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Originally published Wednesday, December 5, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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UW Football | Willingham status unclear

Early in the day, Washington athletic director Todd Turner seemed to set the tone for the UW football program on its first day back from...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Early in the day, Washington athletic director Todd Turner seemed to set the tone for the UW football program on its first day back from the season-ending game at Hawaii.

"We're just going about our business," said Turner.

Indeed, it appeared that it was business as usual, even as speculation is thick concerning whether coach Tyrone Willingham will return after a 4-9 season and 11-25 record over three years.

The Huskies had a 50-minute team meeting late in the afternoon, which alerted reporters to the possibility there might be something definitive on Willingham's status. But if anything like that came up, it was well hidden from the media.

"It was just like any other team meeting," said linebacker Dan Howell upon emerging from it. "We wrapped up the season and started looking forward to next year."

A small group of reporters waiting outside the meeting room for Willingham came away bereft of any update from the coach. When one asked if Willingham could answer a question or two, Willingham responded: "No."

Monday, a UW spokesman told media that a routine Tuesday season-ending news conference with Willingham would be delayed by a day or two, lending to the notion that perhaps his status would be clarified before that happens. But last night, the spokesman said the news conference hadn't yet been rescheduled.

Turner, who hired Willingham late in 2004 and has been staunchly behind him, said, "I'm not saying anything different from what I've said all along." When asked two days after a loss to Washington State whether there was any doubt Willingham would return in 2008, Turner told The Times, "Not in my mind."

UW president Mark Emmert is known to have received considerable input on Willingham, leading to speculation he could make a decision without Turner's approval.

"That would be his prerogative," Turner said Tuesday.

Calls to Emmert on Monday and Tuesday were unreturned.

It was unclear whether Willingham had yet met with Turner or Emmert for a season-end review. But Willingham's meeting with his players was apparently of that nature.

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"It was just a standardized, routine meeting," said freshman defensive back Quinton Richardson of O'Dea High. "We went over the schedule for 2008, how we're going to treat things, how we're going to go about the recruiting process, and the banquet, things like that."

Asked if felt there was a theme to Willingham's talk, Richardson said, "I felt it was, we're going to be a better team next year, that we were a touchdown away from winning [some] games, and with this recruiting class, that'll help us get to the higher point."

Richardson said Willingham never addressed his own job situation or any of the rumors surrounding it.

"Nothing of that sort, no," he said, adding, "Everyone has questions. No one knows. It's hard to say. No one has any idea what to expect."

After Washington lost fourth-quarter leads at home against Arizona and Washington State, pressure mounted on Willingham. The Huskies then burst to a pair of three-touchdown leads at Hawaii, but couldn't hold on.

The decision on Willingham seems to have a variety of possibilities, including him firing — or being forced to fire — assistants, to an extension on his contract.

Willingham has two seasons left on his deal. As for the possibility of an extension, Turner said, "We have not talked about that."

Meanwhile, running-backs coach Trent Miles was announced as head coach at Indiana State, his alma mater.

Staff reporter Bob Condotta contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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