Given the way the season ended, Ty Willingham is lucky to still be receiving a paycheck from the University of Washington.
He became the first Husky head football coach to lead his team to three consecutive loosing seasons (you can't say he isn't breaking records as a Husky) and his teams have finished no better then eighth in the Pac-10.
But I digress. It may sound like a broken record in lieu of the recent Seattle Times articles analyzing the complete meltdown on internal control that the Husky program had in the years BW (before Willingham), but the program was in shambles when he took the reigns in 2005.
Willingham was hired under a new regime, one that was put in place to restore order and credibility to a department that had none left. New President Emmert hired Todd Turner (former AD of Vanderbilt Univ. and NC State) as his new athletic director. He was hired for his credentials for running a tight ship and his strong organizational leadership. Soon after, both Emmert and Turner decided on a coach who personified the new direction of the department. This coach was of course Tyrone Willingham.
Tyrone Willingham is by definition an average coach, with a perfectly symmetrical career record of 76-76-1. He is even tempered, steady, disciplined, and stoic—the perfect mix to calm a storm, but is it the right mix to take this program to the next level?
The job he has done with this program is commendable. He took a team that was barely good enough to win in the spring scrimmage let alone in the regular season, and instilled discipline (the Huskies are the least-penalized team in the Pac-10 since Willingham's arrival) and the ability to win the occasional contest.
The problem so far with Ty's tenure hasn't been the development of his athletes but his ability to take this program to the next level. This program should expect to win no less then seven to eight games out of every 12 that they play, bare minimum. Given Willingham's career record, it would seem unlikely to predict that any team coached by him will win much more them about half of its games, or six out of every 12 that they play.
There always seemed to be a factor holding Ty back in the first three years of his tenure here—from injury, shortened recruitment, a horrible defensive coaching staff, to just an overall lack of talent. This year is different, there are no more excuses, no more cop-outs. It is win or go home for Willingham this year.
Gone is Kent Baer, the worst I-A defensive coordinator of the last 20 years. All but one of the players on the roster were recruited after Neuheisal departed. And quarterback Jake Locker has a full year of experience under his belt. The entire team has been coached under the same system for three years and the results should surface this year or something is seriously wrong.
As for a cherry on top, Emmert abruptly fired athletic director Todd Turner, who was one of the few ironclad supporters of Willingham. Emmert sent a clear message that this is Willinghams' last stand.
If this is Ty's last stand, was his time here was a failure? After all, the stated goal when he was hired was to return the program to respectability and steady the ship.
I personally think that Willingham was never going to be the long term answer at Washington. Looking at the history, a coach like Willingham rarely goes on to greatness, most are well respected and coach a long time, but few are regarded as legends.
I think Willingham has done exactly what he was brought here to do, clean up the mess left by Neuheisal, and that was about it. Things were so bad with the football program when Willingham arrived that winning almost had to be second or even third on the list.
And now the Washington Huskies have their sights on the prize again, winning is once again on the top of the list—but will Willingham be there at the finish line?
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