Recruiting did him in
Richard Linde, 29 October 2008
Tyrone Willingham was given a fair chance to succeed at Washington if you
ignore its recent history, its tough schedule and the clamor for Ty's
head going into the season. You might be able to make a case for a
premature firing if you look at these factors in depth. Otherwise, the
following indictments stand as charged.
-- He squandered a treasure trove of athletes leftover from the
Neuheisel era, failing to replenish the stock. Former coach Rick Neuheisel
was a good recruiter, his shortcomings aside. “He can talk a dog off a
meat truck,” people at UCLA are saying. Yeah, but can the dog keep Slick Rick out of
the dog house?
-- In retrospect, the 2005 recruiting class was Willingham’s undoing. I
know -- it was a carryover class and he did take over a 1-10 team. Just
the same, his 2006 and 2007 classes failed to look to the future, to
prepare for a shortfall of experience in 2008.
-- His recruiting effort made for the 2008 class was commendable, but
just too late, much like a pre-med student cramming all night for a
final test in Organic. It was as if he were tossing the dice, hoping
that the 2009 class when added to 2008’s would ensure his survival at
the time of contract renewal.
From a personality standpoint, if Rick was too clever by half, then
Willingham was too stubborn by half, his stubbornness and intransigence
partly working to his failure.
Washington’s intense fear of incurring more of the NCAA’s wrath, a
phobia developed during Don James’s last year and reinforced during Neuheisel’s
last year, motivated Willingham’s hiring. As a role-model coach, Ty was
intended to serve as a tranquilizer to counter the fear of a snooping
NCAA President Myles Brand, who has a Blackberry filled with the names
of snitches, as with the anonymous "Peter Wright."(&)
His 11-12 record during his final two years at Notre Dame was ignored by
NCAA sycophant and former AD Todd Turner, who chose Valium and
introspection over direct therapy to cure
Washington’s phobia, the direct approach being to hire a proven coach
with a better record.
As with Rick's stewardship, Tyrone’s captaincy was like sailing in the eye of a
hurricane. You always knew his ship was in trouble; it was just a
question of when the winds would hit broadside, full force. You must
admire him for going down with the ship. But that again is his
stubbornness at work.
my job description for a new hire of the offensive-defensive-coordinator
type or of a young head coach like Lane Kiffin, say:
a capable, hungry, young man, hopefully fired from your last job, with
an annoying twitch in the eye. You must have the work ethic of a Jeff Tedford
and be known to keep a refrigerator and sleeping bag in your office.
Having a loyal wife and
young daughters to feed at home -- like Jim Owens -- is fine with us.
You'll be paid
"peanuts" relative to the outrageous CEO salaries of today and earn
raises over the next five years of your contract by winning on the field
and steering players along the road to graduation. You need a gift
of gab, charisma and fund-raising skills. You will need to leap to the fore
when called to attention, but be your own man when the chips are on the
line. You will need to donate time to the present to provide for your
family's future. When you retire you can learn to play golf.
Now I need to work out a job
description for going the route of a Pat Hill, say. ;-)
An experienced, lowly-paid gent, not over the hill, with an annoying
twitch in the eye long ago suppressed. You must have taken and passed an
anger-management course. You must never have been hanged in effigy.
We need a coach who can talk an impoverished
State Legislature off the top of a Brinks truck. We need a coach who can
talk a kid off a sunny beach into the thrill of basking in the rain. We need a
coach who can talk a donor out of his last kidney. We need a coach who
can read a game-day pep talk off a teleprompter without wearing reading
glasses. We need a coach who can walk down the slippery steps of the
lower bowl without instinctively reaching for a handrail. Amid repairs,
we need a
coach who can talk a boater into being bussed.
You must be willing to mingle at alumni
events and hug old gadflies at the team hotel.
As with any politician, you must possess the
ability to divert tough questions, have a litany of homilies at your
disposal, be willing to wear a frozen smile on a warm face, and refrain
from punching vexing newspaper columnists in the squinters and wiping
the similes off their faces.
In any case, you should be as scrupulously
honest as your contract will be long and, just in case, be willing to take a "lie-detective" test, as Jimmy "the Couging it" Moore
might say. *
Moore is an obnoxious WSU grad writing for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Wright" is the pseudonym of the snitch who turned Neuheisel in to the
NCAA back in 2002.