Ty Willingham's dismissal as head football coach at Notre Dame seems to dominate the sports landscape today. Every major sports section in the country
has this story prominently displayed. And lots of the commentators and writers are mulling over the question of whether or not Willingham deserved to
be fired. Here are two data points.
Ron Zook's cumulative record at Florida is virtually the same as Ty Willingham's record at Notre Dame and Zook was fired. Jeff Tedford's cumulative
record at Cal is slightly better than the cumulative records of Zook and Willingham and he is considered a "hot property" for a job in the NFL or at a
bigger football school.
The sociological debate naturally focuses on the fact that Willingham is black and Willingham is the first coach in Notre Dame history whose initial
coaching contract was not allowed to be fulfilled. Those are two incontrovertible facts. If indeed it is the first of those two facts that caused the
second to become true, then shame on Notre Dame. I do not know if there is causality here, so all I can do is hope that there is none.
But to those folks who will immediately conclude that race is the single most important link in this series of events, let me offer a word of caution.
The representation of black men as head coaches in Division I-A college football is abnormally and inexcusably low. As athletic departments and
directors move ever so slowly toward hiring more black head coaches, the last thing one ought to think about doing is to put other obstacles in the
way. And if athletic directors and university administrators learn by experience that firing a black head coach for whatever reason they choose to
fire him becomes a trigger for allegations of racism on their part, some of them just might choose to avoid that future pain and hire another white
guy. Football coaches are hired to be fired; the fraction of them who take a job and retire from it permanently is very small. If hiring is to become
colorblind, at some point so too will firing need to achieve the same status.
I don't think Willingham was a welcome choice at Notre Dame in the first place. He got the job only after George O'Leary had gotten it and the fiasco
of his resume had played itself out. At the very best, Willingham was the second choice there and maybe he vaulted to that position because of the
scorn that the university inherited when it did not hire him in the first place. If I'm even half-right in that assessment, then his firing probably
mirrors the Ron Zook situation because Zook was hardly a beloved campus figure from day one in Florida.
Let me stick with college football for a while here. The three major football schools in Florida will all be heading to minor bowl games this year.
What odds could you have gotten on that proposition in Las Vegas back in August? It just goes to show you that when you only recruit players who will
be honors majors in biochemical engineering and/or epistemology, it's going to be difficult to win a national championship.
Here is a quick quiz. Where is Dixie State College? That's right; it is in St. George Utah just northeast of Las Vegas.
The University of Cincinnati football team must have decided that it had had enough of the basketball team being the frontrunner when it came to
embarrassing the university. For this academic year, the football team is the undisputed leader in the clubhouse for boorish behavior. They had to go
to Louisville to play the eighth ranked team in the country last week on the opponent's "Seniors Night" and the Cincy QB was injured and could not
play. The back-up QB was a senior who had thrown about 10 passes in his entire career - and after I saw him throw the first one of the evening, it was
quite clear why that was the case. So how should they approach this contest? They decided in the pre-game time just as seniors were to be introduced
to dash to the logo in the middle of the field and to "dance on it" and stomp it. I read one report which said that the Cincy coach was part of the
rush to the center of the field, but when I looked at the incident, I did not see a guy without a number on his back dancing out there. Whatever.
The game commenced and Louisville opened up a whole case of whup-ass and dumped it on Cincy. The final score was 70-7 and it could have been worse;
Louisville scored so quickly that it only had the ball for about 20 minutes in the game. There were probably some people with ties to Cumberland
College who thought that their place in infamy in the history of college football might be overtaken on this night. Too bad it wasn't.
So how did all this work out? The University of Cincinnati was invited to the Fort Worth Bowl within 48 hours of taking that nine-touchdown
shellacking after that utterly classless and tasteless episode in the middle of the field. Oh, and don't forget that Cincy was the team that lost to
Army to break the Army losing streak that seemed to have begun in the Nixon Administration...
Tell me again about why we need all of the bowl games that currently exist...
Warrick Holdman is a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns. After giving up 58 points to the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend, Holdman had the following
insight to offer about the Browns' defense:
"I think we had a letdown today, especially with tackling and technique."
Memo to Warrick: Ya think???
Maybe it was that "letdown" that led to the dismissal of Butch Davis from the Browns. I said early on this year that he had fired his offensive staff
a couple of years ago and his defensive staff last year and had pulled off a power play in the front office to consolidate his power on the team.
Fine. Problem is, that leaves no one else to share in the blame for a series of disappointing first round draft picks and a dismal on-field record. I
have to confess that I was secretly rooting for the San Francisco 49ers to go on a mini-winning streak the last couple of weeks even though the team
just plain stinks. I wanted them to go into week 14 with a record of 4-9 so I could call them the "San Francisco "Four-and-Niners". Alas, they lost
their 10th game of the year on Sunday so that opportunity will not present itself...
If this story made it to SportsCenter, I missed it. In England, Phil Taylor won his 11th world championship in darts. His opponent was Andy Fordham -
described in a Reuter's story as weighing 190 kg, which converts to something north of "four bills" in poundage - and the match ended when Fordham
withdrew due to heat and exhaustion. I'm sure there is an explanation as to how "darts" and "heat and exhaustion" might go together in the same
sentence, but I doubt that it would be interesting enough to listen to that explanation.
Finally, here is a line from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:
"True story. Pamela Anderson is dating the San Diego Chargers' long snapper. Fill in your own punch line. Because mine might get me fired."
But don't get me wrong, I love sports...
Copyright The Sports Curmudgeon