Coach Thurmond on Pan’s historic rounds at The Open: “All Huskies can be very proud of him”

Cheng-Tsung Pan (in Huskies-purple pullover and cap) waits to tee off at the start of this morning’s third round at The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, England (Photo from Matt Thurmond).

Cheng-Tsung Pan's score of 2-over 74 for the second consecutive day at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England, was not enough to survive the cut line at the 143rd Open Championship.

Pan finished +4 through two rounds, two shots from making the cut. Tiger Woods, among others, was just above the cut at +2.

Pan, a 22-year-old native of Taiwan who will be a senior this fall, is the first Husky in 79 years of UW golf to participate in golf’s oldest major. If not for strong, shifting winds off the sea during Pan’s rounds Thursday afternoon and Friday morning that constantly changed club selection and length, Pan could have repeated what he did last summer at the U.S. Open and made the cut.

He finished with the second-lowest score among the four amateurs in the 156-man Open Championship field, one shot behind England Amateur champion Ashley Chesters.

This is bunker on No. 10 at Royal Liverpool — with a wall seemingly the height of UW’s Suzzallo Library — out of which Pan went up and down for birdie today at The Open Championship (Photo from Matt Thurmond).

Huskies coach Matt Thurmond has been with Pan in England since Tuesday, following him hole by hole and commuting with him 30 minutes to and from Liverpool to England’s second-oldest seaside links course each day. Here is his exclusive account of what he saw Friday:

Husky Golf Fans:

While most were going to bed back home, the Pan Clan was waking up in Liverpool for the 2nd Round of the Open Championship.  Our courtesy car left the hotel at 5:30 AM.  The drive to the course is about 20-30 minutes.  College golf prepares us well for these types of early starts.  Pan was noticeably more relaxed this morning on the way to the course and before the round.  He started with a great birdie on Hole 1.

Hole 4 is one of the shorter holes, but it proved tough as he made double-bogey today and bogey yesterday.  He followed with a birdie on Hole 5 and the tone was set for what turned out to be a seesaw round.  Both his good momentum and bad momentum were ended quickly, following his birdies with bogeys and bogeys with birdies.  Bogeys came on 8, 11, 13 and birdies came on 1, 5, 10, 15.  

For those of us watching on the sidelines, even early in the day we could see that +2 looked to surely make the cut and +3 had a good chance.  When Pan bogeyed Hole 13 to go to +5 the prospects started to look bleak.  He narrowly missed a birdie on 14 then stuffed a towering iron shot and made birdie on the Par three Hole 15.  Often 16 and 18 are birdie holes but they played into the wind this morning.  Pan played them well, but just missed 15 ft putts on both, coming up a wee bit shy of playing the weekend.

Pros constantly fret about “the draw” in these events.  Each player gets a morning and afternoon round on the first two days and sometimes the weather conditions can be very different depending on when you play.  Pan won’t say this, but the draw turned out to be a huge factor this year and Pan’s draw (and the half of the field with a similar draw) had it far worse in both rounds.  It was at least a few shots tougher for those that played afternoon/morning compared to those that played morning/afternoon.  Luck will always be a huge factor in this game and we all accept that as part of what we love about it.

All the players here are excellent and the margin of error is so small to make the cut and contend for the title.  Pan really played well and gave himself a chance to be in the hunt.  He was steady off the tee and into the greens and his chipping and putting also held up well.  He felt his local caddie was a big help in having a good course strategy.

All Huskies can be very proud of him.  He most definitely belongs out here and he looked great in his Husky purple walking these historic links. He represented.  His game is suited well for these major championships. He is accurate, smart, tough, and has excellent short game skills around the green.  Most importantly, he loves the pressure and plays his best when his best is most needed.  He made us proud this week and I suspect that he will make us proud many times over in future Open Championships and other major golf events.

What a great experience for him and for me at this year’s Open Championship!

Matt Thurmond
University of Washington Men’s Golf
www.twitter.com/mattthurmond
www.gohuskies.com

Coach Matt Thurmond on Cheng-Tsung Pan’s historic 1st round at The Open Championship: “He is beyond his years”

Husky rising senior Cheng-Tsung Pan shot a two-over-par 74 — including minus-1 on the back nine despite strong, seaside winds — at Royal Liverpool today while becoming the first Husky in the 79-year history of UW men’s golf to participate in The Open Championship.

