The Huskies completed a successful (8-4) football season with a victory over the Florida Gators 34 to 7 in the 1989 Freedom Bowl held Dec. 30. It was the first time the Huskies had played Florida, which had a 7-4 record coming into the game. The postseason contest was the 11th bowl appearance in Coach Don James’ 15 seasons.
The Huskies’ 7-4 regular season record included winning five of the last six games and finishing in a tie for second in the Pacific-10 Conference. The team ranked 23rd in the final Associated Press poll.
The 1989 season included a season-opening upset Sept. 9 against Texas A&M (19-6) in Seattle, followed by another home victory over Purdue (38-9). Washington lost its next three games: in Tucson against Arizona Sept. 23 (17-20), Colorado at home Sept. 30 (28- 45), and USC in Los Angeles Oct. 7 (16-24). The team had Pac-10 victories against Oregon at home Oct. 14 (20-14), California in Berkeley Oct. 21 (29-16) and UCLA in Los Angeles Oct. 28 (28- 27). Though the Huskies lost their Homecoming battle against Arizona State Nov. 3 (32-34), they finished the season by defeating Oregon State in Corvallis Nov. 11 (51-14) and Washington State at home (20-9) on Nov. 18.
Meanwhile, a University committee appointed by President William P. Gerberding investigated a melee that occurred after the Nov. 18 Apple Cup victory over WSU, where fans clashed with police and ushers defending the football goal posts.
Fans trying to tear down the west goal posts battled with police in riot gear, who used chemical Mace to control the crowd. Two fans were arrested and several were treated for injuries. Eventually the fans succeeded in removing the goal posts and dumped them in Lake Washington.
Student leaders criticized the police action after the incident, with ASUW Vice President Casey Jorgensen stating, “The police went too far; it was a huge overreaction. It’s obvious the police weren’t in control of the situation.”
University Police Chief Michael Shanahan stated that force was used for crowd control, not to defend property. Officers were instructed to keep fans off the field and away from the goal posts to prevent a stampede where people might be trampled or injured by falling posts. Shanahan said incidents at previous Apple Cup contests at Martin Stadium in Pullman prompted the UW concern for safety.
In a letter to the Apple Cup incident committee, the President asked the group to look toward future policies. “Under what circumstances and for what purposes is it appropriate, if ever, for the University in dealing with a crowd to use force or other coercive methods such as Mace?” he wrote.
“When those students stormed the security forces and the goal posts and when our police used Mace on them, a precious pattern of civility in this community was at least temporarily broken. Regardless of who is to blame, that was a very sad day for all of us at the University of Washington. We must now do what we can to repair whatever damage was done to those invisible bonds of civility and community on which we rightly have prided ourselves,” the President wrote.
The committee was expected to release its report in February.