If Tyrone Willingham is fired after this season is over you can count on the fact that Mark Emmert, and Scott Woodward have been performing some due diligence on narrowing down possible successors since last December.
One of the things that happen when you are looking to hire a new football coach is to dream and dream big.
In the mid 1950's Washington tried to lure Bear Bryant, and Bud Wilkinson to Montlake. They weren't interested at all but they did mention Darryl Royal and Jim Owens who both ended up coaching at Washington
The first person on the Emmert/Woodward dream list in 2008 is Nick Saban who is currently the head coach at Alabama. Emmert hired Saban when he was at LSU and the two have remained close ever since. Saban has no current interest and Washington probably does not have that kind of money even if he was interested.
What Saban does have is good advise to give his friends that will figure heavily into the discussion of who will be Washington's next head football coach. A couple of names that have come up from that discussion are Brian Kelly, and Pat Hill. Both of those guys would seriously entertain coaching at Washington and they meet the criteria of program builders with plenty of experience. Both would look at the Washington job as a logical step up in their respective coaching careers.
Gary Pinkel is probably the top guy on the wish list and this weeks hot name. The big question is at 56 years old and happily entrenched running a top ten program in Missouri is if he would have any interest in returning to UW.
Gary has those Don James bloodlines and has shown he can build programs the right way. Pinkel will probably be tempted because he has so many good memories from his stay in Seattle. The reality of the situation is that at 56 years old the smart thing to do is finish out your career at Missouri rather than take on the mess at Washington.
Legendary Husky coach Don James feels the same way and had these comments in an article that came out yesterday in a Missouri publication concerning UW's interest in Pinkel.
I got to the same place out here. When I got the program going, why would I want to go anywhere else?
"It would be a monumental task here. ... There's a lot of negativity."
Jim Mora Jr. is another name on most fans dream lists but insiders are saying that he has never been contacted informally and that his comments on KJR even though in jest with his old friend Hugh Millen may have soured him with Emmert and company. Another roadblock is his contract with the Seahawks to be Mike Holmgren's successor in 2009. If they get serious about hiring Mora it would cost around $2.5 million per year.
Jeff Teford is another name that is going to come up again. The facilities at California are terrible. Even though the money is in place to do something to correct that it may take another ten years before it is all completed. Expect him to be contacted again to gauge his interest.
Oregon State's Mike Riley is coming off a huge victory over USC last night. that win probably propelled him into being a hot national coaching candidate. I think he realizes that he may never reach his full potential as a head coach in his hometown. Count on the powers that be to contact him through the side channels to see if he is interested.
I know there are some hot coordinators out there such as DeWayne Walker (UCLA), Chip Kelly (Oregon), Steve Sarkesian (USC), Will Muschamp (Texas), and Dave Christensen (Missouri) whose names will come up, but count on Washington to try to hire an experienced head coach who has experience building a program from the bottom up before resorting to going the hot an upcoming assistant route.
Rebuilding the program and uniting the fan base at Washington is going to be a monumental task just like Don James says. It just isn't about hiring an excellent head coach. They need to restructure the entire foundation of the athletic department or whoever they hire is going to have a limited chance of success.
UW can't screw this up again. They need to pick a guy that can obviously coach and recruit. Most importantly they need to hire a guy that will attract the fans and attract the big money support back to the program again.