Pan, one of four amateurs and two U.S. collegians in the superstar-packed field at Hoylake, England, is eight shots off Rory McElroy's lead. Pan, the Huskies' 22-year-old native of Taiwan, is tied with Phil Mickelson at the oldest and most-hallowed major in golf (the first Open was in 1860). Pan’s round today was better than that of Miguel Angel Jimenez, Sir Nick Faldo, Bubba Watson and Ernie Els — to name a few champion pros with whom Pan is playing.

Huskies coach Matt Thurmond is with Pan at Hoylake. He called Thursday’s crowd and atmosphere “special.”

Here is what Thurmond sent back on Pan’s first round at The Open Championship. Friday here on the blog, the coach will provide his first-hand account of Pan’s second round. Pan tees off for round two at 11:50 p.m. tonight Seattle time:

I’m just here to support Pan and offer any help needed.  So my main job is to stay out of the way and let Pan do his thing.  As we rode to the course (about a 30-minute drive from Liverpool) I wondered what Pan must be thinking about.  I was nervous and I’m sure he was too.  We talked a little and laughed a little, but Pan was pretty serious and in his own bubble.  That’s a good thing.

Pan made plenty of good shots early, but didn’t quite find his full rhythm until his back nine.  He found a fairway bunker on Hole 4 which cost a shot and then his drive that was barely off the fairway on Hole 7 ended in a bush en route to a double bogey.  So he was at +3 thru Hole 7.  His worst iron shot of the day came on the second shot into Hole 11, but then he worked some magic, holing a pitch shot from about 35 yards for birdie.  Another birdie in front of a large crowd came on Hole 14, followed by a plugged lie bogey on 15.  He parred in for 74 (+2) and sits in 84th Place.  Thirteen pars, two birdies, two bogeys, and one double bogey.

I’m sure the media is talking on TV about the ideal scoring conditions. The conditions certainly were that this morning when most of the low scores came in, but this afternoon was different.  Although it was sunny and hot, the wind picked up considerably and shooting a low score became a significant challenge.  Pan’s afternoon round of 74 was hard-fought, especially considering being +3 thru Hole 7.  One-under on that back nine is excellent.

The crowd and atmosphere were special out there.  The holes are close together with no trees or big hills separating them so you hear lots of clapping all the time from all over the course.  When these fans clap they really clap.  It comes loudly and often.  What you don’t hear are spectators shouting.  It’s mostly just lots of respectful clapping.  Pan hit many excellent iron shots to earn the applause.

He had an ideal group.  Both Graham Delaet and Brant Snedeker were nice guys.  I actually heard Graham ask Pan about (former Huskies assistant and now Boise State golf head coach) Dan Potter as they walked off the second tee.  Graham went to Boise St. and still lives there and he was anxious to learn about his program’s new coach.  Delaet was very steady all day, finishing with 71 and Snedeker was more of a potluck with a little something different and unpredictable on every hole.


Pan looked great out there in his purple pin-striped pants, white Husky shirt and shoes, and white Husky hat.  I can’t say there was a huge Husky contingent on site, but we certainly felt many of you following at home.  We did have two of our Husky Golf Foundation members following: Steve Sander and Michael Crowson.  Awesome fans.

I’ve said this before but I’m always struck by the same thing when I see Pan on the big stage—he looks so much bigger than his 5’7” stature would suggest.  He has such great confidence, presence, and comfort with himself.  That makes him seem large.  He is beyond his years competitively and it shows in his poise and decision-making.

Tomorrow we have big winds expected in the morning, lessening in the afternoon.  Pan tees off at 7:50 AM.  The unpredictable weather makes talk and thoughts about “The Cut” a complete waste of time.  Pan plans to just go out there and play well and let that take care of itself.   While sitting a table full of authentic Chinese food tonight he said, “I just want to shoot under par.”  

Matt Thurmond
University of Washington Men’s Golf
www.twitter.com/mattthurmond
www.gohuskies.com

Read here in the latest Unleashed column on Pan saying “I’m still shocked” at the honor of playing in The Open — and on his road from Taiwan to UW and now Royal Liverpool.

