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A bogie for TyMalamute, 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.
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.
Rick and Barbara change
the recruiting culture at UW in an attempt to raise graduation rates.
1999. UW fires Jim Lambright: Apparently, a stubborn Lambright
doesnít play politics with the head honchos and deep pockets.
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
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
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.
The notion of staying under
the radar, as above, explains the paradox.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
perilous at the start, the goal is set too high; anything less than half
way up, the mountain will erupt.
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