Happy New Year for Willingham?

It truly is Notre Dame Nation. The George O'Leary hiring was first reported by the seventh-rated broadcast news outlet in Boston. His dismissal was unearthed by a daily newspaper in New Hampshire. Now the 30th largest paper in California may have the scoop on the Tyrone Willingham hiring. But there is no anouncement scheduled at Notre Dame yet. IrishEyes has the report.

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December 31, 2001

Santa Barbara Takes Lead
In Media "Scooper Bowl"

By Alan Tieuli
The IrishEyes.Com News Service

Make no mistake, while Notre Dame is not participating in its own football Bowl game, the media has created one for itself.

Call it the "Scooper Bowl." Every reporter worth his or her credential (and parking pass and meal ticket) wants to be on the inside when Notre Dame names its new head coach.

Guess what? The little guys with the small budgets are winning.

This morning the Santa Barbara News-Press – by circulation the 30th largest newspaper in California – reported that Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham is expected to be hired as Notre Dame's next football coach. It was written that he is flying to South Bend today.  The story had enough validity that immediately all of the "majors" quickly picked up on it and sent the Internet message boards into a lather.

The Associated Press followed up the Santa Barbara story by announcing the new coach could be named "as early as (Monday)."

At 10 a.m. Eastern, however, nothing had been scheduled at Notre Dame.

"There's nothing going on here except for a women's basketball game at 1 p.m.," said a spokesperson in the Notre Dame sports information department. "That hasn't stopped the phone from ringing all morning though."

If Willingham is hired, he would become the first black head coach in any sport at Notre Dame. That is significant.

What is also almost certain is that Willingham's hire will not be an easy sell to the legions of Notre Dame fans. After Kevin White dismissed Bob Davie for not winning enough games – "losing credibility" is how White phrased it – he is going to really spin this statistic: Willingham is 44-36-1 as a head coach (.549). Davie's mark was 35-25 (.583).

Generally, however, it is considered that Stanford's talent-base is nowhere near Notre Dame's and that Willingham is a top-caliber coach with a Rose Bowl in his portfolio.  

Back to the media. Notre Dame's hiring of former Georgia Tech coach George O'Leary was first reported by New England Cable News, a suburban outfit with the seventh-highest news rating in Boston. The reporter who broke the story, Chris Collins, has parlayed that scoop into regular guest gigs on Boston talk radio.

O'Leary's undoing was started by a retired, part-time sports writer at the Manchester (N.H.) Union-Leader who was doing research for a local feel-good story on the hiring. He made the call to the Univeristy of New Hampshire to get the standard "I remember George" quote and got just the opposite.

There are plenty of damaged egos out there covering Notre Dame sports.

The "Scooper Bowl" has ironically been enabled by White who refuses to provide updates to the media on the search. The only access to the A.D. comes on his weekly radio show that airs on select ESPN Radio markets nationwide. Sunday night he said, "I can't give you a definitive time frame as to when this thing will end, but we're in no rush."

(Alan Tieuli is the Managing Editor of IrishEyes and can be reached at aatandsonspr@aol.com)



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