Coach Matt Thurmond on Pan making UW history: “Today was a day that it hit me: ‘I’m walking the course with one of my players at the British Open’”

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Cheng-Tsung Pan and UW golf coach Matt Thurmond (right) on the Royal Liverpool course in Hoylake, England (Photo from Matt Thurmond).

Huskies coach Matt Thurmond is at The Open Championship, golf’s oldest and most-hallowed major tournament, with UW rising senior Cheng-Tsung Pan. On Thursday at 7:54 a.m. England time (11:54 Wednesday night in Seattle), Pan will become the first Husky to participate in the famed British Open. He got there by finishing second in an Asian regional qualifier in March.

Thurmond will be there at Royal Liverpool for the The Open — just as he was Wednesday for Pan’s final practice round. He sent us this report from Hoylake:

Pan had already played a couple of practice rounds before this last one today.  He said it feels like he’s been here a long time and he is ready to play.

Yesterday he played at 12:50 and today at 7:40 (a.m.).  Those are his tee times for the tournament so he wanted to match that in his practice rounds to simulate the schedule and conditions.  

A few special badges are given to each player for family and/or coaches that get them on the course on practice days so I was inside the ropes walking the course with Pan today.  I’ve done many more cool things in this job than I probably deserve and I realize I’m beyond spoiled because of it, but today was a day that it hit me: “I’m walking the course with one of my players at the British Open the day before it starts.”  I walked the greens and fairways and saw the course and competition set up from a perspective very few people will ever experience.  As a kid I imagined doing that as a player, but it’s just as satisfying to do it as a coach.

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Pan likes the course.  He’ll hit some drivers for sure, but the penalizing rough and fairway bunkers will make everyone very careful off the tee.  With ever-changing winds, mostly blind or semi-blind tee shots, and many lurking hazards, tee shots are treated with the care of shots into well-guarded greens.  The greens are small and firm and the deep bunkers make for a difficult up and down so missing in the proper area will be crucial.  Pan is a smart player and is excellent around the greens so I think you can expect a high up and down percentage from him this week.

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Everywhere you turn there is a champion player who has won many events and made many millions.  Pan doesn’t seem to notice.  In fact, he looks like one of them.  Except for the Washington-logoed carry bag and the absence of large corporate logos on his clothes (he will be in UW gear every day) he looks like he completely belongs.  He does.  

This is Pan’s third major.  He’s played in two US Opens already.  He is here to compete and contend and he can.  

Matt Thurmond
University of Washington Men’s Golf
www.twitter.com/mattthurmond
www.gohuskies.com

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You can read more about Pan and his journey to making Husky history in my latest, weekly Unleashed column here, and now on GoHuskies.com.

Shelton, Thompson, Kikaha, Peters give UW national high-tying 4 on Nagurski Award watch list

'Tis is very much the season for national-award watch lists in college football. And the Huskies are among the nation's leaders in having players considered for least one major honor.

The Bronco Nagurski Trophy, given annually by the Football Writers Association of America to its top defensive player in the country, put out its watch list today. Defensive tackle Danny Shelton (above in last season’s opening win over Boise State), linebacker Shaq Thompson, defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha and cornerback Marcus Peters are the Huskies on it.

Washington and Stanford are tied for the most defenders on the Nagurski Trophy watch list. That’s one more than Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Texas Christian and USC.

The Pac-12 leads all conferences with 18 players on the 81-man list.

The release on this — and on Huskies populating other watch lists issued recently — is here and here from UW football sports information director Jeff Bechthold:

Washington’s Danny Shelton was one of 64 players named to the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy, given annually to the nation’s top interior lineman.

Shelton was also named to the Bronko Nagurski (top defensive player) Trophy watch list along with three of his teammates: cornerback Marcus Peters and linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha and Shaq Thompson. Both awards are given out by the Football Writers’ Association of America.

Shelton, a senior from Auburn, Wash., has started every game of the last two seasons as the anchor of the Huskies’ defensive line. Last year, he earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 as well as first-team Academic All-Pac-12. He notched 59 tackles for the season.

Kikaha, a senior from Laie, Hawai’i, notched 13 sacks last season, second-most in UW history. He earned second-team All-Pac-12 and first-team Academic All-Pac-12 after having missed most of the previous two seasons due to injuries.

