Willingham Out at Washington

During Monday's weekly press conference, Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham announced that he would be stepping down, effective at the end of the season. The embattled head coach is currently 11-32 in his fourth season coaching the Huskies, coming off a 33-7 loss to Notre Dame Saturday night at Husky Stadium.

Here's his opening statement about the situation.

"Scott Woodward and I have met over a series of days. We have come to a decision that at the end of the 2008 football season, they will move in another direction with the head football coach of this university. It is my desire to completely finish the football season and do it in a manner that I have done it - unwavering in my approach and commitment to our young men in our goals that we have set up for them; they should be championship players, championship students, championship persons and should have fun in a manner that is reflective of the values of this program and the university community. I'm hoping that this announcement will allow the Husky family to come together and eliminate all the speculation and all the negativity that has surrounded the program and unite so that this football team and these young men can do the things necessary to be succesful on and off the field."

Here is Scott Woodward's opening statement - "It became quite obvious with the performance on the football field that it wasn't up to what we had talked about at the beginning of the season and previous to the season. It became more obvious as time went on this season."

Willingham said the decision was not his, and the timing of the decision precluded him from letting the team know before the announcement was made. Said he never considered stepping down because 'it's not in my makeup.'

Woodward was asked about making the change now, and he said he was adamant he wasn't going to make a change mid-season. "I didn't want the team to be orphaned and I wanted the leadership of Coach Willingham because our fans need to know we care about our student-athletes. I think it's in their best interests that Coach Willingham coach the rest of the season and they continue to go to class and do all the right things off the field, and also end the speculation of what's going to happen to Coach Willingham. Now we can focus on the next five games in front of us."

He added that he would be meeting with the team individually, and reiterated his point about his visibility to the program, how he is always around practice, training rooms, shell house, etc...

Talks started between Willingham and Woodward a week ago Sunday and finished at some point last night. Neither would characterize the meetings, but Woodward did say that, like everything else he does, "Tyrone does everything with class." Willingham met with the team Sunday, but said since nothing was finalized he didn't have anything to tell them. Woodward said that all contractual obligations to Willingham and his assistants would be taken care of. Woodward added that he also consulted with University President Mark Emmert before making the final decision.

Asked about recruiting, and Willingham called it a 'different animal'. "That's something that becomes very difficult, because you aren't their next coach. But it probably opens the minds of some guys that might have been getting a little closed. Now there's a fresh start at the University of Washington, now they will probably take another look at the University of Washington to see what happens."

"I think kids decide who they are going to play for first," added Woodward. "And I think in this circumstance, that's going to be paramount - who the next coach is going to be. And that's why we decided to do this, to get a jump on this process." Woodward also said that if the right situation arose and he could name a new coach before the season ended, he would.

Finally, Willingham was asked how he'd like his time at UW remembered. "It's obvious we didn't win football games," he said. "But I do believe we've put the program in a position where it will be able to win football games. Our recruiting has gotten better each year. Hopefully we're to a point where you can continue to get the talent you need to have successful football teams. And hopefully we've done all the other things right surrounding the program so there's a good strong program for someone to come in and be able to jump in and do things well."

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