The Willingham Buyout Bowl
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Charlie Weis' weekly Tuesday noon press conference this week, a Seattle-based scribe had the temerity to go somewhere no Notre Dame-based writer ever does. The writer asked, in an indirect fashion, for Weis to evaluate the man who is both his predecessor in South Bend and that of Steve Sarkisian at Washington as a recruiter.
The question was a phone-in, but I imagine the inquisitor could still feel Charlie's stare. Weis' reply was to the effect that, "I would never say anything derogatory about a former head coach at Notre Dame ... or Washington."
Which is curious, because just by introducing the term "derogatory," I believe Weis made his point.
And if you think that Weis just accidentally commits such a slip of verbiage ... child, please.
By the way, that particular question -- and Weis' response -- are nowhere to be found on the official transcript of Tuesday's presser that appears on Notre Dame's Web site, und.com. Hopefully, that gives you a clue as to why the local media no longer asks Weis such questions.
Anyway, you can bet that neither Weis nor Sarkisian will mention the "W" word this week -- but I will. Here are a few curious items about Tyrone Willingham as it relates to both Notre Dame and Washington.
As part of Willingham's buyout agreement with Notre Dame after the school terminated him three years into his five-year deal in November of 2004, the coach received the following:
July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006: $650,000
July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007: $650,000
July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008: $650,000
Last October, Washington announced that Willingham, in the midst of an 0-12 season without star quarterback Jake Locker, would step down at season's end. Because he was removed with one year remaining on his contract, he received a $1 million buyout from Washington.
That makes a grand sum of $2,950,000 of unemployment payments in the past half decade. At a time when approximately 10 percent of the work force is unemployed, that's good non-work if you can get it.
Then again, Willingham never asked to be fired. His integrity and character have never been an issue.
Here is another curious link between the Weis, Sarkisian and Willingham. Last October, the University of Washington held a press conference to announce his firing just days after Weis and the Irish had rolled over the Huskies, 33-7, in Seattle. Weis was the last coach he went up against before it was made public that he was gone.
In 2004 Notre Dame fired Willingham just days after he and the Irish were routed 41-10 at USC, which happens to be the most recent employer of his latest successor, Sarkisian. Oddly, 2004 was the only season between the years 2001-2008 that Sarkisian was not at USC; that year he was the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders.