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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

September 15, 2006 at 11:20 AM

New book details Willingham problems at ND

I’m almost reluctant to bring this up since I’m sure most of you are tired of hearing from Notre Dame fans about how Tyrone Willingham failed at Notre Dame. I still have a few Irish fans who e-mail me after every UW loss to let me know what a bad coach Willingham is. It’s as if they are still guilty about firing him and need continual proof that they did the right thing.
That said, there’s a new book out called “The New Gold Standard — Charlie Weis and Notre Dame’s Rise to Glory” that goes into some detail about Willingham’s years at Notre Dame that some of you may find interesting.
The title pretty much tells you the point of view of the book — Weis is the greatest coach ever while Willingham couldn’t lead the 1972 Dolphins to a win — so be forewarned there.
Still, the record doesn’t lie and Willingham has admitted there are some things he would have done differently at Notre Dame if he could have, though he’s never said specifically what. Author Tim Prister, now with Irishillustrated.com, details a few of what he feels were Willingham’s failings:
–“Nobody would come right out and say it, but Notre Dame football under Willingham was, well, boring,” he writes. “Not once in his three seasons did the Irish score 300 points or more.” Prister goes on to say that while Lou Holtz was considered a conservative coach, his teams scored 400 or more points five times, and failed to score at least 300 only once …quot; in his first season in 1986.
–Prister writes that the running game under Willingham “never materialized.” In his last season there, in 2004, UND had a per-game rushing average of 127.4 that was the lowest in 39 years.
–Prister writes that Willingham’s recruiting suffered because his staff “earned a reputation from assorted recruiting gurus for their unwillingness to go the extra mile on the recruiting trail” and that while most successful coaches are willing to “sacrifice nearly everything in the pursuit of victory, Willingham drew a line in the turf — he refused to sacrifice his health and sanity for football.”
–To further amplify the recruiting point, Prister writes that Willingham usually brought in fewer than the 56 recruits for visits each year. “He was bringing in good kids, capable student-athletes who could make it in the classroom, but he wasn’t bringing in kids who could make a difference on the field.” That’s an interesting comment given that most of the players now making such an impact for UND — Brady Quinn, Darius Walker, etc. — were recruited by Willingham.
–In something that seems especially relevant right now considering UW’s second-half problems this season, Prister writes that “halftime adjustments were a rarity, based upon the results in the second half” then details some notable examples of UND being outscored in the second half in 2003 and 2004.
–He concludes by saying that the national media perception that race had anything to with Willingham’s firing was off the mark. “It overlooked the reality of Notre Dame football on the field. The Irish had played a steady brand of uninspired, inconsistent and undisciplined football. Notre Dame had played like a poorly coached football team for the previous couple of seasons and had the record to show for it.”
Remember that Notre Dame comes back to Seattle for a game against UW in 2008. By then, Willingham’s best defense will be the team he puts on the field.

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