Washington officially began the search for a new football coach on Monday with the announcement of the forced resignation of football coach Tyrone Willingham.
Historically Washington has always shot high during these searches, but only once have they come away with the top coach on their wish list, and that was when Barbara Hedges lured Rick Neuheisel away from Colorado.
In the mid 1950's Washington tried to lure Alabama's Bear Bryant or Oklahoma's Bud Wilkinson to Washington. Neither were interested but both recommended a young coach by the name of Darryl Royal who was then coaching at Mississippi State. Royal eagerly took the Husky offer and stayed for one year before going off to Texas and the College Hall of Fame.
Washington went back to Bryant and Wilkinson the next year for more advise and they told the Husky AD about a young coach named Jim Owens who had played for Wilkinson and coached under Bryant. UW also interviewed a couple of guys named Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry for the job but Owens personality and enthusiasm won out. Dont' worry about Vince and Tom. Things worked out fine for them.
When Owens began to stumble in the late 1960's the preferred choice of most Husky fans was Husky grad Don Coryell. Owens ended up holding on to the job and Coryell went on to have great success with the San Diego Chargers.
When Jim Owens retired in the mid 1970's the Huskies had their sites set on ex Nebraska and current Green Bay Packers head coach Dan Devine. They had Devine pretty much signed and delivered until Ara Parseghian retired unexpectedly at Notre Dame. Devine couldn't pass up opportunity at Notre Dame.
Washington then turned to the Bay Area where they tried to lure California's Mike White, and San Jose State's Darryl Rogers to Montlake. They both ended up in the Big Ten taking jobs at Illinois and Michigan State respectively. That left Washington with the little known choice of Kent State's Don James. For those of you to young to remember Don James was the fourth guy they offered the job to and the only one to accept.
When James retired unexpectedly almost two decades later Jim Lambright was named head coach with out a formal search. When Jim was fired the two most prominent names were former Husky assistants Chris Tormey (Idaho), and Gary Pinkel (Toledo). Barbara Hedges surprised everyone including the search committee when she announced the selection of Rick Neuheisel.
When Neuheisel was fired Keith Gilberston was named head coach and there was again no official coaching search. There were rumors that both Charlie Weis (New England) and Jim Mora Jr (San Francisco) were interested but Hedges looked no farther than Gilbertson who really wasn't suited to be a head man.
When Gilbertson was fired two years later names like Jeff Tedford, Urban Meyer, Gary Pinkel, Jim Mora, and Les Miles, were tossed around but it came down to Tyrone Willingham who had just been fired by Notre Dame and Tom O'Brien at Boston College. Miles was interviewed but jumped at the LSU opportunity when it came up. Todd Turner tried to hire Willingham when he was at Vanderbilt and the love affair continued at Washington.
The Big Names
Many of the same names are still in contention four years later for the Washington coaching job. Jim Mora was coming off a solid rookie season coaching the Falcons so the timing wasn't right for him. Gary Pinkel was entrenched at Missouri and Jeff Teford who likely was the top candidate decided to stay at California where he received a generous raise in pay.
This time around things could be a little different. Facilities still haven't broken ground at California after almost four years of tree sitting. Jim Mora is now in line to be the next Seattle Seahawk coach but is rumored to have an out clause if he wants the UW job. Pinkel is having an excellent season at Missouri. All three will be willing to listen to what Washington has to say for different reasons.
Mora will likely get the first call and even though he is signed by the Seahawks for 2009 he has always said UW would be his dream job. He lives in the area and he knows how the majority of the fans feel about him. He is going to listen some time this week and decide which way he ultimately wants to go.
Pinkel is very secure at Missouri. He has great support and fantastic facilities. Why would he leave that all to rebuild Washington? He loves Seattle and Washington is also his dream job. This will be his last chance to coach the Huskies. Will he take it or retire at Missouri?
The Huskies have coveted Jeff Tedford ever since he arrived at California. His work ethic is unquestioned and he runs a clean program. You can count on Washington contacting him if Mora or Pinkel do not come. Word is that Tedford has let UW know that he is curious through back channels.
Butch Davis has done a nice job rebuilding North Carolina and did a stellar job at Miami before moving on to the pro's. His advanced age, lack of West Coast ties, and the desire to get back into the NFL some day are perceived negatives. Despite that a lot of boosters like him because he has proved he can rebuild at a high profile institution.
Les Miles was a candidate for the job four years ago when he was at Oklahoma State. He took the LSU job before discussions could get serious with Washington. He turned down his alma mater Michigan last year. Why would he be interested in Washington? I have no idea but we are hearing he has an interest.