Peters, a junior from Oakland, Calif., earned second-team All-Pac-12 last year, starting 12 of the Huskies’ 13 games. He notched 55 tackles and picked off five passes during the 2013 season.

Thompson, a junior from Sacramento, Calif., has earned preseason All-America honors this summer. Last year, he totaled 78 tackles and earned honorable mention All-Pac-12. He has started all 13 games of his UW career.

Shelton, Kikaha and Thompson had previously earned a spot on the preseason watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award, also given to the nation’s top defensive player. Additionally, Thompson made the list for the Paul Hornung (most versatile) Award and senior Mike Criste was on the list for the Rimington (top center) Trophy.


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These Huskies know the real numbers of college sports require a Plan B for life

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This is the message each Huskies student-athlete — from the wide-eyed freshmen on campus for the first time this week for UW’s renowned summer orientation program to settled-in upperclassmen — gets throughout his and her UW career.

These are the “real numbers” of college athletics.

This cold truth is what the NCAA published then updated last fall. It is part of Washington’s LEAP (Learn Experience Achieve Program) that began this week for incoming freshmen in all sports. This LEAP includes 27 football players, five women’s soccer players, four softball players, a few gymnasts and others.

"I can confidently say it was one of my best experiences as a student-athlete," said recent UW soccer player Sarah Martinez, now the director of operations for Huskies soccer.

LEAP is a six-credit course over the summer, before preseason practices begin in full for football, soccer, volleyball and other fall sports. Five of the LEAP credits are in an intensive-writing English course, establishing right away the need and importance of that skill in college and in life.

The program tweeted a photo yesterday of freshmen writing papers from one of the more enjoyable study locales a college kid can have in the country.

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That’s just outside one of LEAP’s classrooms, Rose Auditorium, on the deck on the second floor of UW’s Conibear Shellhouse. They are overlooking Union Bay and Lake Washington, with the Cascade mountains beyond to the east.

LEAP also includes one credit course for work on life kills, resources and college expectations. Freshman work on college-life issues such as time management, self-regulation, self-motivation, organization and accountability. They also get oriented on practical issues such as using Seattle’s Metro buses to get to and from campus, living without mom and dad, getting student-identification cards, even getting set up in the dorms so you can do laundry.

"We don’t teach how to do laundry," joked Pam Robenolt, the director of learning resources for UW’s renowned Student-Athlete Academic Services department who is the leader of LEAP.

"They learn their way around campus and get to deal with homesickness and separation. One of the goals of LEAP is to give incoming students an opportunity to work through a lot of the issues that freshmen deal with in a safe place when things are relatively simple, so once autumn quarter starts (in mid-September) they are ahead of the game.”

That’s exactly what Megan Kufeld got out of LEAP when she was in it three summers ago. Now she’s way ahead of the most important game of all: life.
The redshirt-junior goalkeeper was the Most Valuable Player of the Huskies’ women’s soccer team last fall. She is also a 4.0 student in molecular biology. In March she won the prestigious UW President’s Medal for High Scholarship.
She still remembers seeing that “real numbers” chart above. Its heading is “Football Recruiting, by the numbers,” but its message resonates through all sports at Washington.

"Oh, yeah, I know that one," Kufeld said.

My latest Unleashed column on GoHuskies.com describes Kufeld’s team as one the 15 Huskies programs (out of 21) that had team grade-point averages of 3.0 or better in the spring quarter. (The list is also here):

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This Unleashed also describes Kufeld’s work with a UW researcher altering cells by changing proteins — a precursor to perhaps a possible cure for cancer someday. It profiles the other 4.0 Husky student-athlete in the spring, graduating football linebacker Thomas Tutogi.

And it shows the basis for this overarching realization that Huskies need a Plan B for life beyond sports begins with this real-numbers NCAA chart freshmen are already internalizing in this their first week as students on the UW campus.

"Pretty special kid" C.J. Wilcox goes in 1st round to Clippers after sticking to dad’s 5-year college plan at UW

Tonight, the C.J. Wilcox Plan — more than a half dozen years in the making, since he was in high school outside Salt Lake City — has paid off.

How much? Exactly $2,899,200.

That’s what Wilcox, the second-leading scorer and perhaps deadliest outside shooter in Husky basketball history, is slotted to earn as the No. 28 overall pick of the Los Angeles Clippers. That is for a two-year contract with a third option year, per the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement for rookies in the 2014 draft class.

