Monday, October 20, 2008

Willingham should be the poster boy for midseason firings

Believe it or not, there are some folks that insist that a coach should at least be allowed to lead their programs for the remainder of a college season, though termination is a definite on the horizon. Last week, Tommy Bowden refused to agree to the proposed incentives to keep his job, choosing to walk away from Clemson instead. And though it may shake up a locker room and unearth concerns, a midseason firing/resignation may be more beneficial for a program than waiting until all games are played.

Unlike the NFL, the amateurs aren’t placed in a draft pool. Good or bad, you still have the opportunity to latch on to the nation’s top prospects. The firing in Clemson has already impacted Tigers’ recruiting, with at least 3 prospects de-committing since the announcement. But the sooner you establish stability in the program, is the sooner you can have strength on the recruiting trail again. Nebraska quickly lost commitments with the firing of Bill Callahan, and then just as quickly gained, with the announcement of the hiring of Bo Pelini. Michigan’s delay of the termination/resignation process hurt the program, and the late transition from resignation to Rich Rodriguez accepting the position in Ann Arbor hurt both his former and new employer.

But when we look at Washington and Ty Willingham, some of his actions give immediate justification to why you shouldn’t prolong the agony. Not only is Willingham’s presence in Seattle effecting recruiting, but his decisions are affecting the future of a program he will no longer be connected to. The Huskies haven’t won a game. And in all probability, they’re likely to win just one (Washington State). They will finish as one of college football’s doormats, yet Willingham is still there. This program needs a boost in recruiting, yet Willingham is still there. And two weeks ago, Ty Willingham made a move that will impact Washington’s future, with no personal consequences.

It was another lopsided affair, with the Huskies being pounded by Arizona. The game and season are a wash, and there’s nothing left but the building of the future. Willingham inserts Wide Receiver Cory Bruns into the game, giving him his first action of the season. Bruns was on the field for 3 plays, and didn’t follow up with any action in Saturday’s loss to Oregon State. When Bruns entered the game and the ball was snapped, the freshman was automatically stripped of his redshirt, counting this entire season against his eligibility. Willingham forfeited the young wide receivers redshirt year for 3 plays in a game that could not possibly be won, and in a season that can't possibly be salvaged.

Willingham will eventually be gone, and with his act, one young receiver will have fewer years in the program. Is it stupidity or sabotage? I choose the latter. Stupidity would mean Willingham was unaware of the consequences to the program by playing the redshirt. If we rewind a couple of seasons, the Huskies were trying to make a run at bowl eligibility, when 2 quarterbacks went down with injuries. Willingham opted to surrender the goals of the season, and suffer the losses, rather than insert a redshirt freshman at quarterback. That quarterback was Jake Locker, and his future eligibility was preserved. Now there is no apparent future in Seattle for the coach, and in essence, nothing to preserve.

Have you ever wondered why some programs swing the axe in the middle of the season? Tyrone Willingham, and his actions, are a perfect example.

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