So who exactly is responsible for Washington going 0-11 and seemingly on the road to a perfect 0-12 season? Tyrone Willingham seems to think he is only partly to blame and the blame must be shared with Gilbertson and Neuheisel.
You can make the honest point that once Barbara Hedges was hired the program started to slide downhill despite an early national championship during her tenure. Obviously she can take absolutely no credit since it was the final result of the machine that Don James and Mike Lude created at Washington.
The plan was never to completely destroy the football program because 85% of all athletic department funding is dependent on revenues from football. The ultimate plan was to make it answer directly to President William Gerberding who had grown jealous of it's arrogance, autonomy, and success.
Hedges not so secret agenda was to dismantle the machine over time and de-emphasize football. She made Jim Lambright's life a living hell, and he retaliated by showing her no respect as he tried to battle what nobody else was seeing, or willing to admit they were seeing. The truth was she was totally incompetent. She was just not de-emphasizing the program. Her inept management skills were unwittingly destroying it.
The firing of Lambright followed by the hiring of Neuhesiel is when the program truly headed in a new unstable direction. He won, he made things fun, but he also skirted the rules, lied, and publicly embarrassed the university enough that they finally decided to fire him. Even that firing was mishandled as he won a judgment against the NCAA and UW for around $5 million on the way out the door.
The hiring of Keith Gilbertson who never really wanted or was really suited for the job was her final fiasco. Insiders all knew it was a mistake. We all hoped for the best because everyone liked Gilby but an underachieving 6-6 season followed by a lame duck season such as this one sealed his fate under the new AD Todd Turner.
Turner was a much better administrator than Hedges. He balanced the books, got the program compliant, and fixed most of the things that were wrong in the department. What he also did was decide to change the culture of the athletic department. Losing was suddenly OK if you did it the right way. He had some sort of antiquated, Olympian, Vanderbiltonian ideal that he wanted to imprint on Washington athletics.
Turner brought in a man he admired in Ty Willingham to run the football program. He was well acquainted with Willingham and had bought his shtick earlier in his career when he tried to hire him at Vanderbilt. In Willingham Turner thought he had the perfect man to run the football program.
In reality he was an unmotivated coach on the downside of his career coming off a big pay check at Notre Dame who had lost most of his fire. He wasn't an aggressive recruiter even though he sold himself to Emmert and Woodward as one. He wasn't a hard worker preferring to spend his afternoons on the golf course rather than getting ready for his next opponent or on the road recruiting the next star player.
Willingham's philosophy was simple. He thought he was special enough that every kid in the country would knock on his door rather than it being the other way around. Some such as Chris Polk did but they were few and far between.
The writing for his failure was on the wall that first recruiting season when he decided to coach in an all star game in Hawaii, and stay late to golf rather than assemble a staff, and hit the road recruiting. The writing became indelible his second year when he whiffed on such in state recruits as UW legacy Taylor Mays, and Bellevue's Steve Schilling who went elsewhere because he waited for them rather than aggressively recruiting them.
I think four years is more than enough to turn around any college football program no matter what kind of shape it is in. I am not talking about winning a national championship or going to the Rose Bowl. I am just saying that after four years it is reasonable to expect that you would have a winning record when most of the players on the squad were the players you personally recruited and developed.
Willingham whiffed his first two years on the job as far as recruiting goes and that coupled with Jake Locker's broken thumb are the biggest reasons this team is 0-11 right now. Even without the loss of Locker it is hard to believe the team would have won more than 3-4 games this season.
Washington simply hasn't developed football players very well over the last 6-7 years. UW's players don't pass the eye test physically. They don't get better, they don't get stronger, and they haven't developed a winning attitude. Willingham has had four years to turn that around and the failure clearly belongs to him since he has had total control of the football program to this very day since he was hired.
Willingham right or wrong insisted on doing everything his way. The "W" on the helmet meant Willingham not Washington over the last four years. Perhaps the record books such have an asterisk to note that fact.
Willingham should take total responsibility for not getting it done because he had 100% control over the past four years. You can make a point like I did that everything was not rosy when he took over but what football program is when there is a coaching change? Whenever you take over a program chances are you are going to be in rebuilding mode even if it is Alabama, Notre Dame, or Michigan.
Willingham will go out the door in two weeks pointing fingers at everyone but himself for his failure at Washington. He needs to remember the old adage that when you point a finger at someone else there are four more pointing back at you.