It is only 11 weeks until the kickoff of the 2008 NCAA College Football Season. The best part of this week is that it is only 11 Saturdays until the Washington Huskies travel south to face the Oregon Ducks in their opener. Husky Coach Ty Willingham had better have his players ready to win.
It is a foregone conclusion that Willingham MUST lead Washington to a winning season and bowl appearance or his time as the Husky coach will be over.
Since Willingham started his first season in Seattle, Husky fans and boosters have been underwhelmed by his poor record. In 2005 Washington was 2-9 and last in the Pac 10 Conference. In 2006 Washington was 5-7 and next to last in the Pac 10. In 2007 Washington was 4-9 and last in the Pac 10. You get the picture.
An 11-25 record and zero bowl appearances have left Husky followers bewitched, bothered and bewildered. Stacked against Don James 18-year career record of 153-57-2 (72%), a 10-4 bowl game record, and winning 22 consecutive games from 1990 to 1992, Willingham’s mark looks really lame.
The Washington Huskies have a proud football tradition that has fallen on hard times with Willingham at the helm. Prior to Willingham, the Huskies have won 15 Pac-10 Conference championships, 7 Rose Bowl titles and 2 NCAA national championships. No wonder Husky fans were slamming their helmets and pulling memorabilia off the rec room walls.
Washington has not had a winning season since 2002 (the last season under Rick Neuheisel), and has had 4 consecutive losing seasons for the first time in the history of Husky football. Yikes! Time to stop screwing around and get with it.
Willingham was given marching orders to get better coaches around him, and responded by hiring Ed Donatell as the new defensive coordinator and Brian White as the new tight ends/special teams coach.
Donatell is a veteran NFL defensive coordinator with both the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons. Donatell seems like a no-nonsense kind of guy who could drop a player on his backside if needed.
White really made his mark at Wisconsin as the Running Backs Coach and Offensive Coordinator, helping the Badgers to 9 bowl appearances, including Rose Bowl selections in 1999 and 2000. He mentored 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, 2001 NFL first-round draft choice Michael Bennett, and 2001 Big 10 Freshman of the Year Anthony Davis.
There may be nicer, more patient, more loyal to loser coaches in America than Ty Willingham, but only God knows where they could be.
Willingham’s main claim to fame at Washington has been to keep the program clean (no NCAA recruiting violations or other indiscretions), recruit some promising players to join freshman sensation Jake Locker, exude integrity, academic standards for players and good sportsmanship, and become President of the American Football Coaches Association Board of Trustees.
Winning football games (ultimately, the only reason he will remain head coach of the Huskies), on the other hand, has been very elusive for Willingham.
Up until now, Willingham and his Huskies have reminded me of what Lou Holtz had to say one fine Saturday-“When all is said and done, more is said than done.” Lou Holtz had a way of cutting to the chase.
For Willingham, the future is clear: have a winning season in 2008 and go to a bowl game, or get gone.
Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley