Willingham to be next UW football coach

(Updated 12/12) There's finally news out of Montlake on the football coaching vacancy, and it's sure to be met with mixed reviews. According to the Sunday edition of the Seattle Times, the Washington Huskies will announce Tyrone Willingham as their next head football coach some time early next week. This story was confirmed by UW sources Sunday afternoon.

Willingham, who was abruptly fired from Notre Dame on Nov. 30 after leading the Irish to a 21-15 record over three seasons, will return to the Pacific-10 Conference, where he was named Coach of the Year while at Stanford in 2001.

Known for his disciplinary style and no-nonsense attitude, Willingham spent seven seasons with the Cardinal before heading to Notre Dame, leading Stanford to a 44-36-1 mark.

Washington's hiring of Willingham comes after weeks of speculation surrounding the coaching search, an emotional rollercoaster for Husky fans and administration alike that involved such names as California's Jeff Tedford, Utah's Urban Meyer, Boise State's Dan Hawkins, Atlanta's Jim Mora Jr., Louisville's Bobby Petrino and Boston College's Tom O'Brien.

With many of the top candidates choosing to renegotiate and stay put at their respective schools, the appeal of Willingham, one of the few high-profile coaches remaining on the open market, grew in recent days.

It was widely reported that O'Brien and Willingham were the two finalists for the job, but O'Brien withdrew his name from consideration late Friday and told the Boston Globe that he'd like to remain at Boston College.

That left Willingham as the lone big fish in the open sea, and the Huskies, acting fast with negotiations, threw in their line and have reeled him in.

Willingham will have to quickly assemble a coaching staff, as recruiting, the lifeblood of any athletic program, needs attention in a hurry. With National Letter of Intent Day less than two months away, the Huskies currently have only four oral commitments: K Ryan Perkins, CB Keno Walter-White, OL James Paulk and TE Adam Grant.

Those who have worked with Willingham in the past say only good things.

"He's a great man to work for," said Bill Diedrick, Willingham's offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, to the Seattle Times. "As far as an assistant coach, he's an ideal dream. He's tremendously prepared and really allows his coaches to coach.

"He's as much of a players' coach as ever," Diedrick said, "but with that, there comes a great deal of discipline and a great deal of organization and structure — always with what's best for the players and the program in mind."

Also reported by the Times, Washington will become the only school in Division I-A with black coaches heading their football and men's basketball programs.

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