Husky AD Turner confident in direction of football program
Washington's 44-20 loss at Arizona State on Saturday, the team's fourth defeat in a row, led to an apparent increase in the unrest in Husky...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Washington's 44-20 loss at Arizona State on Saturday, the team's fourth defeat in a row, led to an apparent increase in the unrest in Husky nation, at least if e-mails, message boards and talk shows are any indication.
But one place where patience reigns supreme is in the office of UW athletic director Todd Turner, who said Monday he remains "very positive" about the direction of the Husky football program in the third year of head coach Tyrone Willingham. UW is 9-20 under Willingham, 4-16 in Pac-10 games, the latter the worst in the conference in that time.
"What people need to understand is that this is a very, very difficult rebuilding job," Turner said. "Maybe as difficult as any in the country for a number of reasons."
Specifically, Turner said the controversy surrounding the firing of Rick Neuheisel hurt the image of the program and made it difficult for former coach Keith Gilbertson and then Willingham to get things back on track.
"When you add to that the strength of the conference this season, it's probably as strong as it's ever been, and the nonleague schedule that we had on our books, it's really a challenge," he said. UW's schedule is generally regarded as among the toughest in the nation this season.
Willingham is midway through the third year of the five-year contract he signed when he was hired in December 2004 to replace Gilbertson.
"I think we will fully abide by the contract, no question about that," Turner said.
Turner said he and Willingham will talk after the season about a possible extension if both sides decide that one is warranted.
Turner repeated previous assertions that he is especially pleased that the culture of the program has changed.
Now, he said, the task is to bring in talent to match.
"The kids are not the same," he said. "They've got a different level of commitment and focus and determination. Our biggest challenge is to try to field teams that look like Southern Cal or Cal or Oregon or Ohio State, and we've got some work to do there. ... I'm as disappointed as anybody when we lose a game. But you have to look at the big picture, and the big picture is vastly improved."
Turner, a former Vanderbilt AD, said the turnaround of the Kentucky program by former Oregon coach Rich Brooks "is a reasonable analogy for what we are emerging from."
Brooks was hired in 2003 to take over a program that had been wracked a couple years earlier by the firing of Hal Mumme after NCAA recruiting violations, and then the two-year reign of Guy Morriss.
Brooks was 9-25 in his first three years and 4-20 in the Southeastern Conference before getting the Wildcats competitive. Saturday, Kentucky beat No. 1 Louisiana State.
"In my mind, I think the one thing that is most critical for us is recruiting and trying to find players for our program that look like the players we are playing against, and have a lot of them that are fast, big and strong and talented," he said. "And I've got to look too and see, what have we done to help? Have we created the environment here that can compete with Oregon and USC and Ohio State? [Recruits] are young and impressionable kids, and if we are not doing the right things as a university that give us a level playing field in recruiting against those people, we are going to struggle. But the one thing you can rest assured is we are not going to cut corners. We are going to do it the right way."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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