Not The Way To Ty Up The Situation

By Walik Edwards
Updated: December 2, 2004

Tyrone Willingham

LOS ANGELES, CA.—First off, it’s great to see the enthusiasm of people. People losing their minds over assumptions and otherwise is always interesting to watch from the outside, because it usually comes from a preconceived judgment, where if “A” happens, then it’s got to be related to “B”.

Out of this mania, also comes hypocrisy. People like me can see hypocrisy from a mile away. I see it, then I get that feeling in my gut, and it causes it all to go into the bucket I rushed to release it into.

When Tyrone Willingham was hired at Notre Dame, the consensus here at the network, and in other venues that concentrate on the Black Sports experience was that he was a second choice, so that didn’t exactly make the move to become the school’s first black coach relevant – or real, for that matter.

He was kind of figure-heading so to speak, like the King and Queen of England.

Then I was handing out props to Ty and the job he did in his first year at Notre Dame, and one of the responses I received on January 7, 2003 title: YOU ARE WILLINGHAM’S AGENT!!!! (because I keep these things just for the bringing them out in moments like this fun of it) said:

As a one loyal reader I think you have gone over the TOP in praising Tyrone Willingham. In truth his failures this first season at Notre Dame were every bit as notable as his successes. Specifically three embarrassing NO let me rephrase that HUMILIATING losses to Boston College, Southern California and North Carolina. To refresh memory If ND had not collapsed against Boston College they would have continued to be rated #1 in the NY Times computer poll and moved up to 3rd or 4th in the other polls AND then if they had not caved against Southern Cal they would have been playing Miami or Ohio State for the Championship..and then of course after getting in one of the very minor bowl games against nobody North Carolina they get smashed embarrassing…and in fact if you want to be fair in their last 4-5 games of the season even in winning they looked weak nothing like the first half of the season……

It got even better because the biggest fault against Tyrone Willingham in his first season in South Bend was that he was singlehandedly the cause for Larry Johnson and Willis McGahee losing the Heisman Trophy to Carson Palmer, because his team’s defense allowed Palmer to chew them up in their matchup that season.

I know, it’s silly to even think one game wins a Heisman Trophy, and I had to stop for a second to wipe the tears out of my eyes for laughing so hard at that – but there is a credible reason I dusted my e-mail closet for this little piece of glory: I received a few e-mails like it, but this aforementioned piece one came from within BA HQ.

Before you begin to scream, “How dare you?!” One of the reasons why I can still blow on BA is my so-called talent, and ability to make you think without sending you off to throw a garbage can through Sal’s front window, and my fearless forwardness.

Now after he gets the axe, let’s take our beloved “Black Box” (please hold your jeers until after this point is made because I do have respect for the innovation that BB is, the voice sometimes just…..) which comes from the same thinking machine that the ’03 e-mail was born said today:

“Before the 2004 season, Before the 2004 season ever began, back last winter after only Wiillingham’s 2nd season as football coach at Notre Dame and after an IMPRESSIVE first 2 years, the first of which being EXTRAORIDNARY in which Willingham took a football program in free fall and made the Fighting Irish a contender for National Championship in 2002 with a FABULOUS regular season 10-2 record.”

Where were these three words three years ago?! I think they were stashed somewhere in the Hypocrisy Closet because Ty Willingham wasn’t in trouble, and suddenly he really did do a great job at Notre Dame in that first season after all.

In the matter regarding the alumni, and the light petting they got for voicing their concerns, well, that happens everywhere – so-called white schools, black schools, everywhere – because those are the people that help the school run with all of their riches, especially a religious institution that is not affiliated with a conference and all that fantastic potential greenage.

The stay for Tyrone Willingham was shorter than any other coach, and there’s meaning in that, but the job has to be done, right? And as for the academic standards, which were contradictory in strongly saying (twice) that the standards should be lowered to get academically underachieving students/fabulous athletes back into the fold, but then slams the school as hypocrites if they decided to go that route.

Notre Dame is a more attractive school than Stanford will ever be in playing football. But Stanford is a school with loftier academic standards than ND, and coach Willingham got plenty of athletes of superior academic acumen to go to Palo Alto, and be successful as a team.

He couldn’t work that same magic at South Bend with the standards set on a lower rung, and with the team he had, it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. The Fighting Irish want that dude Urban Meyer from Utah real bad, and if he can’t recruit there, then he’ll be out quickly as well – because the one point that’s not being made here is that the people who hired Willingham, aren’t the forgiving souls who let Gerry Faust and Bob Davie fumble around on the sidelines for five years apiece.

When Davie got booted, so did the brain trust that did his hiring, and the plan has changed, and the process of waiting is now an archaic practice of the long distant past at Notre Dame. And by the way, Davie not only got a petition to get him out, his house was burglarized as well, so he didn’t exactly get a gold watch walking out the door.

Oh, and one more because I’ve seen this Notre Dame as a white team jazz everywhere, and in mentioning the 1988 team, I’ll remind everyone of the ‘white’ guys who put them over: Tony Rice, Rocket Ismail, Ricky Watters, Wes Pritchett, and Todd Lyght.

I DON’T know what happened at Notre Dame this week, and even in answering the questions, Tyrone Willingham is even contemplating the race issue because he indirectly insinuated so when he was asked about the matter in his final press conference by saying, “I have an opinion about it…..but not at this time.”

Maybe it’s the last name, but Dr. Harry Edwards and I are on the same island in believing that Ty Willingham would still be the coach at Notre Dame if his team looked halfway decent, and looked like they could be special anytime soon.

I don’t like to call out racism acting crazy like my steroids are kicking into overdrive, especially in this case where there were many other factors that led to the firing, and with my son being close to six months old, I would prefer him not to have jump on the racism bandwagon every time a black person gets fired, or is berated for participating in a ridiculous football game introduction.

I want him to dig around like his father, and come up with a comprehensive on why and why not based on something other than the old-reliable-status-quo-I-feel-better-getting-that-off-my-chest-again, thanks said university, team, etc.

They looked poor over the last couple of seasons, and because it was showing its you-know-what that he could not recruit at the school, it might have been time to bite the bullet because waiting another three years for him to come up with the elixir to make talented kids want to come to Notre Dame, and pass up better opportunities at Miami, Oklahoma, USC, etc. isn’t money-friendly – and just in case you forgot the bottom line to all of these jobs, is getting coaches who can win in a hurry, because winning brings in the dough.

I watched Tyrone Willingham being completely responsible in his responses on Wednesday, obviously disappointed, but like I said, wondering if his short unemployment is bigger than number, he still kept all of that within, and will address it later when the time comes.

The problem needing to be dealt with is the fact that there are only two Black coaches left in I-A ball, and nobody talked about that at all – oops – the white media did, and that’s a sad fact, jack!

We are losing our way in being responsible voices. We have a certain power to make suggestions, educate, etc. and the first thing we do is shoot first and ask no questions later. Let’s be more responsible to our younger people and say, in order for you to sustain this, these things have got to happen – and maybe there’s an ear around that’s taken what you said seriously, and will ask those questions without the shots coming first.