An old, familiar saboteur in DeBoer’s departure

  Things were going so deliriously well for University of Washington football fans.

  They were playing for the national championship of big-time college football. They had an offense that was dazzling fans across the country. Their team had put fun in football. It was doing things heretofore unseen in the passing game.

  They had a quarterback in Michael Penix, whom many impartial observers thought should have won the Heisman Trophy. They had a coach in Kalen DeBoer, whom they had sleuthed out when he was a little-known head man at Fresno State. They’d taken a chance on him, and he had produced famously, going 25-3 in his two seasons.

  All was seashells and balloons on Montlake. DeBoer, as a small-town guy with humble roots, was somebody who would appreciate the glow of living in a world-class city, coaching a program where Jim Owens rewrote the story of West Coast football and Don James reinforced it. DeBoer would be here maybe, like, forever.

  Have a week, Husky fans.

  First, Washington ran up against Michigan Monday night and came up a 34-13 loser.

  Then Wednesday, the legendary Nick Saban retired at Alabama. And Friday, the Crimson Tide shook DeBoer loose from Washington, leaving the Huskies spinning for equilibrium.

  Judging from the comments on one popular UW message board, the news was not taken well by Husky Nation.

  “His integrity is trash,” wrote one poster.

  “He can kick rocks, in all honesty,” penned another.

  “He screwed us over hard.”

  “Just another low-character guy … snake-oil salesman.”

  Just when you thought that was the sum of the agony for the Huskies, there’s this: Washington got done dirty by a Duck, in a manner of speaking.

  Greg Byrne, 52, is the athletic director at Alabama. I suspect if one could compile a list of the ADs nationally who would be most appealing to a high-profile football coach, Byrne would be no worse than top-five. He gets the place of football in the food chain, yet appreciates the need for a well-rounded department.

  Byrne is the son of Bill Byrne, who was athletic director at Oregon from 1984-92. In that role, he fought the good fight against the colossus up north, Washington.

  No, his son Greg never attended Oregon; he got his undergraduate degree from Arizona State. But Greg Byrne nevertheless has a lot of lemon and green in his background.

  He grew up on the north side of Eugene, where many of Oregon’s coaches and administrators live. He attended Sheldon High School, and when he played JV basketball, his coach was Mark Few, the icon of the Gonzaga program.

  In 1995, he joined the Oregon athletic department as a regional fund-raiser and stayed four years. That coincides with the time when Phil Knight became a monolithic figure in Duck athletics. Eventually, Byrne would land at Alabama, his third job as an athletic director.

  It’s sometimes said that for a football program to be successful on a sustained basis, everything has to be sympatico at every level, from a presidential and board of regents commitment, to the relationship between an AD and his coach, to the coach’s chops when it’s fourth-and-two in the big game.

  The first crack in Washington’s foundation came in the fall, when athletic director Jen Cohen left for USC, and it surfaced that in part, she had become weary dealing with some issues related to Upper Campus.

  Troy Dannen of Tulane replaced her. I have no reason to think Dannen had any reservations about DeBoer, but suddenly, the hot coach’s boss was somebody who didn’t hire him.

  On a broader level, college football has changed. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but now we have virtual free agency, pay for the players, and two longtime Northwest rivals are going to be competing next year in a conference based in the Midwest.

  Once, Jim Owens and Don James planted roots here and rode out the highs and lows. Then a generation ago, Rick Neuheisel would make UW fans uneasy by sniffing out feelers from other places. In 2013, Steve Sarkisian left the Huskies for USC. Now Kalen DeBoer has decided a $9-million counter-offer from Washington isn’t enough, and he’s off to deal with ghosts at Alabama.

  It’s thus getting harder and harder to view Washington as a destination job. Maybe it’s like the vast majority of others, a waystation.

  All this will settle out, of course. In time, it always does. But in the short term, here’s Washington, staring at a faraway conference, getting only a half-share of members’ TV revenue for several years, having to rebuild a roster coached by, well, somebody to be named later.

  Talk about hell week.