A man I respect, Race Bannon from the Husky Half Brains, and Duckfighter Illustrated on Dawgman joins me today for a little question, and answer session on the Husky Football Program. Race, as readers of Dawgman know has been critical of the program, and its direction under Coach Willingham. I think most of you guys know Race from his satirical column over on Dawgman. I like Race a lot even though we don't always agree on everything.
“Anybody with half a brain can get on the Internet and say whatever they want — pay no attention to that.”
With that being said we are going to let it all hang out, and ask Race how he really feels about Husky Football.
1. How long have you been following Husky football, and what if any is your present, and previous association with the program? Are you a Tyee, or a booster?
My earliest memory is being at home with my grandma taking care of me and talking to my folks on the phone when they were in LA for the 1961 Rose Bowl against Minnesota. I was 4-1/2 years old. I used to read that program and the SI with Schorledt on the cover on a regular basis.I listened to all the games on the radio and suffered through the long draught after the 1963 Rose Bowl season.I started attending games in the 1973, 2-9 season under Jim Owens with my mom as she got two tickets in the divorce. I joined the Tyee in 1987 with the new deck and we combined our points for the 1990 season and have great seats right next to the DJ Center. That's 35 years of attendance for me.
2. You have been pretty consistent about your feelings concerning Ty Willingham since the day he was hired, would you illuminate us on your reasons why you don't think he should be the head coach at Washington?
I was never impressed with Stanford and marked them as a sure win each year. During the 1999 game that could have decided the Rose Bowl for us I knew Stanford would fold in the 2nd half and they did. The 2000 game was the best and worst of Ty. Stanford made a great comeback after the injury to CW and then let us score the winning TD in a three play 80 yard drive. Stanford had talent, but no grit or fire.
I felt that his time at ND was enough to convince any alert observer that he wasn't cut out for the kind of big time pressure to win that he would find here, just as he did at ND. At Stanford he could win some and lose some and have a winning season followed by a losing season, but that never was good enough before here if you ask Lambo, who had 6 wining seasons in a row and got fired.
Hiring a guy who had just been fired and then talking about everything but winning and losing led me to think that Turner had a very different agenda than what we were used to here. I think that fear has been born out.I didn't think then and I don't think now that we will see the kind of consistent winning that we want here. Rick, minus the off field stuff had the kind of reasonable arc that we were used to here over a 4 year span - top three league finishes and one championship. Had Lambo closed the deal on a couple of Rose Bowl runs he wouldn't have got fired. I just didn't see Ty reaching that level, let alone DJ iconic status.
3. Tell me what you like, if anything, about Ty Willingham?
I met him and he is very impressive in person. The company I worked for was re carpeting the coaches office and I was there with a guy who had been recruited by James, but never qualified. Ty took time for us and made us both feel very important and acted as if that new carpet might be the difference in a Rose Bowl run. I came away thinking, what a great guy.
I think he could be a great face and spokesman for the program, but as at ND, he won't do it. That baffles me.
I think he could be as aggressive as Rick in recruiting and winning and not get the same scrutiny because of his clean reputation.I also like how he gave UO their only loss in 2001.
4. How do you feel about Mark Emmert as far as football is concerned?
I've been very disappointed. Ty clearly deserved to be fired for 11-25 and instead, Emmert has left a festering wound and blown our chance at Jim L. Mora. The Emmert we heard about at LSU is not the Emmert we have here. I suspect that is because of the people he answers to at UW. But the good Dr. needed to step up and take the heat and he didn't. He would have a lot of support and the fall out would have been no worse than the stuff we are seeing now that is being printed to support the decision to keep Ty.
But he is an excellent President outside of football.
