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Times reporter Bob Condotta keeps the news coming about the Montlake Dawgs.

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July 9, 2007 5:28 PM

Answering your questions

Posted by Bob Condotta

Came back to find a few questions in the mailbox, so here goes:

Question: Will Tyrone Willingham's job be at stake if the Huskies win only one or two games this season?

Answer: I worry about tackling such a question before the season has even started due to how it may be perceived --- "Times guy is rumoring that Willingham may be fired,'' etc.

But it's a question I've gotten a few times so I'll give it a go, and it's not as if there isn't a national perception out there that Willingham could be in trouble, if web sites like this are any indication.

First off, however, I don't think UW will win only one or two games this year. I think UW will win from 4-6 --- enough to indicate progress being made, given how young this team is at key positions, notably quarterback, assuming Jake Locker takes over. (And that would also be viewed as a pretty solid accomplishment given UW's sked this season).

But to go with the premise of the question, I don't think Willingham will be fired even if the bottom drops out completely.

This was a major rebuilding job with erosion that started in the final year or so of the Rick Neuheisel regime (remember, UW was 8-9 in Neuheisel's last 17 games), and deepened seriously after he was fired.

Obviously, everybody at UW is anxious for this to get turned around, but I also think Todd Turner will be patient since he's the one who hired Willingham, and I think he also knows the team was pretty close to a significant rebound last season before Isaiah Stanback was injured. Everybody also realizes the PR hit Notre Dame took for firing Willingham after only three seasons.

There's also the practical matter of Willingham's contract. He is signed through the end of the 2009 season (there has apparently been no move by either party to extend it) and the buyout is expensive. If he were fired before Jan. 2, 2008, Willingham would be owed $3 million, a lump sum due 30 days after termination --- or $1.5 million for each remaining year on his deal (that decreases to $1 million per year after Jan. 2, 2008).

Sure, money is thrown around pretty easily in college sports these days, but $3 million is still a pretty hefty chunk of change for a coach who --- staying with the premise of the question --- would be guilty only of not having won enough.

All of that said, there's no question this looms as a key year for Willingham to show the program is indeed making progress. Should the losses start to mount, much will undoubtedly be made of the fact that no UW coach has ever had three straight losing seasons.

Question: Anything new on the eligibility status of receiver Anthony Boyles?

Answer: Have yet to hear anything definitive, but the fact that he is in the media guide does at least signify that the Huskies were confident enough of his status as of a couple weeks ago to include him as Emeka Iweka, who will not be eligible this year, is not in the guide. It is worth noting, however, that players who turn up ineligible are often in the media guide, such as Chancellor Young and J.R. Hasty last season.

Some of you have also noted that Boyles is pictured wearing the same dress as a lot of the veteran Huskies. Not sure I'd read as much into that, as I'm pretty sure that was taken when he was here for the spring game, a common practice to get pictures of players when they are on-campus. But obviously, there are indications that the UW thinks Boyles is going to make it in.

Question: When does practice start?

Answer: The first practice is Aug. 5, with Picture Day set for Aug. 11.

Question: What exactly did LSU coach Les Miles say about the Pac-10?

Answer: In a radio interview last week, Miles said that he thinks USC will "have a much easier road" to the national title game than LSU due to the fact that the SEC is better than the Pac-10.

Specifically, Miles said that "They're going to play some real knockdown, drag-outs with UCLA and Washington, Cal-Berkeley, Stanford --- some real juggernaughts. ... I would like that path for us. I think the SEC provides much stiffer competition.''

You wouldn't expect Miles to say that the Pac-10 is stronger than the SEC --- it's on Page 6 of the "Handbook to College Coaching'' to defend your conference whenever possible, just after touting your upcoming opponent as the 1972 Dolphins --- but his inclusion of UCLA and Cal is a little curious given how good those two teams could be this year.

Personally, however, I like the fact Miles is speaking his mind a little bit and breaking up the monotony of the usual coach-speak, and it will certainly liven things up should USC and LSU do what many expect and play for the national title.

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