Romar, UW agree to extension; Gonzaga rivalry in flux

Updated: October 28, 2006, 12:11 AM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Lorenzo Romar and Washington have agreed on a multiyear contract extension that will attempt to retain the man behind the Huskies' basketball resurgence for at least another decade.

But that resurgence is likely to end Washington's wildly popular series with cross-state rival Gonzaga.

"Unless something changes, it's going to go by the wayside next year," Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth said Friday. "Beyond that, I don't have a crystal ball."

Romar's future is more clear after Washington athletic director Todd Turner said Friday that the school and its coach have agreed on the parameters of a contract extension beyond the 2012-13 season.

Turner did not say how many more years or how much more money the new contract involves. Romar is earning about $1 million per year from a new, eight-year deal in March 2005 -- which was a $300,000 annual raise from a previous contract.

"It gives the coach confidence in staying with our program and it gives the school more security," Turner said.

He said the second extension in 19 months was driven by "not a fear, but an expectation" that other college basketball powers and the NBA will continue to come calling for Romar, who turns 48 next month.

Romar enters his fifth season at Washington with a 84-42 regular-season record with the Huskies and three NCAA tournament appearances. Washington has advanced to the third round of the NCAAs in each of the last two seasons.

Turner said that North Carolina State inquired about Romar for its vacancy earlier this year. The NBA's Golden State Warriors have also called previously. Romar played three-plus seasons for the Warriors, after they drafted the former Huskies guard in 1980.

"And I'd be very surprised if he doesn't get many more opportunities," Turner said.

The opportunities for Washington and Gonzaga to meet apparently won't be as plentiful.

The streak of 10 annual showdowns is likely to end after the rivals play the final game of their current, home-and-home contract on Dec. 9 in Spokane, Wash. Turner guessed the rivalry would go on at least a two-year hiatus.

Turner said Washington is seeking more national, higher-profile opponents for its 2007-08 non-conference schedule, like Pac-10 rivals UCLA and Arizona annual have. He added that Washington's days of needing to recruit only on the West Coast are over.

"More national visibility gives you more respect," Turner said.

Gonzaga's Roth had this take on the Huskies' new scheduling approach: "They're raising themselves to our level."

Essentially, Washington doesn't want to keep Gonzaga next year and then have another perennial Top 25 team for an overly ambitious schedule, given that Turner sees Pac-10 play as an 18-game grind.

Washington already has upgraded from last season's admittedly too-soft early schedule of Morgan State, American, Lehigh and Cornell. LSU, coming off a Final Four appearance, is coming to Seattle on Dec. 20. The Huskies also added a nationally televised Feb. 17 game at Big East power Pittsburgh to fill an open slot following a midweek home game against Washington State.

Next season, Washington goes to LSU, hosts Pittsburgh. It is attempting to join the competitive NIT Tip-off Classic -- and hopefully host an early round regional.

"You can find a date [for Gonzaga], but just how many of these high-profile games do you want?" Turner said. "We don't need six-to-eight games against Top 20 opponents … we need a few."

Gonzaga, of the relatively modest West Coast Conference, obviously feels differently.

The Zags are in the NIT Tip-off Classic next month. And they have already been playing a national schedule for years. Last season, they played in the rugged Maui Classic, facing Maryland, Michigan State and Connecticut on consecutive days. They also played Oklahoma State, at Memphis and hosted a team from the mighty Atlantic Coast Conference, Virginia, for the first time.

This season, Gonzaga plays Duke at New York's Madison Square Garden on Dec. 21. It also plays fellow 2006 NCAA tournament teams Memphis, Texas and Nevada -- the latter in Seattle on Dec. 30, plus Georgia, Virginia and Stanford. Roth said Gonzaga will play at Memphis and at St. Joseph's next season.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press