Wilcox is the seventh first-round draft choice in Lorenzo Romar’s 12 years leading UW. The others: Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Quincy Pondexter, Spencer Hawes, Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers loves sharpshooting guards. He may not yet know it, but there is so much more to love about the 23-year-old Wilcox than his jumper.

Wilcox was under-appreciated out of Pleasant Grove High School in the Salt Lake City suburbs five years ago. His father Craig, who played at nearby Brigham Young (1993-95), has schooled his son since early grade school on his jump shot during early mornings and late nights — and even retooled it a few years ago. Dad made C.J. realize his upside was in his future rather than his present.

That’s why the Huskies aren’t going to have too many more like Wilcox. He is a vanishing breed in this basketball era of “one and done,” when seemingly every guy owning a pair of sneakers thinking he should be in the NBA. As in, already.

When he got to UW in the late summer of 2009, Wilcox and his dad told Romar they didn’t want C.J. to star. They requested to redshirt. Right away.

"Golly,” Romar said when asked how UW should remember Wilcox. “So much stability and humility with him.

“It’s just, I don’t know how many times you are going to find this in today’s era where a kid supported totally by his family (has) no one in his ear telling him, ‘You have to do this,’ or ‘You are going to be one and done if you do that.’ (They decided) C.J. has a real upside. And that if he does things right, he can become really good and become an NBA player.

“And that started with him redshirting (the 2009-10 season). Again, that was not our idea. That came from the Wilcox camp. And they stuck with that.”

The result?

As Romar said in March: “One of the best players to ever put on a Husky uniform.”

He’s the second-leading scorer in the 111-year history of Huskies basketball, 1,880 points, 193 behind Chris Welp. He leaves as the leading 3-point shooter in UW history, and sixth-best in Pac-12 history. He led his team in blocked shots last season – as a 6-foot-5 guard.

He never deviated from the plan he, his dad and his mother Mandy set – not even after NBA scouts and league front-office men told him in the spring of 2013 he could enter the draft then and go as high as late in last year’s first round.

“I didn’t see it coming,” Wilcox said of his success at UW. “But I guess every year I continued to get better and started seeing things as a vision, and started to attack them.

“I’m glad I was able to get it done.”

Jim Shaw, the former Huskies assistant who left before last season and is now at Saint Mary’s, found Wilcox draining rainbows at an AAU summer tournament in Houston more than a half-dozen years ago, before C.J.’s senior year of high school. He was there to watch another prospect on another court. When that guy left the game he was watching, Shaw scanned the four other floors in the arena and found a tall, lightning-fast guard with the sweetest stroke.

"He wasn’t on anyone’s radar," Shaw said tonight from the Bay Area. "He didn’t even have a radar."

Shaw eventually got Romar to change his summer recruiting plans to visit Wilcox back in Utah. That got UW Wilcox’s commitment even before the July recruiting period — and before BYU or hometown Utah could move on him.

That’s how Wilcox became a Husky.

Indicative of Wilcox’s class, the star shooter publicly thanked Shaw for discovering him in March at the Huskies’ annual team banquet, days before the Pac-12 tournament. And Wilcox has been talking to Shaw often over this last 24 hours, through to the Clippers drafting him tonight, to say thanks.

As Shaw said tonight: “Pretty special kid.

"It’s really neat — because he’s a great guy."

WR Kasen Williams to Mason Kelley: “I’ll definitely be 100 percent by August”

This was Kasen Williams eight months ago, on the back of a motorized cart with his broken left leg and displaced foot immobilized. He was on his way out of Husky Stadium to Seattle’s Harborview hospital.

This is Washington’s leading receiver now, less than six weeks before the Huskies’ begin fall camp on Aug. 4: Finding his silver lining

That’s the title of this strong profile by new UW Athletics Manager of Social Media Mason Kelley. In it, the senior wide receiver says the combination of his injuries upon landing to the turf after leaping to catch a Keith Price pass last fall against California, the subsequent multiple surgeries and complete reconstruction of his foot plus his recovery “was one of the best things to happen to me.”

Williams says the time away from the daily urgency of practicing and playing at the end of the last season allowed him to clear his mind — and learn a new perspective on football.

