Friday, September 14, 2007

Under the Golden Dome

This goes out to all you Notre Dame fans/alumni/boosters who called for the firing of former head football coach Tyrone Willingham back in 2004...


OK, now that we got that out of the way I'll try to make the rest of this a bit more civil.

Willingham is my favorite coach in college football, and maybe all of sports for that matter. Not only is he a quality coach, but more than that he's a quality person who embodies all the traits a leader of young men should.

Mothers around the country would do well to send their sons to Willingham whose character and leadership are the true cornerstones of successful programs. Apparently that's not good enough for the football factory in South Bend, but right now it's all the rave in the Pacific Northwest.

As the University of Washington gets ready to take on their toughest test thus far in #10 Ohio State, the season is already a rousing success after victories over Syracuse and the team with what was the nation's longest winning streak, Boise State.

That the Huskies are back on the national radar should come as no surprise to those of us who have followed Willingham throughout his coaching career. This is a man who took Stanford, without the aid of Tiger Woods, to a Rose Bowl for crying out loud. Go ahead, ask the Cardinal faithful how the post-Willingham era has been.

When he finally got his "big break" it seemed an odd, but hopeful fit at Notre Dame. And after a 10-0 start it seemed the stars had actually aligned themselves for a man who so richly deserved it. But after going 10-3 in that 2002 season his 11-12 record over the next two seasons was not good enough for the Irish who jettisoned him without giving him the fair shot he was promised.

Anyone who knows anything about the college game knows that a program on a down swing like Notre Dame was when Willingham took over needs to give their coach at least four or five years to bring in his recruits and get things going his way.

Consider Willingam's first ever freshman class at Notre Dame which included Brady Quinn, Tom Zbikowski, Jeff Samardizja, Ryan Harris and John Carlson. He never got to see those players reach their full potential, rather it was the Irish's new head man Charlie Weis who would guide them to back-to-back winning seasons.

Critics will tell you that Willingham's success came with another man's (former Irish head coach Bob Davie's) players, which is true. However his successor (Weis) looks to be going through the same struggles now, but I'm fairly certain that Irish alum Weis will keep his gig.

Of course all of that is the past for Willingham who through it all has been the bigger man about the obvious screw job he was dealt. Instead of whining about the situation he's managed to take a team that had plummeted from a Rose Bowl win in 2001 to one of the worst programs in all the land and turn it around, his way.

That way is by bringing in tough minded players like QB Jake Locker, who is the talk of the Pac-10, and stressing hard-nosed defense and consistency on offense. That way is also stressing respect for the game and for one another, something too few big time college athletes do nowadays.

No one knows how the Huskies season will ultimately end up or if Willingham will turn the program all the way around in the land of Starbucks, but I for one will be pulling for him.

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