As One Writer Aptly Puts It: “Notre Dame’s Loss Is Washington’s Gain”

By Gregory Moore
Updated: December 15, 2004

Tyrone Willingham
Tyrone Willingham will succeed at Washington because the school expects him to reach the Rose Bowl first and get a share of the $14 million in payouts. The national title game would be just icing on the cake.

SAN ANTONIO — Almost two weeks to the day, Tyrone Willingham’s world went from being the head man at one of the country’s biggest football programs, to not being the head coach at UND to now being the head coach of the University of Washington. Talk about being a news item? Willingham’s stock as a head coach has increased 300% since his firing at Notre Dame and if you listened to the national radio, you heard it from this reporter first. But probably what is the perfect way to sum up this situation is what CBSportsline’s Kevin Dodd had as his headline: “Notre Dame’s Loss Is Washington’s gain.” As many readers remember, a lot of editorials were written about the fact that Notre Dame did not handle the firing of Willingham with grace. Over the past few days it has come out that even the President of the university was not happy about wanting to get rid of him because it would set a bad precedent. Yet I was not worried about whether Willingham would be a scapegoat or not be able to find a job. Unlike most, I don’t have that luxury of worrying about such details because I am looking at the situation from a very analytical point of view. Just how analytical am I talking? During the time when Willingham was fired I had done “The Drive” with CJ Silas and David Stien. That appearance was in regards to what had on its front page: “Was the firing of Willingham a Racist Move?” That was a national show but I also made the same analysis on WAOK, 1380 AM in Atlanta, Georgia on the “Sports Rap” with Rose Scott. On both shows I told each host that Willingham would be the next head coach at the University of Washington.

Was it a hard analysis to come up with? I don’t think so. When I looked at the schools that were in trouble and needed a fresh start, I thought of Willingham because of how he was able to do a good and fair job at both Stanford and Notre Dame. Would the Huskies be a perfect ‘marriage’ for him? It sure would be. What that school needed as a head coach that could come in and clean up after what Rick Neuhisel had done. While not overlooking the job that Washington’s current coach had to do after Neuhisel’s departure, what the school needed was someone who has run big time programs. Willingham’s résumé reflects that he has success in resurrecting programs to success.

So why do I and so many other writers like Dodd believe Notre Dame has goofed up their situation royally with Willingham being hired at Washington? Because we are all in agreement that Willingham will have that football team in a bowl game of significant ramifications. The Rose Bowl is a BCS bowl. The Rose Bowl means something in Washington. Would the Huskies’ faithful like a national title? Sure they would but what they expect out of their football program is a reachable goal and that goal happens to be the Rose Bowl. How soon will Willingham have them in this bowl? How about next season and ironically the team that they will defeat that helps get them into that game will be Willingham’s former employer, Notre Dame. That game will be played on September 25, 2005.

The University of Washington has made a great hire because they realize what Willingham can do for their school. The administration knows of his track record of graduating student-athletes because he came from two schools that took pride in that fact. He has PAC-10 success because he coached in that conference and he has national experience because he was a part of the Notre Dame tradition for three years. Washington has picked up a great coach because he has the credentials but then again they already knew that. They knew that because Notre Dame fired him twelve days ago.