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A bogie for Ty
Malamute, 1 March 2008

Hereís my take on whatís happened to the football program, its current state of affairs and what needs to be done with our controversial head coach, Tyrone Willingham. 

In my opinion, the following series of events led to the crumbling football program at the University of Washington.

  • 1993. The Fruit-basket Scandal: The Pac-10 and NCAA levy severe sanctions against UW in 1993, not proportional to its bylaws violations. Conference sanctions are self-serving, aimed at torpedoing what had been for a number of years its flagship program.

  • 1993. Don Jamesí resignation: An emotional Dawgfather jumps ship. In retrospect, he should have stayed on board. Evidently, Dr. Gerberding doesnít help matters. Barbara Hedges is a spring chicken, just out of USC, and wet behind the ears.



  • 1994. The 85-scholarship limitation: Parity in college football eventually sends the Pac-10 topsy-turvy.



  • 1999. UW fires Jim Lambright: Apparently, a stubborn Lambright doesnít play politics with the head honchos and deep pockets.

  • Rick and Barbara change the recruiting culture at UW in an attempt to raise graduation rates.

  • 2002. A vendetta is born: An editorial in the Seattle Times sets a vendetta in motion.



  • 2003. The sneak attack: A paranoiac NCAA gumshoe operation transpires in collusion with the media and a sanctimonious snitch, followed by loose tongues wagging at the NCAA.



  • 2003. The gambling imbroglio: A naÔve, trusting Rick should have known better than to have gambled in any form, regardless of the internal memos. UW fires him for gambling, not lying, a popular misconception propagated by a former UW quarterback and the Seattle Times.



  • 2003. Incompetence and slant: UW administrators deal with the gambling imbroglio incompetently. A biased media covers only one of its sides, and stirs the fire by lumping non-football scandals in with the gambling stuff. AD Barbara Hedges is placed on the hot seat.



  • 2003. Rudderless: The affable, loyal Keith Gilbertson is an interim coach right along, and mediocre as a head coach. Bay area sportswriter Glenn Dickey warns us about him. However, at the time of his hiring, he seemingly is the logical choice for the head coaching job since UW apparently feels the need to stay under the NCAAís radar, while avoiding the media outrage certain to occur if it hires a big-time coach.



  • 2004: Booster unrest begins: Ostensibly, Notre Dame fires Tyrone Willingham because he isnít winning enough games. Paradoxically, Washington hires him and he still continues to lose games.

  • The notion of staying under the radar, as above, explains the paradox.

  • 2004 - 2007. Losing: Starting in 2004, a four-year pattern of losing seasons begins, along with the unfavorable settlement of a lawsuit in 2005 that further exposes the program to more criticism.



  • 2007: Booster unhappiness: A groundswell of booster unrest aimed at both AD Todd Turner and Willingham reaches fruition. Apparently, Turner pays the price. Willingham is put on the hot seat again.



  • Summary: Tyrone inherited most of the mess, some of it his own making. The talent pool at UW slowly eroded because of four weak recruiting classes and the change in the recruiting culture begun in1999, all of which was worsened by the effects of parity established in1994. Tyrone seemingly has ended the erosion of talent, but not entirely the gravitational collapse that led to the supernova.

Because of the chaos established in prior years, it is too early in the scheme of things to fully assess Tyroneís ability as a head coach. Failing to have an experienced wide-receiver corps -- though talented -- on hand for 2008 has been his biggest recruiting mistake. The alarm went off in 2006 and he failed to listen. At UW, he has built his reputation of integrity on a foundation of players recruited by Rick and Gilby. Give him small change for that and larger largess for his splendid 2k8 class.

Bogie for Ty:

2008: Willingham must win at least four games in 2008. DL and WR shortcomings in experience plus three new coaches and a tough schedule likely will lead to another losing season (*). If Ty goes to a bowl, extend his contract. If he wins less than four games, maybe he should go the way Turner went, and UW should forget the issue of maintaining continuity in leadership because of the fact that competence trumps continuity.

2009: If he doesnít go to a bowl in 2008, then 2009 is a must, otherwise, heís likely out. In other words, for the remainder of his contract, give him a one-bowl bogie, plus at least four on the floor for this season.

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 (#)  Although they were not central to the storyís theme, both the levying of unsubstantiated criminal charges against at least 20 unnamed players and the pillorying of a fallen hero became the story.

(*) Too perilous at the start, the goal is set too high; anything less than half way up, the mountain will erupt.

Translation: A six-win season seems impossible with three treacherous games at its beginning. Winning less than half the seasonís twelve games means his hot seat will catch fire. We need to douse it quickly if he meets our bogie of four or five wins.

 

Malamute can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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