Rumors on who the new coach might be have only intensified in recent days, many centering on Jim Mora, the Seahawks-coach-in-waiting.
A 16-13 double-overtime loss to Washington State in the Apple Cup Saturday only reinforced all the reasons that the Huskies are searching for a new coach.
And with the Apple Cup over, and 12 days until the Huskies play their final game — a Dec. 6 contest at California that seems ill-timed now — the focus shifts to the search for a successor to Tyrone Willingham.
Rumors have only intensified in recent days, many centering on Jim Mora, the Seahawks-coach-in-waiting. There has been speculation around the program that Mora is still in the mix to take over the Huskies, despite a statement on Oct. 31 that he was not a candidate for the job.
However, some close to Mora in the last several days have indicated that there is no change in his status and that there is no reason to think he is a candidate at UW.
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One source also said over the weekend that the Huskies had offered the head coaching job to Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who instead announced Tuesday he will become the head-coach-in-waiting for the Longhorns.
Muschamp was defensive coordinator at LSU when UW athletic director Scott Woodward and president Mark Emmert each worked at the school.
Woodward has said he will not comment on specific candidates so there is no official confirmation of an offer to Muschamp.
If true, it would indicate that the Huskies were content to be done with the search and hire a new coach.
Instead, the search continues. And one Web site, FootballScoop.com, reported Sunday that former Alabama and Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione is “a leading candidate” for the job. The 57-year old resigned at Texas A&M after going 7-5 last season and becoming embroiled in a controversy over charging boosters $1,200 for a newsletter containing inside information about the team.
He is 107-81 as a Division I coach and FootballScoop.com reported that Emmert once offered him the head coaching job at LSU, which apparently would have been in 1999 when Nick Saban ended up getting the job, instead.
Another rumor making the rounds is that the Huskies might be interested in LSU coach Les Miles, who interviewed at UW in 2004 when Willingham was hired.
It is known that UW has interviewed Notre Dame offensive coordinator Michael Haywood, who also was an assistant at LSU while Emmert and Woodward were there, but he is not considered likely to get the job.
Two leading targets — Missouri’s Gary Pinkel and Boise State’s Chris Petersen — have each been reported in recent days to be in discussions with their current schools on new contracts, which would take them off the market.
Others thought interested in the job are former Raiders coach Lane Kiffin, Fresno State coach Pat Hill and Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen, an Everett native who was a walk-on for the Huskies in the early ’80s. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham might also be a candidate.
There have been some rumblings that UW’s ability to pay a coach could be hindered by last week’s announcement of major cuts in the state budget for higher education.
Woodward, however, said he didn’t think that would be a major factor when asked by The Seattle Times last week.
“That’s one of our top priorities is our football program,” Woodward said. “That [brings in] 85 percent of our revenue and we have to get that right, and we will not hold back there. But we will be smart and prudent and pay market.”
The school announced last week the formation of an advisory committee to aid in the search. That statement said that the advisory committee would present its input to Woodward and Emmert the first week of December, indicating that a hire might not come until afterward. But Woodward said he wouldn’t rule out a hire earlier than that and hasn’t set a firm timeline.
As for the current Huskies, they will likely have a light week during the Thanksgiving holiday before getting back to work next week to prepare for Cal. The game was moved from an original date of Oct. 11 as the Huskies sought to create some open weeks in the schedule.
Now, it gives the team one last chance to avoid a winless season, something no Pac-10 team has suffered since the 1980 Oregon State Beavers went 0-11.
“Unless we want to end the season with a doughnut, we have to step it up and find a way to get a win,” said UW senior cornerback Mesphin Forrester. “Because I don’t want to end the season with no wins.”