Wa-Hi great Wooten dies at 72

Brent Wooten was a three-sport star at Wa-Hi, and played football at UW.

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CHENEY - Former Wa-Hi three-sport standout Brent Wooten, who went on to star in football at the University of Washington and later served as head football coach and athletic director at Eastern Washington University, died here Monday after a lengthy illness.

Wooten, a 1957 Wa-Hi graduate and the son of Blue Devils basketball coaching legend Boots Wooten, was 72.

"He was just a good guy," recalled Mike Monahan, a 1960 Wa-Hi graduate who believes he watched every Wa-Hi game Wooten ever played. "He was a good student and a true three-sport athlete. I don't know how many letters he won at Wa-Hi, but I know he lettered in basketball and baseball as a freshman."

Wooten played running back alongside Gene Bates during Felix Fletcher's coaching tenure at Wa-Hi. He played guard for his father in basketball and was the Blue Devils' catcher in baseball.

"He and Gene were a pretty amazing duo for a high school team," Monahan recalled. "Brent was more the fullback type and Gene the halfback. I'm just about 100 percent certain that Wa-Hi won the mythical state championship in football during their senior year."

Wa-Hi finished 8-0 and was recognized as the state champion in the final Associated Press poll during Wooten's senior year. He earned all-state honors in football, basketball and track and field, and later was inducted into the Wa-Hi Hall of Fame.

A running back and a defensive back at Washington, Wooten helped the Huskies to back-to-back 10-1 seasons and a pair of Rose Bowls, including a victory over then No. 1 ranked Minnesota in 1961. Wooten caught a touchdown pass in the 17-7 victory and was later enshrined, along with the whole 1960 team, into the Washington Athletics Hall of Fame.

Wooten's first coaching job after graduating from the University of Washington was as an assistant coach at Columbia Basin College in Pasco under another Wa-Hi product, Dwight Poole.

"I got the chance to play for Brent at CBC," Monahan said. "He had just played big-time football and was quite demanding, but he was easy to get along with and worked well with the student-athletes. He was instrumental in our run to the Junior Rose Bowl in 1962."

Following his playing career, Wooten served as an assistant coach for five seasons at Eastern Washington before taking over as head coach from 1968 to 1970. In three seasons he compiled an 11-18 record.

"He was a player-oriented coach," Dick Zornes, one of Wooten's former EWU players, said. "He formed a tight bond with his players and was very good to us. He helped us in a lot of ways, not only football but academically and away from the field."

In addition to coaching football, Wooten also served as athletic director (1968-70), wrestling coach (1963-68) and swim coach (1972-73).

Following his tenure in the athletic department, he taught at Eastern Washington, where he spent more than 30 years as a professor in the Eastern Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics department.

Ironically, Wooten's death comes the week before Washington and Eastern Washington are scheduled to meet on the gridiron for the first time. The Huskies entertain EWU Saturday at Husky Stadium.

A celebration of his life will take place on Sept. 9 from 2-6 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express in Cheney.

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