If recently hired University of Washington head football coach Ty Willlingham is to fulfill his promise to restore Husky football to the good old days, then he’ll have to lower his standards quite dramatically. Willingham has earned a reputation as a coach who will not compromise academics or off the field discipline for a win. This has not been the Husky way for some time.
My first thought upon hearing that Ty Willingham was descending to the head coaching position at Ewe Dub was that it will be a little bit harder for me to hate the Huskies from now on. Willingham is renowned for keeping priorities straight – classes first. And that could make Ewe Dub a model for college athletics – assuming of course that he isn’t quickly fired for not winning enough games fast enough.
Huskies are accustomed to winning, but neither academics nor discipline have any place in Husky football tradition. The Huskies used to field a pretty good football team, but at the cost of corrupting the university.
This is the university at which the legendary and still revered coach Don James once enticed a convicted felon to sign a letter of intent while he still sat in his jail cell. But even that wasn’t enough to get James fired. No, the university regretfully asked him to resign because of a multitude of indiscretions that earned Ewe Dub NCAA punishment.
And as bad as that was, Husky sports managed to find room to go downhill since James’s departure.
I confess to having a distaste for college sports in general as I believe that they are corrosive to a university’s core purpose. Nobody should be admitted to any college or university unless they satisfy that college’s academic standards – and that doesn’t mean a 38-inch vertical leap. Once in school, all students, whether they can bench press 350 pounds or run a 4.3 40 should be held to the same academic standards. That’s just not the case in big time college athletics anymore.
College coaches often recruit kids who are ill suited to college life, either temperamentally or academically. Then the university pampers them through their terms of eligibility without placing too many demands upon them to learn either coursework or good citizenship. As one member of the WSU athletic program once told me, football players and the general population do not mix well.
Willingham has a reputation for attracting quality student-athletes to his program and sending them out as solid, well-educated citizens. Will this sit well with the alumni? If he wins it will. Otherwise, they’ll be calling for his head.
If forced to choose between a 7 win, 5 loss season with scholarly linebackers, and a bush league version of the Oakland Raiders or Baltimore Ravens that challenges for the national title, Dawg fans will choose the latter.
I sincerely hope that Dawg Town under Willingham will not repeat the shabby days of Don James. And if he can win without the sleaze of Rick New Weasel, I could imagine myself wishing Ewe Dub success.
Ignorant of Ewe Dub’s sordid athletic history, Willingham vowed to restore the Huskies to their former glory. Curiously speaking of himself in the third person, Willingham said, “Tyrone Willingham is a great fit for the University of Washington. It has been noted that he has integrity, is straightforward, intelligent, has the best interest of the players at heart, has been successful, developed young people. All that says he is a great fit for this university and I hope a great fit for any university.”
Quick somebody find me evidence that any of this (other than winning games) has any tradition at Ewe Dub. Integrity? Is straightforward? Please recall the aforementioned Don James and Rick NewWeasel. Has the best interest of his players at heart? Isn’t this the school that drugged members of its women’s softball team as though they were racehorses, so that they could play through injuries?
No, Ty Willingham will not bring anything back to Ewe Dub. If he succeeds in creating a culture of academic excellence and good citizenship, he’ll be bringing something new and fresh to the Ewe.
On the other hand, if he doesn’t win fast enough, I fear that high graduation rates won’t save him.