Art Thiel wrote in the P-I today, these things never go well, do they? The Paint Dry Ty era came to an announced end yesterday....five games before the end of the year, which is weird....but an end that everyone in the free world saw coming since he was retained last year. And nice touch with the purple-n-gold sign, eh? That is someone who spent WAY too much time on something derogatory towards their own coach. Must be a pretty proud moment for a guy that age to get his picture in the paper for his sign ripping the local college football coach. And nice purple satin jacket on the guy on the right. ('m thinking 1982, K-Mart?)
Obviously UW fans are beyond frustrated. This was year four of the Ty Willie experiment, a year in which they had planned on taking a big step forward. They blew a few games last year in a 4-9 season, and it was sound enough reasoning to say that if they could have held on in the Apple Cup, the Hawaii game, and the Arizona game, all games they had at least a two-score lead, UW could have been 7-6 and a bowl team last year. So, sure, they would probably struggle early with a tough schedule, but after some lumps it would be the year it all turns around. But alas, here they are, down Jake Locker and a host of other players, sitting at 0-7 and staring at a certain 0-8 after they "bow down" to USC this Saturday. Willingham is 11-32 overall, just a brutal record. And I heard it was so bad during Saturday's blowout loss to Notre Dame that, during a commercial on the big screen featuring Willingham doing charity work with children, the fans booed. The masses are so down right now though, they could throw a picture of the Easter Bunny, Santa, and puppies on the big screen and they would get ripped. Tough crowd.
So here's a question for the WSU faithful - and I'm serious here - but is UW what it used to be? The KJR types are yakking it up about how they need to go hire a rock star head coach to return UW to prominence. But is it that easy? Can they ever get back to how things used to be? I don't care if they hired Nick Saban, Steven Spurrier, Les Miles, Jim Mora, Lane Kiffin or Mike Holmgren, right now this job is NOT what it used to be. Consider:
1) The record - Since Y2k - and this INCLUDES their 2000 season where they went 11-1 - UW is now 44-59. That is good for eight in the Pac-10, ahead of only Stanford and Arizona. This isn't a one or two or even three-year downturn. This is a disturbing trend, especially when you consider where they started the decade. For what it's worth, with UW's loss vs. Notre Dame, they have now clinched their fifth consecutive losing season. Their last non-losing season was 2003, where they went 6-6.
2) The facilities - You know the drill. They have been touting for 18 months how badly UW needs the work done on their aging old lady on Montlake. The place is literally falling apart. And yes, they have their hand out for $150 million in public funds. Good luck with that. For a stadium that would be used, what, 5-6 times a year? The track would be removed in their renovation, so they can't argue it would be used for that. And Qwest Field is already hosting soccer, so that's out as well. So let's see - in a major economic downturn, with a huge state deficit, they are paying Willingham $1 million alone to disappear, and they are saying they are going to go "big" on their next head coach, speculated to be in the $2 million per year range? AND they want public money to pay for half of their $300 million renovation, the most expensive college renovation EVER?? Whatever. Don't ask don't get, sure, but for them to cry poor mouth right now is insane.
3) The Landscape - While UW has struggled during the Y2K decade, guess who has climbed right past them in the NW? No, not WSU (although WSU has finished ahead of UW in the Pac-10 standings for seven straight years, and has 11 more wins than UW since Y2K....not that anyone is counting....but still). Check out what's been going on in Oregon. Did you know that outside of USC, Oregon and Oregon State are two-three in the Pac-10 in terms of record this decade? Better than Cal, better than ASU, better than UCLA. This isn't a mistake or misprint. The Oregon schools have taken off while UW has slid down the pole.
Why? Well, sugar daddies help. Phil Knight with Oregon obviously, and Reser has been a boost. But with the sugar daddies also came better facilities. And nobody can argue against the idea that Oregon and Oregon State have two of the nicer venues in the west. They both have built a strong donor base, filled with rabid fans who expect to win games.
And, when you combine success and great facilities as well as some excellent head coaches in the two Mike's - Bellotti and Riley - well, you can see how the Oregon schools have been heading off the California talent at the pass. Back in the day, when UW was winning Pac-10 titles, the flow of talent into Seattle was impressive from SoCal. Today, not so much.
The biggest thing the Oregon schools have done is to completely hurt the depth at a school like UW. Every school suffers injuries, even the USC's of the world. But they simply reload with all-Americans. With Oregon and Oregon State nabbing that talent that used to show up in Seattle, now, UW has lost their layers of depth that they used to boast as simply reloading, never rebuilding. They'll still get the Jake Locker's of the world, but it's what is next to him and around him that is just as important.
Now, I know, I know, I shouldn't throw stones from this glass house. But I'm really not. WE are in the middle of completely bottoming-out, staring at 1-win world right now. But guess what? We're actually one step AHEAD of UW in the process. I know that sounds crazy. But when you think about it, we are already a few phases into a stadium renovation that, when done, will be a pretty cool game-day setting that will only help in recruiting.
And despite the sniping this year from some of you with our big drop in quality, we already have our coach with which to rebuild. Wulff had an OK first recruiting class last year, but this year is off to an excellent start in the verbal commitment department. UW still has a facility headache on their hands, and, they need to get their next coach to start the process.
So there you have it. Willingham coaches out the rest of the year while UW begins the search for his successor. A weird end to an ugly era.
Enjoy your Tuesday, and GO COUGS!