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Money And Recruits: Why Romar Likely Keeping Job At UW

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, holding clipboard at right, talks to his team during a timeout in the first half of a game against Cal Poly, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016, in Seattle.

The University of Washington men’s basketball team just finished one of the worst seasons in team history. They lost Wednesday night against USC in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament. That has raised questions about whether coach Lorenzo Romar should be fired.

And KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel told 88.5’s Kirsten Kendrick that it’s not the only problem the UW athletic department has right now.

'Terrible, Pitiful'

"It was terrible," Thiel said. "It was the worst season since 1993-94, when they also lost 22 games and only won five. This year they finished 9-22 and it was just pitiful. Thirteen consecutive losses, which is also a school record.

"It certainly was Lorenzo Romar's worst of his 15 seasons at the helm at the University of Washington. So, by all accounts, Romar should be fired.

"Usually, a coach who's missed four or five NCAA tournaments in a row is gone. But he's missed six now and he's probably going to stay."

Money And Recruits

"The Huskies have not handled the 'one and done' culture where the NBA has forced college basketball to accept players for one year before they can declare for the draft," Thiel explained.

"Markelle Fultz is a very dynamic player who's likely to be the No. 1 player in the NBA draft in June. He led the Pac-12 in scoring, was every bit the player that he was advertised to be, but now he's going to go into the NBA draft and won't play with these five recruits who are coming in.

"The reason they don't want to fire Romar is because he will be owed $3.2 million if he's fired after this season because his contract runs to 2020.

"This recruiting class that's coming in is the best in the country, at least according to the scouting services who monitor such things.

"And that is going to leave University of Washington Athletic Director Jen Cohen with a very difficult thing: do you risk losing some or all of that class and pay $3.2 million to a guy not to coach when you're already running an athletic deficit? So, I think he stays."

Star Recruit's Ties To Romar

Thiel said at the top of next year's recruiting class for UW is Michael Porter Jr., the star of Seattle's Nathan Hale High School.

"He is the best player in the country," Thiel said. "He's also the son of [UW's] assistant coach, Michael Porter Sr., who is Romar's friend from 30 years standing. And, Romar is Michael Porter Jr.'s godfather.

"He also has two other younger brothers who may be equally as talented and they are, sort of, orally committed to Washington.

"So, this pipeline exists of the Porter family. And Romar's friendship with Porter Sr. sort of complicates all of this and they don't want it to go away.

"This is kind of a nose scruncher. Not illegal by law or NCAA rules or rules by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association. It just seems odd and kind of smarmy," Thiel said.

UW Women's Crew Team Controversy

"This story was broken by the Seattle Times on Sunday," he said. "Washington apparently has been inflating the numbers of women athletes on the crew team in order to meet the compliance rules of the federal Title IX standards.

"The university said they thought they were in compliance and are looking into it. But the upshot is a very ugly bruise for the University of Washington athletic program. And it may lead to investigations of many schools across the country.

"Typically when things like this happen, there's a variety of, perhaps, financial penalties or scholarship punishments. That's what's occupying [AD] Jen Cohen's time right now and the idea of doing a coaching search for the men's basketball program is just untenable.

"So, it's a bit of a scandal and a bit of a mess at the University of Washington."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.