Mike Riley was offered the job once before when Neuheisel was ultimately hired. Mike has built a solid program in Corvallis. Would he consider Washington a step up from being a hero in his own home town? Chances are Riley is going to retire at Oregon State.
One thing Washington will have to offer this time to candidates is Scott Woodward rather than Todd Turner as athletic director. One big time coach who spoke with Turner about the Washington job last time it was open was turned off by the conversation and commented that he thought Turner was weird.
Woodward is big improvement over Turner both personality and ideology wise. Woodward wants to win football games doing things the right way. Turner on the other hand wasn't overly concerned by the win/loss record. He had some type of 19th century Olympic ideal which just wasn't relevant for a BCS school.
- Jim Mora Jr (Seahawks)
- Gary Pinkel (Missouri)
- Jeff Tedford (California)
- Butch Davis (North Carolina)
- Les Miles (LSU)
- Mike Riley (Oregon St)
If Washington doesn't get anywhere with the top six there are plenty of other good coaches out there to choose from. I think there is a lot more talent to go around this time than there was four years ago.
Pat Hill will receive plenty of attention since Nick Saban has recommended him. Hill will interview and has a very good chance of getting the job if it falls this far. A lot of people aren't excited about Hill but he can coach and he gets 110% out of his talent. A lot of folks don't realize the budget restrictions he has to deal with at Fresno State.
We all know what Chris Petersen has done at Boise State and feelers will certainly be sent out to him. You can't help but admire his record but he did not build the program from scratch.
Gary Patterson and Todd Graham are two of the nations hottest coaches but have roots in Texas and the Midwest. Both of these guys are looking to move if it is the right situation. I think any school would be lucky to have either one of these guys but I think there best fit might be in the Big 12.
Brian Kelly was high on most of the pre-season list till his team started doing face plants in October. Kelly is a respected program builder who also has ties to Saban who gives him high marks. He just might end up being the next head man at Tennessee.
Keep a sharp eye on Randy Edsall who worked with Mark Emmert at U-Conn. He wasn't on the list last time but he is peaking right now in fact his team pounded Brian Kelly's Cincinnati squad last weekend.
Mike Leach applied for the job last time it was open. His quirky personality may not be the best fit at Washington.
Jim Harbaugh has impressed most of the Pac Ten with the way he has turned around Stanford. He has the Cardinal's who were one of the worst teams in the country on track for a bowl appearance in only his second season.
- Pat Hill (Fresno State)
- Chris Petersen (Boise State)
- Gary Patterson (TCU)
- Todd Graham (Tulsa)
- Randy Edsall ((U-Conn)
- Brian Kelly (Cincinnati)
- Jim Harbaugh (Stanford)
- Mike Leach (Texas Tech)
Lane Kiffin has let the press do the talking for him letting everyone know that he is very interested in the Washington job. His mentor Pete Carroll is helping the effort by talking his protege up.
Never count out Terry Bowden. He would like to get back into coaching and the UW job would appeal to him since he seems to be damaged goods down South.
Mike Tice who is an assistant coach in the NFL would be interested because Seattle is where his home is. I am not a Tice fan and he ran a pretty loose ship up in Minnesota.
Scott Linehan has Washington ties and would like a shot at the job. I wasn't a big fan of his when he was the OC at Washington. Except for his stint at Minnesota as an OC he hasn't exactly set the NFL on fire.
Ex Baltimore Raven head man Brian Billick is from the West coast and currently looking for a job. He is another dark horse to keep an eye on.
- Lane Kiffin
- Terry Bowden
- Scott Linehan
- Mike Tice
- Brian Billick
Hot assistant coaches
Christensen is going to get at least a courtesy interview if Pinkel is not interested. Like all former Huskies his dream would come true if he could return to Montlake as head coach.
Will Muschamp has ties to Emmert and Woodward from LSU which gives him a much better shot if interested. Rumors have him going to Clemson but he would be very interested in working with Emmert and Woodward again.
Brett Venables is ready to take over a program and Washington would be a plum job for him. He already has let it be known that he is very interested.
Gregory is in line to take over at California if Tedford leaves but is ready for prime time. The WSU grad is one of the better assistant coaches in the country.
DeWayne Walker is a guy they tried hard to recruit last year as an assistant coach. I don't think he has the make up of a great head man and his personality is a little too up tight for Husky tastes.
Steve Sarkesian gets rave reviews but he has a lot of talent to work with at USC.
- Dave Christensen (Missouri)
- Will Muschamp (Texas)
- Brett Vennables (Oklahoma)
- Bob Gregory (California)
- Steve Sarskisian (USC)
- DeWayne Walker (UCLA)