May 1, 2024

Larry Nash and the 1992 Apple Cup

A rivalry game that every Husky is indoctrinated to place above all else – the Apple Cup against Washington State University.

You could say that the Larry Nash era of Husky Rugby kicked off sometime in the late 1980’s, when Larry Nash and Patrick Simmons formed a coaching duo that would lead the team for over a decade.  Those of you that played for this witty American-Welsh dynamic duo may remember that in addition to being a player, coach, and sometimes referee, Larry was also a dad of three.

I, Jeremy Nash,  was the oldest of those two boys and would ultimately play for my dad in his last year leading UW.  Before I picked up a rugby ball to play organized rugby, I remember trying to tag along with my dad (sometimes, if not often, to his chagrin) to UW rugby events as often as I could.  My favorite non-playing Husky Rugby memory harkens back to the rivalry game that every Husky is indoctrinated to place above all else – the Apple Cup against Washington State University.    

The year was 1992.  Both the football and rugby versions of this historic rivalry were played on the same day – rugby in the morning and football in the evening.  The weather called for snow during both games, and Husky Rugby showed up to a field where lines were painted in color because the field was already stark white.  More importantly, it had been a historic number of years since the Dawgs had bested the Cougs on the rugby pitch. But, before I get to the result of the game itself, I want to share the tale of the treacherous drive to Pullman and how Larry turned to his own colorful past to conquer the snowiest Snoqualmie Pass crossing I have ever experienced to this day.  

For those of you who played for Larry, I will direct your memory to his automobile of choice – the Volkswagen Beetle, with this particular one being a gold 1980’s version, affectionately named “Goldie.”  Most, including my 13-year old self with zero driving experience at the time, would say that Goldie was not an ideal choice to take across a very snowy Snoqualmie Pass.  I think most would have been even less enthused at this choice if they were transporting a child of theirs as well.  Alas, Larry Nash was not most people and, in true Larry Nash form, he drew from his own personal experience in high school to support his choice of transport across the snow.  You see when Larry was in high school, which he attended in the DC area, he and his football buddies would drive one of their VW Beetles into snowed in parking lots at high rates of speed letting physics dictate the thrilling route the car would take and end up.  The lesson that would come to justify taking Goldie across the Pass was learned when the car came to rest in these parking lots. Because of the Beetles unique combination of rear wheel drive and the weight of the cars engine sitting in the back above the rear wheels, he and his buddies could drive their Beetles right back out of the snow (and on the very rare occasion it didn’t work, they had enough beef amongst them to literally carry the car to a spot where it would gain the needed traction).

So, Larry ferried Goldie and I over an ice rink like I-90 with snow rapidly accumulating and wind pummeling his golden chariot, at a steady 25-30mph.  It seemed like an eternity, with the only sound heard in the car being the Tina Turner album playing in the tape deck. Not for a single second did Larry show even the slightest bit of nerves or hesitation, or really any other visible emotion other than confidence that we would safely complete this journey.

The next day on the rugby pitch, his team showed the same confidence in dismantling WSU and securing the Apple Cup, ending the historic drought.  Just as Larry was unfazed driving Goldie in treacherous conditions, the Husky Rugby squad took the field as they would have if the weather was 60 degrees and sunny instead of the 20 degrees and blizzardy.  Larry, a veritable snowman, was steadfast on the sideline through warmups and the entire game, while I did my best to be outside but did take warming breaks in a nearby RV that was offered to my dad so I didn’t freeze.  After the final whistle blew, I watched as most of that Husky Rugby squad demonstrated their exuberance at having reclaimed the Apple Cup by stripping down to their skivvies (and a few brave souls down to their birthday suits) and treating the pitch as their own personal slip and slide. The Husky football team was not as fortunate, the conditions clearly affecting them more than WSU en route to a 42-23 loss that would eliminate them from Rose Bowl contention.  But Larry and his Husky Rugby squad (those over 21 of course) delighted in knocking back beers with their opponents from a keg that Larry drove to Coeur d’Alene to acquire on account of Idaho’s lack of sales tax, the football game unable to dampen their mood.

The trip back across the pass was fortunately as uneventful as the trip over with Tina providing the musical motivation. Larry drove Goldie until she died – and when VW released the Beetle again, he was one of the first to purchase, this time in black.  A few short years later, I would make my Husky Rugby debut on the first side, after my brother and I both suited up for a few UW second side games, while my brother was a senior in high school and I had not yet been accepted by the admissions department.  

Thanks to Larry and that snowy Apple Cup performance by the Dawgs, Husky Rugby will always be a family affair for the Nash Clan.

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