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Gonzaga and Washington at last agree to renew their rivalry

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Washington students hold up printed signs while Gonzaga players are introduced in 2005 (AP)

Washington students hold up printed signs while Gonzaga players are introduced in 2005 (AP)

The last time in-state rivals Gonzaga and Washington faced one-another, Adam Morrison and Brandon Roy were just a few months into their respective NBA careers.

The wait will end soon.

Gonzaga and Washington jointly announced Monday that they have agreed to a four-year home-and-home series that will begin during the 2016-17 season. The hiatus will extend to 10 years because the Zags and Huskies both have non-conference scheduling commitments the next two years that made it impossible to begin the series any sooner. 

Said Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, “This series is great for the fans of our state. The fans have shown that they really appreciate the game with Washington and Gonzaga."

Said Gonzaga coach Mark Few, "We always knew we would resume the series. But our schedules have been full the last few years. We have an opportunity in 2016-17 and both teams were agreeable to playing.”

It's inexcusable that a decade will pass without Gonzaga and Washington squaring off because this series was must-see TV every year in the early 2000s. Stars like Roy, Morrison, Nate Robinson, Dan Dickau, Will Conroy and Ronny Turiaf waged hotly contested battles, many of which ended up going Gonzaga's way.  

Washington claimed it ended the series in 2007 because it sought opponents who would provide more national exposure, but the real explanation for the demise of the rivalry is likely more complicated than that.

First of all, the Zags had beaten the Huskies eight of the last 10 times they met. Secondly, the two staffs had a frosty relationship stemming from violations ex-Washington assistant Cameron Dollar committed while recruiting former Gonzaga big man Josh Heytvelt. It was Few who reportedly revealed Dollar's transgressions, angering the Huskies because he didn't address the issue with them first.

The last attempt to restart the series prior to this one didn't turn out so well. Few chafed at the Huskies' suggestion of playing three straight games at Seattle's Key Arena rather than alternating between campus sites, famously telling SI.com, "The chances of that happening are about the same as Bigfoot having my baby."

It's unclear where the new series will begin, but it's not hard to see why Washington is the one that had to backpedal in order to restart the rivalry. Whereas Gonzaga has remained a mainstay in the Top 25 even if March success has been elusive, the Huskies have slipped in recent years and are expected to miss the NCAA tournament for a fourth straight season this year.

For the sake of this rivalry, it would be nice to see Romar get Washington back to its prior level by 2016. The revival of this series is long overdue no matter what the circumstances, but it would be even better for college basketball if both programs met as contenders.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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