Tyrone Willingham Vs. Charlie Weis

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: August 17, 2008

EDITORS NOTE: Back in August just before the start of the 2008 college football season, BASN’s Gary Norris Gray took a look at Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis and their tenures as head football coach at Notre Dame. Since both teams meet this weekend, we take a look back at Gray’s analysis with an update of their 2008 seasons.

CALIFORNIA — Four years ago, the issue of Tyrone Willingham’s firing at South Bend did not make sense and it created a firestorm in both the African American and white sports communities.

Coach Willingham wanted his players to play by the rules, attend class, and graduate. This is something other division one schools seem to have forgotten as Al Davis owner for the Oakland Raiders stated many times JUST WIN BABY !!!

That has become the motto of many college football programs. Coach Willingham was not into this winner takes all mentality, the new sports philosophy. The Fighting Irish did not buy it and give him his walking papers.

After four years, the issue is becoming very clear. The Fighting Irish Alumni wanted to win and win NOW, no matter what the cost. It seems like they are willing to wait for Charlie Weis as they were not willing to wait for Ty Willingham.

Willingham is not a good example for any affirmative action plan. He is an average coach with any average football program. Ty is on the hot seat at the University of Washington and if the Huskies do not perform this year he will be dismissed.

There are numerous intelligent and gifted African American football coaches.

Why are they not receiving head coaching interviews?

The six current African American Division I head coaches are Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State; Ron Prince at Kansas State; Turner Gill at Buffalo, Randy Shannon at Miami (Fla.); Willingham at Washington; and Kevin Sumlin of the University of Houston

This disturbing and ongoing issue keeps coming back to haunt the NCAA. This also does not excuse the University of Notre Dame for their hiring and firing practices four years ago.

Race in America will always be a continuous issue with collegian football head coaches until African American College Presidents, Athletic Directors, and Alumni Presidents are installed and placed in decision making positions.

Race will always be an issue until the NCAA institutes the NFL Rooney Rule, which forces institutions to at least interview one minority candidate.

The Black Coaches Association or a private African American citizen may have to attend court proceedings and make this a legal issue. This always seems to be the answer to most problems in this country when it addresses racial issues.

An African American head coach rarely gets a second chance while mediocre white head coaches get rehired even thou they fail many times. Sounds like the old American double standard.

Currently there are two coaches that should retire at predominate schools. Who have lost control of their players and their programs? Both Bobby Bowden (Florida State) and Joe Paterno (Penn State) are coaches that I’ve loved over the last 30 years. But again, being in the “old boys network”, both coaches will stick around another year

The NCAA allows this shameful hiring practice and Notre Dame is a classic example, regardless of the consequences. The administration fired Willingham four years ago under cloudy circumstances.

Then they hired Mr. Charlie Weis, a Notre Dame alumnus and the former offensive coordinator for the newly crowned Super Bowl Champions the New England Patriots. The administration has the right to hire whom they wish.

All that most African American football fans want is for college and administrators to hold the same standards for each head coach. This seems to be a constant problem in the NCAA? It is not happening in 2008

After three years, Mr. Weis has a one-game record improvement from Mr. Willingham. When a school presents a 10-year extension in the middle of a losing season to Mr. Weis and fires Willingham for similar performances?

How does that work? That is a very perplexing question.

Willingham’s three-year record at South Bend was 21-15 with five blowout games his last season. Weis’ three years combined for a 22-15 record with four blowouts last year. Weis has a half game lead on Willingham.

So there is little difference between the two coaches. Except Weis has a big contract in South Bend and Willingham is fighting for his coaching career in Washington.

In fact, Willingham’s fate in Seattle seems to be already sealed. The Huskies are winless (0-6, 0-4 in the Pac-10) and because of numerous injuries to starters, Washington has utilized a total of 12 true freshmen this season.

Last year, Weis had two long losing streaks of five at the beginning of the season and four at the end of the season which includes losing to both service academies. This was something that Willingham never did.

African American coaches still have to excel immediately, while white coaches do not. Weis is playing this saga out this year.

African American head coaches often receive the worst college teams in history and the school’s administration expects them to make the team supermen and win in one season. Dennis Green at Northwestern was a classic example of this hiring procedure 30 years ago.

Last year there was a chance for change in Division I football. 12 coaches were either fired or released from their jobs at the end of the 2006-07. African American head coaches in the college ranks remained at six, a net gain of ZERO.

Progress was made with other minority head coaches one Native American Indian and one Latino American will don the head sets in division one in 2008. This is not progress and the NCAA knows it.

The hiring policies at Notre Dame reflect the same policies of the current NCAA administration. Although the University of Notre Dame now have two African American assistant coaches, it’s still not acceptable.

There are other pressing issues at Notre Dame that need to be addressed not only by the administration at South Bend but also the NCAA executive office in Kansas City, Missouri.

— Notre Dame’s refusal to join a conference (i.e. Big Ten, Big East, or Conference USA) in football. Only five independent division one football schools remain

— Notre Dame receives 100% of its bowl revenues. And they do not have to share these revenues with anyone. All other conference schools share their bowl appearance revenues.

— Notre Dame has its own national network (NBC) and can be seen almost every weekend either on ABC, CBS, ESPN, or NBC their flagship station. They receive $3.1 million dollars for each telecast on Saturday afternoon. This year the Fighting Irish have 12 games on national television.

This is a serious disadvantage for other schools who may not have a televised game all year. This is a great recruiting tool for Notre Dame and their football staff. They don’t have to go anywhere because any school kid all can turn on their television set and watch Notre Dame Football each week.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) have this problem. NBC broadcast the Louisiana Bayou Classic every November with Grambling State University and Southern University. This maybe the only time mainstream America has an opportunity to watch two predominantly African American Schools play.

The Black Coaches Association will be engaging the NCAA this year in conversations concerning the hiring and firing practices of African American HEAD Coaches.

The University of Notre Dame is on the right track hiring two African American assistant coaches. Entering Saturday’s game at Washington, the Irish is 4-2 without a win against a ranked opponent.

After this weekend, Weis’ team has only two home games (Pittsburgh and Syracuse) left on their schedule. The big question will be if they can qualify for a bowl game this season.

Maybe a prayer to Touchdown Jesus would help.