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Willingham retires from coaching

(Editor’s note: I understand that there’s still plenty of animosity toward the former head coach of the Irish and Huskies. This isn’t an outlet for commenters to take one last swing at the man, so if things get too out of control, I’ll be quick to remove anything I find too insulting.)

Lost in the shuffle of yesterday’s news that Pat Haden was taking the athletic director job at USC was the news that former Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham was retiring from coaching. Willingham hadn’t worked since he was fired by Washington in the tail-end of a winless 2008 season, his third year in Seattle after spending three seasons at Notre Dame.

From Rick Scoppe of the Jacksonville Daily News:

Willingham smiled. Perhaps, but only a volunteer basis at events such as Saturday’s daylong camp at his high school alma mater. Willingham, who is 56 and said he had “no problem announcing that,” insisted his coaching days are behind him.

The former head coach at Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington has no wish to return to the sidelines.

“I’m retired,” he said.

Willingham, who also served as the president of the American Football Coaches Association two years ago, said no more until he was nudged by another question.

“I’ve done 30 years of collegiate and professional coaching. That’s not a bad career. I think I’ve had failures. I think I’ve had successes. I think I’ve been places that most people will never go in life with my career. It’s a good career,” he said.

Willingham never achieved the success at Notre Dame or Washington that he did at Stanford, although his 2002 season resulted in national coach of the year awards as well as a 10 win season. While his firing at Notre Dame was largely controversial and resulted in quite a bit of egg in the University’s face, history shows that Willingham might have been the last of a dying breed: a head football coach more content to be a figure-head than the hard-charging, recruiting-committed, 24-hours-and-365-days-plugged in guy that’s needed in today’s college football.

As recruiting became more and more essential to a head coach’s job, Willingham struggled. It’s no surprise that Willingham’s last good season as a head coach, 2002, was the first year of computerized archives on Rivals recruiting websites. This was a coach that didn’t hit the road during the spring evaluation periods, not an entirely uncommon move back then, but something that was utilized by every top-notch head coach until it was eventually banned by the AFCA, while Willingham served as its president.

(While Willingham’s best efforts recruiting were in 2003, you can argue that the class headlined by Brady Quinn, Victor Abiamiri, Trevor Laws, and Tommy Zbikowski was a product of a magical first year, not hard-work off-the-field by Willingham.)

Willingham has no desire to get into athletic director’s chair, he’s merely content to retire at 56-years-old after 30 years of coaching at the collegiate and professional levels.