As Husky Nation awaits word on the future of Coach Tyrone Willingham, it’s interesting to look at the words of Todd Turner back in August prior to the season opener at Syracuse. At the time Turner made these words, the Huskies had lost six of their past seven games, going back to the 2006 season. Washington went on to go 2-7 in the Pac-10 to finish in last place, and 4-9 overall.
(Excerpt from Bob Condotta’s article Seattle Times 8/31/07. Photo by Max Waugh).
“It would surprise me if he’s not here for quite a few years beyond what his current contract is, regardless of when we evaluate it,” Turner said. “I expect that we’ll sit down after the season is over and look at the future with a pretty studied eye to make sure he’s comfortable with where we’re going, and likewise.”
Turner, though, says he is “encouraged” by what he’s seen so far.
“I like what I see on the field, and I really like what I see off the field in terms of creating the kind of culture here that will sustain itself for a long period of time,” Turner said.
Changing that culture — getting players who will buy into Willingham’s vision of not only being good football players but also solid students and citizens — has proved to be a larger task than anyone imagined, Turner said.
“If you were to really pin coach Willingham down, he would probably tell you that he was surprised there was as much work to be done to bring everybody back together,” Turner said. “Our players lacked focus and commitment and unity — all the things coach Willingham is bringing to the program. It’s taken a while, and we’re still a work in progress. We’re nowhere near where we need to be, though we are closer.”
The culture shift should grow more complete this season because more players on the roster were signed by Willingham than Neuheisel and Keith Gilbertson. Of the 77 scholarship players on the roster tonight, 48 were signed by Willingham.
Willingham, however, says that number is meaningless.
“It’s not about ‘your players,’ ” he said. “It’s about values, about a belief system, and when those things are consistent, then it really becomes your team.”
Willingham also won’t say that the job has been tougher than he thought.
“I thought we could go to a bowl game the first year I was here,” he said.
He has set that goal again this season, though few think it is realistic with a schedule that is generally regarded as among the most difficult in the country.
In fact, the schedule is so loaded that Turner acknowledges the Huskies could be better but finish with a worse record than last year’s 5-7 mark.
“I think we are overscheduled this year in some ways,” Turner said of nonconference games at Syracuse and Hawaii and home games against Ohio State and Boise State.”
Bob Condotta’s blog:
Max Waugh: www.Maxwaugh.com