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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

May 16, 2008 at 9:16 AM

Willingham speaks at Football Forum

In his role as the current president of the American Football Coaches Association, UW coach Tyrone Willingham was asked to appear this week at the Football Forum with select other coaches and media.
The event, held in Dallas and sponsored by the National Football Foundation and the Football Writers Association of America, is exploring major issues of the day, such as the APR, recruiting, player conduct and media relations.
Here is the transcript of day one and I’ll warn you that it’s really long.
I didn’t read every last word of it — if I’m ever incarcerated someday maybe I’ll have the time then — but I tried to read all of Willingham’s comments.
One of the more interesting from my standpoint might have been when all of the coaches on the panel (others were Ohio State’s Jim Tressel, Kansas’ Mark Mangino and TCU’s Gary Patterson) were asked if they trusted the media more than 6 on a scale of 1-10. All but Willingham raised their hand. Willngham then gave an explanation about how his wife used to work in TV news and quit when she saw that things were changing in the business from reporting news to making news. He actually told me this same thing once a few years ago when he was just beginning at UW and we talked a little about media access issues at Washington.
Willingham also says later that the biggest reason he limits access to practice is because reporters often make errors in reporting on what they see.
Willingham uses the example of reporters watching practice and seeing a lot of dropped passes but writing instead that the QB had a bad day and then he has to worry about building back the confidence of the quarterback. While I’d admit he has a little bit of a point there in that I’ve always thought it dangerous to make huge generalizations about what you see in practice (in part because you can’t always be sure exactly what a certain drill may have been intended to do) I found it really interesting he mentioned nothing at all about not wanting to tip off opponents about strategy, personnel, etc., which I’ve always thought was his biggest reason for closing practice to the media. Guess it’s not.
Willingham also gives an interesting answer when asked about recruiting, saying that he has to win two wars — the “publicity war” and “the actual war in terms of getting the right kids.” He says you have to win the publicity war to make sure you are generating enthusiasm among the fan base, but also have to make sure you are getting the right kids at the same time. That ultimately he trusts the evaluations of coaches more than he does the public on which kids are the right ones.
At the bottom, there is a discussion of offering players scholarships at an increasingly younger age and Willingham says that “I offered my first freshman a couple of weeks ago.” I would imagine that is a reference to receiver Kasen Williams of Skyline.
The Forum continues today and if I see anything else interesting involving Willingham I’ll pass it along.

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