5. What was your opinion of former AD Todd Turner?
A remarkable man who I love and admire. His fight against the evils of doing what is required to win and his refusal to gild the Lilly and his inspired hire of Coach Willingham will go down in the annals of Husky Football as heroic acts that cost him his job. I seriously wonder why he got fired since his philosophy has won the day at UW and he wasn't fired until Emmert let him keep Ty. I suspect he was a bit too honest about the distaste for winning and the boosters truly hated him, so firing him and keeping Ty was seen as a way to try to keep he money flowing in without doing the whole job and firing Ty as well.
6. Interim AD Scott Woodward has only been on the job for a month. What is your opinion of him so far? Should he be a candidate for the permanent position?
While I don't agree with going after state funding, I give him credit for putting together a group and giving it a shot. I think the lack of money raised is a big red flag in regards to how the big money views the program though.
He and Dr. Emmert are on the same page so I think he should be a candidate. How that page ends up reading is of interest to me. I'd like to hear him distance himself from some of the Turner Doctrine, but it is really too early to make any judgement. I don't know him at all.
7. What is the best way for Husky fans in your opinion to get the point across to the current administration that being mediocre is unacceptable?
The hard way. The hardest way. Don't show them the money. It is almost impossible to ask the ticket buyer only to give up years of points, but I am almost there. I'll probably not send in the Tyee and buy a couple tickets to keep in line.
The big wallets need to close them. Make the decision to pursue this path hurt. If they want mediocre football, then give them mediocre revenue.
8. You have said that the upper campus at the University of Washington does not want to have a winning football program. Why do you feel that way?
I have felt that way since the botox poisoned face of Ms. Hedges announced the "retirement" of Don James in August of 1993. If we are adults and realists we realize that big time winning football brings a certain amount of off field publicity that is not good. That is a universal truth from the west coast through the Midwest to Florida. It can be managed and kept under control but it cannot be eliminated unless you eliminate the big time winning. UW panicked at the bad press and decided no more.
I have also said since that time that it is clearly the University's right to make that call, but they are hypocrites because they kept the pricing and funding of big time winning football in place to fund the non embarrassing Olympic Sports that Ms. Hedges spent 100 million dollars on while Husky Stadium quietly rusted by the sparking softball stadium.
Hiring Turner and hiring and retaining Willingham seal the case.
9. Do you really think there is a conspiracy to keep the Husky football team mediocre that involves the athletic department management, President Emmert, the upper campus, and the local media?
I think the timing of the pro Ty emails are interesting. I think the coordinated campaign in the media to keep Ty is interesting. I think the lack of criticism of both Ty's record and gameday coaching gaffes is interesting and something that coaches across America must be shaking their heads at. The Times report on the emails that focused on the boosters and acting like it was something new that they would want Ty fired played right into the hands of those who want to keep Ty. I think the smear job on our last Rose Bowl team plays into those hands and finally:
Keeping Ty will keep us mediocre assuming he reaches that level here someday and all the entities that you mention are all in favor of that and worked together to make it happen against the wishes of 70% of the fan base at great cost to the financial health of the program.No coach here has ever had three losing seasons in a row. No coach here before Ty would not have been fired. All this fear over firing a 11-25 coach is ridiculous. And yet he is still here and highly praised to boot. That makes him the perfect long term answer to keeping mediocre football in place.
10. What are your feelings concerning the timing of the release Sunday of the Seattle Times Investigative reports of the 2000 Rose Bowl team?
Had they been interested in a fair and honest evaluation of Rick's program versus Ty's and our program versus other programs, it would have been interesting. Instead it was a pathetic smear job designed to get people to stop complaining about Ty still being here and it only made things worse.
Emmert's decision to keep Ty will generate far more bad pub that firing him would have.
11. What are your feelings concerning Rick Neuheisel's tenure at Washington?
On field I was very impressed. The last 5 years have brought a certain nostalgia for Lambo, a great Husky who led the program through tough times and never had a losing season, but when he was fired there were solid on field reasons and he was unable to finish the deal several times and his recruiting was going in the wrong direction. Now he looks like Vince Lombardi, but you have to look at things how they were then.
