Washington coach Tyrone Willingham says he will step down at the end of the 2008 season at his weekly press conference today.
Here is his opening statement:
"I'll make a statement regarding my future at the University of Washington. Scott Woodward and I have met and we have come to a decision that at the end of the 2008 football season, they will move in another direction with the head football coach at this university. It is my desire to complete and finish the football season and do that in the manner that I have done it: Unwavering in my approach and commitment to our young men and to the goals we have set for them: that they should be championship player, championship students, championship persons and they should have fun in the matter that is reflective in the values of this program and the university community. I'm hoping that this announcement will allow the Husky family to come together and eliminate all the speculation and all the negativity that has surrounded the program and (allow) all these young men can do the things necessary to be successful both on and off the football field.
The Huskies are 0-7 after Saturday's 33-7 loss to Notre Dame. Willingham's record is 11-32 in his four seasons at UW.
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Athletic director Scott Woodward said the announcement ends speculation of what is going to happen with Willingham, who had a year remaining on his contract.
"It became quite obviously that the performance on the football field wasn't up to what we talked about at the beginning of the season and previous to the season and it became more obvious as time went on," Woodward said in explaining his decision to make the move -- and the announcement -- now.
Washington currently has a nine-game losing streak dating back to last season, tied with North Texas for the longest in the country.
A few other highlights from the press conference:
*Woodward apparently raised the issue with Willingham on Sunday. Willingham didn't want to characterize the talks today, however, Woodward said that Willingham is always professional.
*Woodward said the search for a new coach will begin immediately and he wouldn't rule out that a coach could be named before this season ends.
*Woodward had said that he didn't plan to make a move until after the season. However, he said today that his primary concern was leaving the players "orphaned" without their head coach. That issue doesn't apply now, since Willingham will stay on. For his part, Willingham said he is glad that he will be allowed to say. He also said that he doesn't think his leadership will be any more compromised as an official lame duck than it had been as a speculative lame duck.
* Willingham said he wouldn't rule out anything with regard to his future, including returning as a college football head coach. He said he expects his staff to be professional in continuing to coach the team while looking after their own employment situations.
*Things happened quickly enough where Willingham did not have enough time to tell his team that this announcement was about to be made. He saw quarterback Ronnie Fouch just before the public announcement, and informed him. Fouch said he and most of the team had supported Willingham and that he believes the team will continue to play hard for him.
* Both Willingham and Woodward said they hope that by making the announcement now, it will ease the constant speculation that had hung over the team as each loss has piled up. Both also said they hope this will help offer some clarity to recruits. Willingham said the announcement might open minds that had closed.
*University president Mark Emmert was not part of today's announcement. However, he said he will be available to answer questions from individual members of the media.