Notre Dame Fires Tyrone Willingham
The University of Notre Dame announced today that Tyrone Willingham will not be retained as its head football coach. Willingham finished 21-15 overall in his three seasons (2002-04) as Irish head coach.
Robert Cox reports that Notre Dame has scheduled a press conference at 4 p.m. Eastern; Willingham will not attend.
I’m quite surprised by this move. Willingham took over a moribund program and had quite a bit of success his first year. Willingham has only had three years, which is barely enough time to install a completely new system and not yet time for his initial recruiting class to become seniors. He’s a classy guy and would likely have turned the program around given sufficient time.
While barely qualifying for the Insight.com Bowl isn’t exactly where Notre Dame sees itself, few schools can expect to compete for the mythical national title every year. The Irish play perhaps the toughest schedule in the country each year, making it even more challenging.
Tony Kornheiser has argued for more than a year that Notre Dame has never fired a football coach during their first contract and that it wouldn’t break that tradition now. Unfortunately, even religious schools with high academic standards are treating their programs as if they were professional franchises. It’s a shame.
Update (1422): Leave it to ESPN to make it about race.
Two black head coaches in I-A (ESPN)
Coach Tyrone Willingham was fired by Notre Dame on Tuesday after three seasons in which he failed to return one of the nation’s most storied football programs to prominence. Willingham had a record of 21-15, including 6-5 this season. The Fighting Irish lost 41-10 to No. 1 Southern California on Saturday. It was not immediately clear whether Willingham would coach the team at the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28. Notre Dame accepted the invitation to the game on Sunday. Athletic director Kevin White scheduled a news conference for 4 p.m. ET Tuesday.
With Willingham out — and after the recent firing of New Mexico State’s Tony Samuel and resignation of Fitz Hill from San Jose State — there are now only two black head coaches in Division I-A: Karl Dorrell at UCLA and Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State. There are 117 football programs in I-A.
In 2002, Willingham became the only first-year Notre Dame coach to lead the program to a 10-win season, posting a 10-2 regular-season record and earning a trip to the Gator Bowl. The Irish went 5-7 in 2003.
Frank Solich, who last time I checked was white, was fired last year at Nebraska after compiling a 9-3 regular season and going 58-19 in six seasons. Willingham–and Solich–deserved better. But it’s not about race.