Rick brought an enthusiasm and a Rose Bowl win, something only three coaches in our history have done. We were in the hunt and got two Holiday Bowls to go along with that. That is very solid.His teams were trending downward and losing to Cal shocked us and having to close out strong to get that last bowl was hairy, but at least he could close strong. And he could win the 2nd half.
I don't know about all the evaluation stuff on recruiting but I do think our lack of development of players began under him. His defense was poor, but his hire of Snow was good, as Gilby found out.
I think he was on the hot seat for year 5 for legitimate on field stuff due to the standards that we still had at that time. We'll never know if he would have made it or been fired.
As for the off field stuff most of it was nothing more than a bunch of old women crying about a guy that was kicking their ass - yes that is you Bellotti and Barney. For some reason Rick's secondary violations were worse than Oregon's major violation for forging an LOI. Ms. Hedges let Colorado put their sins on us for secondary violations. Colorado was a cess pool before, during and after Rick.
He looked at other jobs and got raises. Okay. But he stayed. Ty left Stanford for ND and called UW while at ND. This is routine stuff. Rick wasn't slick, he always got in trouble for stuff that other coaches did all the time.
The off field stuff was magnified by an administration that over reacted as usual and did the incredibly stupid thing of firing him in June that killed our program and brought us to where we are. Rick was no angel and deserves his fair share of the blame. But we didn't need to kill the program to get rid of him. We could have waited until December and fired him then and got our next coach.
Just more evidence of an administration that has no clue or concept of what it takes, nor do they care to.
12. Any predictions regarding how the Husky football team will do in 2008? Will we go bowling?
Ty missed his two best teams here. Now we are green as gills and light in all the places you need to be strong. We'll get hammered at UO and everyone will remember why they wanted him fired.
Had we got a couple of minor bowls the last two years that were easily in our reach, he'd survive 08. He will anyway, but not because he should.
13. We all know Jim Mora is no longer a possibility, but who would you like to see replace Ty Willingham if a change is made?
14. What is your opinion regarding this years recruiting class?
A good class that he needed to have two years ago to do him any good this year. He finally got the in state guys and he gets credit for a solid class. Some playmakers, some good looking beef and some hope.
15. Do you think the hiring of Ed Donatell as defensive coordinator will make a difference in how the defense performs in 2008?
Ty is all about the best defense being a good offense. Baer was unfairly maligned because if you're going to give Ty a pass for not having talent why doesn't Baer get one? He was Ty's guy for 13 years so I make the assumption that he played the defense Ty wants to play.
Donatell is going to get a green D line and secondary and instructions from Ty for what schemes to play and the blame for a disastrous defensive year.
16. How do you feel about Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano, is he the right guy for the job?
He could be but he has been pretty spotty and has the same number of wins here as Ty. When forced to play a power running game we do well, but Tim is all too happy to start throwing it all over the field.
Too many three and outs and too many failed third and short plays.
17. What do you look for from Jake Locker in 2008? Should we hire a QB coach and move Lappano's responsibility to RB's?
If we hire a QB coach, which should have been done when Jake was a true frosh, I look for improved throwing, great running and our only hope to outscore some teams and win a few games. A great talent and leader who is destined to get as many bowl games as John Elway if Ty stays here.They better keep him healthy, no other QB on the team has thrown a pass in D1 ball.
18. How do you feel about the talent level of the current team? Do you feel the level has significantly increased during Willingham's tenure?
No. This class may help, but Ty inherited highly ranked recruits that neither Gilby or he were able to develop into winning teams. You'll see this year how he has or hasn't elevated the talent.
19. Do you feel Willingham will keep his job no matter what the teams record is next season?
20. Do you feel that Washington can have an elite football program without bending the rules and embarrassing the UW, and the community?
Yes - other than the occasional police blotter, but we've had that under Ty as well. You can't control the media. Is USC going to fall on their sword or ride it out and protect Pete? We should all be adults, or get out of the game. This kind of pregnant stuff isn't working.