O'Brien takes a pass on UW job
Todd Turner spent an hour yesterday afternoon detailing for reporters his vision of the future of Washington football. A few hours later, the UW athletic director found out that...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Todd Turner spent an hour yesterday afternoon detailing for reporters his vision of the future of Washington football.
Later that night, the UW athletic director found out that Tom O'Brien thought by some a leading candidate to be UW's new coach won't be a part of that future.
O'Brien, the coach at Boston College, told the Boston Globe last night that he was pulling out of consideration to take over at UW.
O'Brien said he wanted to know the UW's decision within 48 hours of his interview in Chicago on Wednesday night. When that deadline passed, which O'Brien set in part because he has roughly eight recruits on campus for visits, Turner apparently called O'Brien and said they needed a few more days to work things out. O'Brien then pulled out.
"I think it is in my best interests to stay at Boston College," O'Brien told the Globe. "To let it go any longer was not fair to my team and to this school."
Where that leaves the UW search is uncertain.
Former Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham interviewed for the job with UW officials on Thursday. But there was little indication last night that O'Brien's departure meant that Willingham had been given the job.
Earlier in the week, the Huskies were attempting to make one last run at Atlanta Falcons coach Jim Mora, a UW alum who played for Washington in the early '80s. Mora has said there is nothing to reports linking him to the job, but it has been rumored that some UW boosters might not want to take no for an answer too easily.
There is also the possibility that another candidate is involved, though several sources said yesterday they had not heard any serious discussion of new names.
Asked about O'Brien's pullout, Turner said, "I don't have any reaction to that." Earlier he had said that the search was "proceeding exactly as I had hoped" and that he was hopeful that it would "come to closure rapidly."
O'Brien, a friend of Turner's since the two worked together at Virginia in the 1980s, reportedly was ready to take the job if offered.
However, Turner had also told reporters no announcement on a new coach would be made until at least Monday.
He also indicated that the Huskies might not be offering the "pie-in-the-sky" salary some have theorized. Asked if the Huskies are offering $3 million a year, Turner laughed.
"We are not going to be somebody's lottery ticket," Turner said.
Turner had called reporters together yesterday to detail some ambitious plans he has for reviving the football program in other ways, while acknowledging that the selection of a good coach was paramount in those plans.
Turner said he would like to raise $5-6 million "immediately to put into things that help football."
Turner called football "the big driver" and that it is essential that the school "fix the infrastructure for the largest revenue-producing program."
Those revenues have been dropping lately. Turner said football season ticket sales have dropped from 63,500 in 2000 to 57,500 last season, the biggest reason that the athletic department will make $2.5 million less this year "than where we originally thought we'd be." He said the school will have to dip into its $13 million surplus to pay off that debt.
The budget also took a substantial hit because the football team had fewer TV games than normal. Turner estimated the "unrealized" money in season ticket sales to be about $1 million and the TV money to be about $600,000.
To help make up that shortfall, the Huskies will ask Tyee seat holders to pay $25 more per ticket next season a letter informing Tyee members of the change was mailed this week. Turner said there will also be an increase in the donation that all season ticket holders pay for the Building for Excellence fund.
Turner said all of the money will go toward football-related improvements, such as purchasing new video equipment (at a cost of roughly $1 million a year), and renovating the weight room and coaches' offices.
Turner also said the school has to find a way to better display the football program's rich history and tradition. Turner said one of his biggest surprises when he took over as the school's athletic director last summer was that "There was nothing here that attracted you to a point where the history, tradition and success of Washington football was celebrated."
Turner also said the school will look for other ways to raise money, pointing out that the radio/TV rights for all sports will expire after next season. The school will soon solicit bids for a new package.
He also said the school will hire a firm in March to begin drawing up plans for a renovation of Husky Stadium, though what that will entail such as whether the track will be removed has yet to be decided. The school may need to raise as much as $150 million for the project.
But before such big-ticket items can be addressed, Turner said the football program has to get back on track.
"We've got to get the right leader in place and the football team has to get people excited again," he said.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
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