Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Witness the Willingham farewell tour

When Tyrone Willingham was hired by the University of Washington in 2005, he took over a program with a 1-10 finish the previous year, but not one that existed in prolonged futility. The Huskies were just one year removed from a .500 record, and 2 years from a bowl game. It was a program boasting 15 conference titles, and 2 national championships. It was a program interlocked with the history of the great Miami teams, noted as the team that ended the longest home win streak (58) in college football history. They flew their royal purple and gold with pride, and had hopes of regaining dominance and a grip on the Pac 10 conference.

Willingham was fresh off the controversial firing at Notre Dame, with the demise of the program bringing cause. This came two years after beginning his career with the Irish at 8-0, and becoming the first coach in the history of Notre Dame to win 10 games in his first year. The achievement earned him several “coach of the year” honors in college football, but accolades were short-lived. A 41-10 lopsided loss to intersectional rival USC in '04 marked the end of the Willingham stay in South Bend. Ironically, it was a near victory over those same USC Trojans in 2005 that awarded his successor (Charlie Weis) a contract extension.

Now here we are in what appears to be Willingham’s final year in Washington. We see a program that is 0-5 to start the season. What we don’t see is the combined 21-6 record of the teams that defeated them. 3 were nationally ranked opponents. 2 remain among the nation’s top 10. As a result, the Huskies have gathered these national rankings:

Total offense- 105th
Total defense- 118th
Scoring offense- 104th
Scoring defense-117th

Already winless, before meeting the conference powers of Cal, Arizona State, and USC, the season outlook is dismal, with the only true expectations being an Apple Cup victory over their equally woeful in-state rivals of Washington State. Now 11-30 in his tenure at Washington, we witness the likely farewell tour of Tyrone Willingham. Administrators, boosters, and fans are looking for more legends of the lake, and more trophies to boast. In January, one booster offered $100,000 for the firing of their coach. Perhaps they should have taken it.

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