The ax was going to come sooner or later for Ty Willingham this season, and now that the University of Washington has given the condemned man the Ron Zook option, allowing him to finish this 0-7 season he has on his hands so far (and likely 0-8 after USC this weekend), it’s a good question to ask what happened to this coach after leaving Stanford for the job at Notre Dame.
It might be worth noting that his lone Pac-10 championship came at Stanford in 2000, as UCLA was declining after a run under Bob Toledo, and Pete Carroll hadn’t yet made his way to USC. Willingham’s weakness seems to be the political aspects of being a college coach: not exactly media-freindly and, based on tales from the Notre Dame days, not as eager to pal around with boosters.
You’re more likely to get away with that at Stanford than you are at Notre Dame or Washington. Not that Stanford doesn’t want to win Pac-10 titles, but it’s not quite the same goal and the point is to achieve while keeping high academic merit. (One coudl argue this about ND, but Stanford’s a different beast.) Willingham’s recruiting classes got better, but the only stud player he brought in was Jake Locker. If that is the only player you have that other teams would kill for, you have a recruiting issue, and it will turn into wins and losses on the field.
Now, Lane Kiffin has already thrown his hat in for interest, and I’m sure AD Scott Woodward has his own ideas and a list on hand, but it’s going to take a lot to get the state of Washington back to something resembling footblal competency.