CHRISTIAN CAPLE

UW Huskies survey results: Your thoughts on Kalen DeBoer, Pac-12 media rights, more

Jun 12, 2023, 11:14 AM

UW Huskies Michael Penix...

UW Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. passes against Oregon State on Nov. 4, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The results of the inaugural subscriber survey for On Montlake, the UW Huskies college football insider website, are in.

I was pleased to see 568 Huskies fans respond to the survey, giving their thoughts on everything from Kalen DeBoer’s approval rating, to the Husky Stadium experience, to their preferred conference affiliation.

UW Huskies Recruiting: Five official visitors to know about this month

Let’s get to the results, shall we?

1. Assess the current state of UW Huskies football

No real surprise here. Nearly four out of every five subscribers view UW’s program health as a 4/5, and there were slightly more 5 votes than 3 votes. My personal assessment: UW can never rate as a 5/5 when it’s been five years since its last conference championship, but it can’t be a 3, either, with a head coach coming off an 11-win debut season and so much talent returning in 2023. So 4 feels right.

2. Approval rating for coach Kalen DeBoer

This is what I expected, too, with nearly every respondent rating DeBoer at least a 4, and a strong majority giving him a 5. Inheriting a program that went 4-8 the year prior, bringing in Michael Penix Jr., convincing nearly all of the best players to stay in 2022 and 2023, winning 11 games in his first season … hard to say he should be doing much more at this point. It will be interesting to revisit this question based on the 2023 season.

3. Approval rating for the UW athletics administration

The 2022 football season upped the administration’s approval rating. I asked for a satisfaction level with athletic director Jen Cohen and the athletic department in February 2022, and the most common score was a 3, with 43% giving her either a 1 or a 2. Now, nearly three-fourths of respondents approve at a 4 or 5. Winning changes things.

4. How satisfied are you with UW’s assistant coaches?

Coming off an 11-2 season, it makes sense that responses would be favorable here. My guess is that any reservations are probably related to recruiting, or the defensive side of the ball. We’ll see if those coaches, in particular, can win over a few more fans in 2023.

5. How satisfied are you with the UW Huskies’ recruiting?

The most popular response was a 4, which is pretty solid for a first-time Power 5 head coach. Washington did pull in a top-25 recruiting class in 2023, with eight blue-chip prospects signing. The Huskies are in the conversation for some higher-profile guys in 2024, but have only three prospects committed at present. They have a bunch of recruits taking official visits this month. It’s a big one.

6. How satisfied are you with UW’s transfer portal use?

Penix alone probably merits at least a 4 here. The Huskies also used the portal to add a handful of new starters last year and this year. Depending on how guys like Dillon Johnson, Germie Bernard and Jabbar Muhammad perform, you might see this score increase next year.

7. What is your expectation for Washington in 2023?

The majority has spoken: most UW fans (at least those who subscribe to On Montlake) expect a conference championship this year, with another 11.5% setting the bar higher. Interesting that 29.5% expect only a 9-10-win season, regardless of what that means for Pac-12 title contention.

8. What should be the Huskies’ annual expectations?

Same question, but bigger picture. The results are a bit different, but follow the same trend lines: more than 50% of subscribers expect UW to compete for a conference championship on an annual basis, and nearly 90% expect either that or a 9- to 10-win season.

9. What is your hope for UW’s conference affiliation?

This was the result I was most curious to see. Most On Montlake subscribers (52.7%) want the Huskies to stay in the Pac-12, but a pretty significant chunk — 44.5% — would rather UW be in the Big Ten. There appears little appetite for a move to the Big 12.

10. What’s most important about the Pac-12’s media deal?

I expected the results here to be a bit more lopsided. Sure, the majority of respondents (51%) do prioritize cash distributions above all else, but a not-insignificant number (22.6%) care more about being able to find UW games on television, and another 13.1% care more about kickoff times. That ship probably has sailed, because part of the Pac-12’s value to TV providers is its ability to fill late-night time slots, but that doesn’t make those times any less irritating for some fans.