He tells Kelley he has taken to meditating 10 to 15 minutes each day, a technique that has allowed him to calm the “thousands” of thoughts that race through his mind in a given day.

At the Huskies’ final spring practice in mid April, Williams was catching passes and jogging on out routes during individual drills. It was one of the most encouraging, potentially most important and well-overlooked developments of spring practice for UW.

A healthy-again Williams has the experience and now renewed poise to aid the transition from backup for Price’s successor. Williams being back will make life smoother for Cyler Miles, Jeff Lindquist or whoever is the new starting quarterback Aug. 30 at Hawaii.

Williams tells Kelley he is sprinting at about 85-percent speed and that he is starting to complete workouts on consecutive days.

"I’ll definitely," Williams says, "be 100 percent by August."

From Huskies to rookies: Pehl, Wolfe, Mitsui have 1st pro games tonight at Class A

Robert Pehl, Brian Wolfe and Trevor Mitsui (top to bottom) have their first professional games tonight for their Class-A teams, days after signing their first pro contracts.

Their college seasons ended only two weeks ago. Their final exams ended just last week.

Now Robert Pehl, Brian Wolfe and Trevor Mitsui are going straight from Huskies to rookies in professional baseball.

Three of the key players that produced Washington’s best season in 11 years, a second-place finish in the Pac-12 and a regional-finals appearance in UW’s first NCAA tournament in a decade have their first pro games tonight. All are playing in the 75-year-old rookie Pioneer League.

Pehl, the junior outfielder whom the Kansas City Royals drafted in the 11th round this month, has his first game tonight for the Idaho Falls Chukars, the Royals’ short-season Class-A affiliate. Pehl will be wearing No. 16 and playing at 3,400-seat Melaleuca Field at 6:15 p.m. against Orem. He and Wolfe co-led the Huskies with 36 RBIs this season.

Wolfe, the Los Angeles’ Dodgers 20th-round draft choice after he led the Huskies in batting at .352 in his senior season, signed last Wednesday with the Dodgers’ Northwest scout over lunch at the Ram restaurant in Seattle’s University Village. He is suiting up for the Ogden Raptors tonight at 6 p.m. Seattle time against Grand Junction at 6,700-seat Lindquist Field in downtown Ogden, Utah.

Former Husky Joe Meggs, UW coach Lindsay Meggs’ 24-year-old son, is also playing for Ogden. He had a .353 on-base percentage in his first professional season, 2013 for the independent-league Joliet Slammers.

Mitsui, the honorable-mention All-Pac-12 selection whose five home runs this spring tied Wolfe and Pehl for the Huskies’ team lead, was drafted in the 30th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks. His first game for the Arizona’s short-season Class-A team, the Missoula Osprey, is tonight at 6 p.m. at Helena, Mont. Mitsui was a designated hitter and first baseman for UW this season; Missoula lists him as a first baseman.

The Huskies had a school-record eight players drafted this month.

Starting pitcher Jeff Brigham (fourth round, Dodgers) signed Friday, reportedly for his maximum slotted value of $396,300 for the 129th overall pick. The Huskies’ Friday starter this past season has yet to be assigned to one of the Dodgers’ minor-league rosters.

The other four drafted Dawgs have yet to sign: P Jared Fisher (15th round, Philadelphia Phillies); SS Erik Forgione (25th round, Pittsburgh Pirates); P Trevor Dunlap (30th round, Tampa Bay Rays); and 2B Andrew Ely (32nd round, Chicago Cubs).

Krista Vansant, Danny Shelton, Jazmine Davis among latest Huskies to study culture and colonization in Tahiti

This is the scene that greeted me yesterday when I walked into the Husky athletic department’s academic-services offices inside Conibear Shellhouse: Huskies academic advisor Liberty Bracken (left) and UW anthropology professor Holly Barker (right) amid boxes and bags filled with athletic gear. And shoes — loads and loads of worn cleats, high-tops and turf shoes.

The gear left this morning with a lead party of Barker and UW assistant director for campus and community engagement Ink Aleaga bound for Tahiti. The rest of 14 Huskies student-athletes — including national volleyball player of the year Krista Vansant, football defensive tackle Danny Shelton and All-Pac-12 women’s basketball guard Jazmine Davis — will leave Seattle for the South Pacific island nation at dawn on Sunday. They are in the second such contingent of Dawgs to study in Tahiti in as many Junes.

