Well, didn’t see that coming.
Had planned to get the postseason haircut and all that today when instead, another bomb dropped on Montlake with the resignation of athletic director Todd Turner.
There had been rumblings that there was some discontentment, but Turner had until June 30, 2009 on his contract so there seemed little reason to think this would come to a head this soon.
Certainly, few in the athletic department did.
The coaches I talked with all expressed surprise, and most also expressed disappointment — they clearly like Turner, who is eminently likeable in person. He was always very fair, cooperative and accessible with those of us in the media, and while that may not be important to you out there — and understandably isn’t to many, if not most — it was much appreciated by us.
Digging through the e-mail, the number one question is obvious — why?
UW president Mark Emmert said “it’s not any one thing. I know people always want to look for that one thing here or there, but that’s not what this situation is about. It’s about overall general fit around the entire package of activities.”
But Turner made it clear that things came to a head during the discussion of whether to keep football coach Tyrone Willingham, saying that “it just was enlightening about where our society, culture and support group has gone in their expectations of what constitutes a quality program on a campus of higher education.”
Essentially, Turner said he hadn’t thought, or realized, there was such a win-at-all-costs mentality here, especially when it comes to football.
Certainly, the 12-35 record of the football team under Turner — and 11-25 under Willingham, the coach he hired — is the biggest reason he’s not the AD anymore. Just about everything in an athletic department like Washington’s revolves around football, so other things that are perceived as problems would have likely looked a lot better if the football team were winning more — namely, the effort to get the Husky Stadium renovation project off the ground, which was likely the second biggest factor in what happened today.
Turner said on KING-TV tonight that his advice to his successor would be to “win more football games” a pointed comment that he didn’t make quite that bluntly when talking with us earlier in the day.
But Emmert also seemed to essentially say that while Turner was a good fit for what UW needed in 2004, in the wake of the Rick Neuheisel and Teresa Wilson scandals, that a different kind of AD — maybe a little more aggressive and progressive, to try to read his mind — is what is needed now.
So where do the Huskies go from here?
Well, one thing you can’t say is that the Huskies didn’t have all their, uh, ducks in a row today. Before anyone even knew about any of this — most coaches said they didn’t find out until a meeting this morning — UW had already announcced Turner will stay through Jan. 31 and Scott Woodward, the VP for external affairs, will serve as interim AD from that point on.
Woodward, 44, has been with Emmert since joining him at LSU, and he told me tonight he will begin working with the athletic department right away, holding meetings with some of the coaches as soon as tomorrow.
While Emmert will want to work as quickly as possible to find a successor, he will also likely feel comfortable with Woodward in charge.
I listed some candidates in the earlier post and a few of you asked where those names came from. Largely, these are guys whose names just seem to make sense, have connections to UW or Emmert, were interested in the job before or simply are in the rumor mill.
But unlike coaching searches, these don’t tend to be overnight processes. Barbara Hedges retired in mid-January 2004 and Turner wasn’t hired until mid-June.
This one could move more quickly as that search was delayed a bit by the fact that UW was also hiring a president during that time, with Emmert getting hired in March — he took over in time to oversee the final stages of the hiring of Turner and said today the hiring of Turner was his idea.
“I don’t regret the decision to bring Todd here at all,” he said.
But then he said again that circumstances had changed.
A lot more quickly than most of us imagined.
Well, didn’t see that coming.
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