It's about the W's
The athletic director is talking about education and the full college experience. The president is talking about succeeding at the highest...
Seattle Times staff columnist
The athletic director is talking about education and the full college experience. The president is talking about succeeding at the highest level.
Only in the melodramatic reality show that has become Washington athletics could you find such a role reversal.
Up is down. Vegans eat meat. Owls like the sunlight.
Normalcy will resume soon. We think.
When it does, the Huskies will transform into something that is as dangerous as it is exciting. They will de-emphasize stability and integrity, figuring those should be givens, and find a new athletic director who represents "the right fit across the full range of functions an athletic director must do," UW president Mark Emmert said.
In other words, let's build a cutthroat athletics department.
Bring in a person who won't be afraid to fire football coach Tyrone Willingham next season, if necessary.
Bring in a person both savvy and manipulative enough to expedite the Husky Stadium renovation project.
Bring in a person who'd prefer to eat raw Duck over giving Oregon credit.
Goodbye, good guy. Hello, good (enough) guy.
Supposedly, Todd Turner was just too nice, too idealistic, too big picture, to do these things. He spoke as much about "the student-athlete experience" as he did about winning, and at a fanatical football school, his words were used against him.
His balance was mistaken for a lack of commitment, his vehement defense of Willingham mistaken for a lack of understanding.
Now he's on his way out. He resigned, effective next month.
This move involved Willingham, without question. Maybe indirectly, but somehow it included disagreements during the process of evaluating Willingham's future. Emmert decided last week to retain the embattled coach for another season, but during the time it took to reach that conclusion, the president and athletic director realized they had different philosophies. And Turner also found himself at odds with a fan base desperate to restore the Huskies' winning football tradition.
"The message that our students hear, that our coaches hear, that our leadership hears from the general run-of-the-mill fan is that 'the only thing we really care about is how many games they win,' " Turner said. "And I have to look at that after 32 years of doing this and say, 'Wow, is that really what we are all about? Have I been that naive all this period of time? ... Why didn't I go to the NFL if that's all it's about?' "
Most people will read Turner's rant and think he's soft and unaffected by losing. They will refer to his old remarks about UW needing to be like Oregon or like Kentucky and say he had no feel for this job. They will rejoice over his departure.
Turner's mouth got him in trouble, but his intentions were grander than his comments. He burned to win. He wasn't willing to settle. But the public couldn't take his patient, methodical approach.
He is Willingham's most vocal supporter, and for that, some Huskies fans will never forgive him. There's also a belief that Turner has been a tortoise with the Husky Stadium project. Add the controversial dismissing of women's basketball coach June Daugherty, and Turner has had an interesting three-plus years here.
But it hasn't been so bad that he needs to go now.
Wrong fit? Shaquille O'Neal wearing skinny jeans would be a wrong fit. Michael Vick giving investment advice would be a wrong fit. Turner and Washington weren't a wrong fit, not in the beginning, and how they came to be one is troubling.
The pressure is on for the Huskies to be a dominant athletic program, particularly on the football field. That's appropriate. It's time for the losing to stop. It's time to talk less about rebuilding and more about accountability.
But the Huskies shouldn't sell out to win again, and that's a fear now. They cannot deny that rules violations burdened some of their past football success. They brought in Turner to fix an athletic department rocked by scandal.
"I'm not worried now about the stability of the athletic department," Emmert said in praise of Turner.
Actually, you always must worry about the stability of an athletic department. Never take it for granted. One shady character can ruin it. One ill-thought decision can send it crumbling.
Emmert should be able to find a talented new AD with Huskies ties, and if he does, all will be right again. If he picks wrong, however, you will point to this as the day a new chaos began. Right now, this "mutual" departure reeks of panic and pacification.
The Huskies don't need a new AD so much as they need an APB.
Be on the lookout for composure.
It's missing on Montlake.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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