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Willingham retires from coaching

Jul 20, 2010, 7:30 AM EDT

(Editor’s note: I understand that there’s still plenty of animosity toward the former head coach of the Irish and Huskies. This isn’t an outlet for commenters to take one last swing at the man, so if things get too out of control, I’ll be quick to remove anything I find too insulting.)

Lost in the shuffle of yesterday’s news that Pat Haden was taking the athletic director job at USC was the news that former Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham was retiring from coaching.  Willingham hadn’t worked since he was fired by Washington in the tail-end of a winless 2008 season, his third year in Seattle after spending three seasons at Notre Dame.

From Rick Scoppe of the Jacksonville Daily News:

Willingham
smiled. Perhaps, but only a volunteer basis at events such as
Saturday’s daylong camp at his high school alma mater. Willingham, who
is 56 and said he had “no problem announcing that,” insisted his
coaching days are behind him.
  

The
former head coach at Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington has no wish
to return to the sidelines.
  

“I’m
retired,” he said.
  

Willingham,
who also served as the president of the American Football Coaches
Association two years ago, said no more until he was nudged by another
question.
  

“I’ve
done 30 years of collegiate and professional coaching. That’s not a
bad career. I think I’ve had failures. I think I’ve had successes. I
think I’ve been places that most people will never go in life with my
career
. It’s a good career,” he said.   

Willingham never achieved the success at Notre Dame or Washington that he did at Stanford, although his 2002 season resulted in national coach of the year awards as well as a 10 win season. While his firing at Notre Dame was largely controversial and resulted in quite a bit of egg in the University’s face, history shows that Willingham might have been the last of a dying breed: a head football coach more content to be a figure-head than the hard-charging, recruiting-committed, 24-hours-and-365-days-plugged in guy that’s needed in today’s college football.

As recruiting became more and more essential to a head coach’s job, Willingham struggled. It’s no surprise that Willingham’s last good season as a head coach, 2002, was the first year of computerized archives on Rivals recruiting websites. This was a coach that didn’t hit the road during the spring evaluation
periods, not an entirely uncommon move back then, but something that was utilized by every top-notch head coach until it was eventually banned by the AFCA, while Willingham served as its president. 

(While Willingham’s best efforts recruiting were in 2003, you can argue that the class  headlined by Brady Quinn, Victor Abiamiri, Trevor Laws, and Tommy Zbikowski was a product of a magical first year, not hard-work off-the-field by Willingham.)

Willingham has no desire to get into athletic director’s chair, he’s merely content to retire at 56-years-old after 30 years of coaching at the collegiate and professional levels.



  1. Brian - Jul 21, 2010 at 5:28 AM

    That note at the beginning of your piece has cost you my readership. I agree with the sentiment that the ad hominem attacks are unnecessary, but something about that note just doesn’t sit right and the more i think about it the less i like you personally for writing it.

  2. Keith Arnold - Jul 21, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    Brian, Not sure you’ve got a real reason to quit reading, especially after the commenters are going after the announcing team in the NBC booth.
    Also not sure the “the more i think about it the less i like you personally for writing it.” I don’t think we know each other personally either, but if we do, I’d like to think we’d get along just fine.
    There are enough websites out there today where you can kick Ty around, especially today, I’d just prefer you didn’t do it here.

  3. Art Vandelay - Jul 21, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    Good, now he focus full-time on his golf game. Oh wait, he was already doing that.

  4. CKIII - Jul 21, 2010 at 1:59 PM

    keith,
    i want to make a much longer rant than this but i simply don’t care enough about a) you, b) ND or c) Ty Willingham. But the premise of Brian’s comment is spot on: you can NOT pre-emptively censor (or threaten to do so) on a blog and hope to keep any semblence of credibility and objectivity. doing so serves only to either a) drive away your readers or b) predispose your readers to react in a negative way, for which you’ve already said you would remove their comments!
    The lack of any comments in the 24+ hours since you posted this article – other than brian’s – proves that one or both of these outcomes has happened.
    my guess is NBC made you write that, but they are only doing you, and this site, a disservice.

  5. Keith Arnold - Jul 21, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    CKIII :
    I actually wrote this late last night and had it set for this morning, but forgot to change the timestamp on the date, so this looks like it was written BEFORE the Haden entry.
    I wrote the little preemptive strike because I think the comments on the Haden stuff are below the line, and I’m fine with people expressing their opinion, but I don’t enjoy or tolerate people that just say stupid things just to write it.
    It’s my fault that this is posted when it was, it should’ve come after the post on Haden/Garrett.
    To your last point: Nobody — NBC, ND, my mother — has ever written or edited a word of this blog other than myself. (For better or worse.)

  6. Rocket89 - Jul 21, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    Brian & CKIII,
    Stop acting like little children.

  7. mace - Jul 22, 2010 at 2:01 AM

    Well 1st off let me start off talking Mr. Arnold’s column/blog. Its his blog and if he seems fit to edit any personal deragotory comments about a good man(i didnt say good coach), then more power to him. Im sure all you people who say”since you’ve edit me, im not gonna read your blog anymore so :-p”. Im pretty sure your little asinine comments will not be missed. Now, about coach Willingham,granted he FAR did not bring ND back to greatness or come close. But, his recruiting did allow the Irish to get to 2 BCS games which Weis got blown out of. He was a good MAN that did his best to raise and coach MEN. It didnt work out at his last 2 coaching endevours, but while under his 3 year watch ND graduated some great young men.Now, I know thats not what us ND alum and fans want to hear, but I’d have my sons play for Coach Ty anytime because i know that when he was away from home. Coach Ty would advise them of all the temptations that are out there and advise them of such consequences. Good luck in your retirement coach.

  8. Chucket - Jul 22, 2010 at 5:07 PM

    The blood and bile that runs all over football forums is a big concern. Sports, including football, have NOT achieved what some people say it the reason to engage in sports: provide the platform for good faith and fellowship. It’s not happening. On the contrary, people are getting more and more polarized and hateful. What’s going on people? Why so much hateful intolerance and war-mo ngering?

  9. DocHR - Aug 11, 2010 at 1:13 AM

    Keith: I’m ok with your note at the beginning of the article. After living through years of RobertG’s posts, it’s been a breath of fresh air to be back on this blog. And anyway, I wonder if Brian and CKIII would say their comments in person. Nothing like the safety of a blog to feel like you can rip a person you don’t even know….
    Brian and CKIII: you must be new to this blog. Keith rarely ever preempts comments on an article. Evidence: years of robertG and USC bloggers ranting and raving about everything except football. Consider yourselves lucky that you were only asked to respect the short legacy of a football coach.

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