11. Rate San Diego State as a potential Pac-12 addition

Based on this sample size, the addition of SDSU to the Pac-12 would be relatively welcome, with the majority approving the Aztecs at either a 4 or 5, and nearly another third (31.4%) essentially landing on “meh.”

12. Rate Southern Methodist as a potential Pac-12 add

There isn’t nearly as much appetite for SMU, which garnered very few 5 votes. In fact, 68.7% of respondents landed on either a 2 or a 3. Based on the response to the media-rights question, though, I would guess some folks might change their tune if a TV executive told them they valued SMU enough to pay the league more money and ensure it continues existing.

13. Will Kalen DeBoer win a conference title at UW?

Wasn’t hard to see this coming. When I asked this question 16 months ago, only 78.9% of respondents believed DeBoer would win a Pac-12 title at UW, so the 2022 season certainly increased confidence there.

14. Will DeBoer lead the UW Huskies to a CFP berth?

The upcoming expansion of the CFP to 12 teams made choosing a response much easier, I’m sure. When I asked last year about the likelihood of UW returning to the CFP in the next five years, 67.4% of respondents said it was either somewhat unlikely or very unlikely. But that was before CFP expansion was expedited to the 2024 season.

15. Will Washington be DeBoer’s last coaching stop?

I was also pretty interested to see the results here. Not sure I would have guessed that nearly two-thirds of respondents would answer no. Of course, it’s probably the right statistical play to assume that no head coach at any school will finish his career there, simply due to the nature of the industry. DeBoer is only 48 years old, and his star is rising. UW just extended his contract and gave him a raise. He seems happy there. But who knows how his priorities and goals might change in the coming years?

16. What UW team is your favorite, besides football?

If there is a surprise here, it’s the gap between second (softball, 32.8%) and third place (men’s rowing, 6.5%) It’s obvious the UW softball program has a large following — anecdotally, it seems to have skyrocketed over the last decade or so — but I’m not sure I would have guessed it would receive nearly one-third of the votes here. College softball continues its upward trajectory.

On to the write-in categories.

Who is your favorite current UW Huskies player?

Keeping in mind that not everybody responds to the write-in questions — and some reply with ambiguous answers, multiple players, position groups, etc. — it’s difficult to tabulate precise numbers here. But there was a clear No. 1: Penix, who received 207 votes (or about 36 percent). There also was a clear No. 2: receiver Rome Odunze, who received some kind of mention from about 150 respondents.

Senior linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio and junior receiver Jalen McMillan landed in the next tier, with 25-30 votes each. Zion Tupuola-Fetui and Bralen Trice were in the 15 range, and a handful of others, such as linebacker Carson Bruener, right tackle Roger Rosengarten and running back Richard Newton, received votes in the 5-10 range.

What is your favorite thing about the Husky Stadium experience?

Hard to pin down any concrete categories here, but these were the most common themes among the responses, roughly in order of how frequently they appeared:

  • Atmosphere, setting, location, views
  • Crowd noise
  • Tailgating, sailgating
  • The band
  • Watching the game in person
  • Being with friends, family, thousands of people

• If you could change one thing about the Husky Stadium experience, what would it be?

The most common responses:

  • Improve the concessions/add food options
  • Fewer night games/earlier kickoff times
  • Move the students/band back to the 50-yard line
  • More sellouts/bigger crowds
  • Fewer electronics/bright lights
  • Less piped-in music, more marching band
  • Cheaper tickets
  • Parking

What is UW’s greatest strength in regard to college football’s changing landscape?

The most common themes from respondents:

  • Tradition/brand
  • Location/TV market
  • The university/academics
  • Coaching staff/Kalen DeBoer
  • Fan/alumni/donor support

What is the biggest existential threat to Washington as a major college football program?

The most common themes, with some variation of conference realignment the most common response by a mile:

  • Conference affiliation/realignment/getting left behind
  • Lack of money/TV exposure
  • Geography/location
  • Recruiting/NIL

This article was originally published at OnMontlake.com, the new home for Christian Caple’s full UW Huskies football coverage. Subscribe to On Montlake for full access to in-depth UW coverage.

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