Overshadowed in the news of Tyrone Willingham's forced resignation Monday were the team's nine full-time football assistants. All have contracts running through June 30.
The first practice of Tyrone Willingham’s status as a soon-to-be-former Huskies coach looked almost exactly like the first one he held on Montlake in the spring of 2005.
Same as then, at exactly 4 p.m. Tuesday, the whistle blew, and players moved to their spots so the workout could begin.
It’s a business-as-usual approach that the team’s coaches said earlier in the day they hope will continue throughout their final five games.
Overshadowed in the news of Willingham’s forced resignation Monday were the team’s nine full-time assistants. All have contracts running through June 30, with defensive coordinator Ed Donatell having an additional season on his deal.
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For now, the coaches will stay on until a new coach is hired. That coach will have the option of keeping any of them. Usually, one or two holdovers are retained. Current assistants Randy Hart (defensive line) and Chris Tormey (linebackers, recruiting coordinator) were each kept by Willingham when he replaced Keith Gilbertson after the 2004 season. Hart, in fact, has been at UW since 1988, surviving four coaching changes.
Two assistants who met with reporters Tuesday indicated they would like to stay at UW but noted that it’s out of their control.
“I’m not really going to even go there right now with that because I want to finish out this season and we’ll see what happens down the road,” said running-backs coach Steve Gervais.
This time a year ago, Gervais was the coach at Skyline High of Sammamish, which won the state Class 4A title and remains the favorite to do so again this season. He knew when he joined the UW staff earlier this year a coaching change could happen but said he’d make the move again, saying he does “absolutely not” regret coming to UW.
“As I said last spring, it was a time of my life I was looking for something different in the area of football and coaching, and I still look back on it as a great decision,” he said.
Some have speculated Gervais could have a better chance than some of the others to stay on due to his ties to the state’s high-school coaches and his relationship with Skyline quarterback Jake Heaps, who will be the top recruit in the state for the Class of 2010.
For offensive-line coach Mike Denbrock, Monday’s news was a little bit of unhappy déjà vu. He was on Willingham’s staff at Notre Dame in 2004 when Willingham was fired. The rest of the staff stayed on to coach the Irish in the Insight Bowl, a game the team lost to Oregon State.
“That was difficult, and so is this,” he said.
Denbrock said the UW coaches were beginning the task of putting a game plan together for this week’s contest at USC when they learned the news from Willingham on Monday morning.
The biggest immediate change for the coaches might be that they won’t be doing much recruiting. Coaches said Tuesday they were still waiting for word from the school on how to proceed in recruiting.
Gervais said a few coaches had been scheduled to head to L.A. early to do some recruiting in the area before Saturday’s game at USC. Now, he said, those plans might be on hold.
Washington has five commitments for its Class of 2009, and hasn’t received one since early September as players were reluctant to commit, knowing a change was possible.
Washington officials said they hope recruits who are seriously interested in the school will wait until a new coach is hired to make a decision.
• Willingham received support from his counterparts on the Pac-10’s weekly conference call Tuesday, including former Huskies coach Rick Neuheisel.
“Any time we in this business have a peer go through what Tyrone is going through right now it’s difficult because we all understand the stakes when we got into this racket. But we hate to see that happen to good people,” Neuheisel said. Asked if his mind wanders to the way his tenure ended at UW, Neuheisel said, “My mind can’t wander very far from the task we have here, so no, [I] haven’t. I wish him well, but I know he will land on his feet. He’s a proven entity as a football coach.”
• RB David Freeman is likely out for the USC game with a recurrence of ankle injuries.
• S Victor Aiyewa was not in pads for Tuesday’s practice with a new groin injury.
• Willingham did not know a diagnosis for DT Senio Kelemete, who suffered a knee injury in pregame warmups Saturday. But Kelemete was seen on crutches with a brace covering his leg. Willingham said surgery is possible.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org