Kalen DeBoer said on Wednesday that his heart has been “aching.”

When he met with reporters during a zoom availability for the Bear Bryant Awards earlier this week, The Seattle Times’ Mike Vorel asked Washington’s head coach where his head was at following UW’s national championship loss to Michigan. DeBoer did the media availability from his office, and he told reporters that his remedy was getting back to work.

“My heart’s been aching since Monday night. It’s not even so much about personal things. I just wanted these kids to experience holding that trophy and winning a national championship so bad,” DeBoer said, per Vorel. “I wanted it so bad for everybody around this city, the fan base.”

Washington approached the season with high expectations. It was necessarily a “title or bust” message, but UW’s leaders believed a national championship run was possible and they approached every day with a mindset of working toward that goal.

The Huskies extended their winning streak to 21 games by beating Oregon twice, outlasting upset-minded teams in trap games, winning the Apple Cup, and beating Texas in the Sugar Bowl to advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship. UW won a school record 14 games.

“But you always want more, right?” DeBoer said. “That ‘more’ is holding a national championship trophy.

“I couldn’t have been more proud of these guys and how they win with class, and I hate to even spit out the word ‘lose,’ but how we lost with class. The love that they had and just what it felt like in there … I guess if it’s going to happen the way it happened, seeing how they went around and embraced each other, it just tugs at my heartstrings even more, because of how special this group is.”

Following Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s retirement, DeBoer has been linked to the Crimson Tide. He’s reportedly a serious candidate for the job. And Husky fans are understandably concerned the Coach of the Year in college football could jump to the program of the century.

Alabama has an NCAA record 16 consecutive double-digit win seasons — all of which came under Saban. It is a program that has been defined throughout various points in its history by its utter dominance over the rest of the sport. Given DeBoer’s championship pedigree — NAIA titles before making the jump to the FBS, a national title appearance in his fourth season as an FBS coach — he makes a lot of sense for the tide.

DeBoer and UW have been working on a contract extension for some time. In an interview with Adam Breneman, UW athletic director Troy Dannen said the two sides “probably could have done something a month ago had he been motivated to get it done at the time,” but DeBoer was instead interested in keeping 100% of his attention on Washington’s Playoff run.

For his part, DeBoer sounded on Wednesday like a coach who is motivated to get it right where he is.

“I got to the point where I got up this morning — I was getting there last night — and I was like, ‘Enough of the aching. It’s time to get back to work and make sure it doesn’t happen again, to where we fell short,'” DeBoer said. “I honestly haven’t really been sitting back. You can see I’m in the office right now. We’re driving. We’re trying to make sure the roster stays intact as much as possible. We’ve got some amazing players that are going to move on to the NFL. I couldn’t be happier for them, wish all of them the best. I want that to
happen for them if that’s the right time.

“We’re recruiting our tails off, trying to put the right pieces into place to make sure next year is building on what we’ve accomplished this year. But I couldn’t be more proud of our guys. I couldn’t be more proud of how they’ve handled themselves all year long. I know I’m getting long with my answer, but this is that moment to share with you all where we’re at, what our mindset is. So, we’re ready to go attack the future.”