems with guys who have the talent to take the next step. Another year of development and another year in the system execution will increase.
Not all will stay, nor should they, but the more programs whose NIL can provide players with the financial means to return for another season should will be able to deliver a better product on the field games for the fans.
In the case of the border war between Oregon and Washington, with two Heisman Trophy candidates going toe-to-toe, the date at Husky Stadium should deliver the fans an unbelievable experience.