I wrote last summer about the program Bracken and Barker created to study Polynesian life in its homeland and learn first-hand the effects of French colonization on the Tahitian culture. Shelton and Shane Brostek are going for the second consecutive year to do graduate-level research; Bracken is helping both linemen to eventually apply for graduate school.

Other Huskies student-athletes going to Tahiti to study this month and stay in the homes of local families there include volleyball’s Cassie Strickland, crew’s Amy Fowler, women’s basketball’s Alexus Atchley, plus football’s James Atoe, Andrew Hudson, Micah Hatchie, Cory Fuavai and Siosifa Tufunga.

"People in Tahiti were writing on Facebook to Danny saying, ‘Can you bring more shoes?’" Bracken said.

"A lot of people there don’t have shoes to wear."

That’s why Bracken, who was on the Tahiti trip last year but is staying back this month, had her office overflowing into the neighboring study lounge with bags and boxes full of game- and practice-worn cleats and sneakers.

Just another reason why the Huskies have become Tahiti’s team.

After the Dawgs were there last year, the natives found ways to watch UW’s 2013 football games online. The players that had given Tahitian adults free football clinics during their stay last summer still get regular e-mails and Facebook messages of support from Tahiti.

You can read more about all that Bracken, Aleaga and director Kim Durand’s UW Student-Athlete Academic Services staff do as the unseen backbones of Huskies athletics in my latest Unleashed column on GoHuskies.com.

Husky football players John Timu, Hau’oli Kikaha, Shane Brostek, Deontae Cooper and others last June in Tahiti, for the first overseas-study program to the South Pacific involving a pack of Huskies student-athletes.

Let there be light: Pac-12 moves one of its Saturday night TV kickoff windows to 11 a.m. for 2014

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This scene, Huskies quarterback Cyler Miles running during a day game at Husky Stadium, could become more common this fall than it’s been in years.

The Pac-12 announced Sunday it is switching one of the league’s night-kickoff television windows to 11 a.m. for the 2014 season.

The conference’s coaches and administrators have heard many complaints about 7:30 p.m. kickoffs mandated by the Pac-12’s television contracts signed before the 2012 season. Those howls have usually been from long-time season-ticket holders and those who travel a considerable distance to attend games that often don’t end until after 11 p.m. local time.

The league is switching of one its weekly games on Pac-12 Networks from Saturday at 7:30 p.m. to 11 a.m. This change will not affect the more marquee Saturday night games that ESPN or Fox Sports 1 may still air at 7 or 7:30 Pacific time — or whenever it deems the most people will watch it nationally.

Yet this is an effort by the Pac-12 to respond to complaints about late kickoff times by doing what it can with what it controls: kickoff times on the league’s own network.

"This is a positive step for Pac-12 fans across the conference," Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in the league’s release issued on Sunday. "There has been an adjustment over the last two years with our new television agreement, and we believe fans – both in our stadiums and in the television audience – will benefit."

The number of 11 a.m. games will depend on when ESPN and Fox decide to air other Pac-12 games on a given Saturday.

Those networks again will generally have up to 12 days before kickoff — and at times, by exception, six days prior — to select their Pac-12 kickoff times.

Washington’s known kickoff times so far for 2014: Aug. 30 at Hawai’i at 5 p.m. Seattle time on CBS Sports Network cable; Sept. 6 versus Eastern Washington at noon on Pac-12 Networks; and Sept. 13 versus Illinois at 1 p.m. on Fox.

The networks will determine in the fall the start times for all other UW games — including the ones at Husky Stadium against Georgia State (Sept. 20), Stanford (Sept. 27), Arizona State (Oct. 25), UCLA (Nov. 8) and Oregon State (Nov. 22).

The Huskies had one home game last season in the Pac-12 Networks’ 7:30-p.m. Saturday window, in November against Colorado. They had four such late home starts on Pac-12 Networks in 2012.

Still, the Dawgs could have been much bigger night owls. Oregon State, for instance, had six Saturday night kickoffs last season.

In 2011, the league’s last one under its old TV deals and without its own network, the Huskies had two Saturday night home games and four in the daytime.