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Huskies' Reiner Stung by James' Resignation : College football: Reserve center from Harvard High, other Washington players with area ties express their dismay over coach's decision.

August 25, 1993|SAM FARMER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SEATTLE — David Reiner, the oldest player on the University of Washington football team, is beginning his fifth season in the Husky program. That perspective did little to prepare him for Black Sunday.

Reiner, 24, was shocked Sunday by the abrupt resignation of Coach Don James in the wake of Pacific 10 Conference sanctions against Washington. Those sanctions include a two-year bowl ban, a one-year television ban and drastic scholarship reductions. The Pac-10 cited Washington for lack of institutional control after improprieties were discovered in the handling of recruiting-visit funds and the team's summer work program.

"We kind of expected the sanctions, even joked about it like, 'What are you going to do for Christmas?' " said Reiner, a 1988 graduate of Harvard High and the Huskies' first-string long snapper and backup center. "But then when it finally hits, it really blows you away."

James held an emotional meeting with the team Sunday, tearfully telling his players of the sanctions and his decision to retire after 18 seasons, seven Rose Bowl games and the 1992 co-national championship.

"There were already people who were getting choked up about it," Reiner said. "Finally, I caught a glimpse of which way he was going and, bang, he told us. . . . A lot of guys were screaming and saying, 'No!' I told my roommate who was sitting next to me that I hadn't felt my stomach drop like that in a long time."

Assistant Jim Lambright, appointed interim head coach, equated the loss of James to a death in the family.

"It's a day for mourning," he said Sunday. "And it's a day to be true about your feelings and to deal with them. We're letting today be that way. Tomorrow is a day for restarting. But today's a day to hurt."

Jim Nevelle, starting center and a team co-captain from Palmdale, felt that pain as he spoke at a packed news conference Sunday. His eyes were red-rimmed and his voice cracked.

"It was probably the saddest thing I've had to face in a long time," Nevelle said. "Coach James has been like a father image to all of us. I want everybody to know that whoever went out and took this man out of office, tomorrow morning, I want them to wake up, look in the mirror and realize what they did."

Nevelle was more upbeat Tuesday, his focus on the future.

"We have the utmost confidence and respect for Coach Lambright," he said. "We're really lucky to have that type of man take over.

"Husky football has a great tradition of going out and winning games. We play tough football. We play smart football. We still have 11 games left in the season, and a lot of good can come out of this. . . .

"Hopefully, by the end of the season, we'll be able to look at each other and say we gave it our best shot."

The other Valley-area players on the Washington roster are reserve tailback Tobaise Brookins of Sylmar, reserve quarterback Jeff Meyer of Chaminade, reserve offensive tackle John DiSante of Notre Dame and walk-on rover back Ryan Kadletz of Crescenta Valley.

DiSante said that Sunday was one of the most trying days he can recall.

"I was really emotional," he said. "I remember Coach James coming to my house when I was being recruited, meeting my parents. I remember playing for him for two years, and I just remember him as a great man. I think everyone in there was upset and cried, and I know I was one of them. I'm not ashamed to say that."

Less emotional was Kadletz, who played at Crescenta Valley and Glendale College before transferring to Washington last spring.

"This is all new to me," said Kadletz, whose father, Jon, lettered for the Huskies in 1969.

Kadletz said friends have called him since Sunday, curious about the situation at the school. He said he would have attended the school even if he had known about the impending sanctions.

"I still would have come," he said. "Great city. Great tradition here. My father played here. Everything about Husky football, I just wanted to be part of it."

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