By Christian Caple The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Washington’s football coaching search is still in progress, though the Huskies at least know who will coach their bowl game. And it’s a familiar name.
Marques Tuiasosopo, the former star quarterback and first-year quarterbacks coach, was named on Wednesday as interim head coach for UW’s to-be-determined bowl game. UW athletic director Scott Woodward announced the decision following an afternoon team meeting. Tuiasosopo met with Woodward earlier in the day when he was offered the interim job.
Tuiasosopo temporarily fills the spot vacated by Steve Sarkisian, who left Washington on Monday to accept the head coaching job at USC.
“I’m humbled and so honored,” Tuiasosopo said in an announcement from the school. “It’s a great, incredible honor to lead my alma mater in a bowl game. We still have a lot to play for this season. I am excited to go out and get a ninth win.”
The 34-year-old Tuiasosopo was a quarterback at Washington from 1997-2000, leading the Huskies to a Rose Bowl title after the 2000 season. He spent parts of six seasons in the NFL playing for the Oakland Raiders. His first venture into coaching came in 2010 when he joined the staff at Washington as an assistant strength coach under Sarkisian, and he took a job at UCLA as a graduate assistant in 2011.
Tuiasosopo has never been a head coach, and has only been a true assistant for two seasons. He spent the 2012 season on Jim Mora’s UCLA coaching staff as an assistant tight ends coach before returning to Seattle last year to take the role of coaching Washington’s quarterbacks.
The decision to elevate Tuiasosopo to the interim job does leave in question the status of defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who was thought to be a potential permanent replacement following Sarkisian’s departure.
There’s been talk that Sarkisian wants Wilcox to join him at USC. But Wilcox’s contract with Washington includes a $1 million buyout if he leaves for another conference school.
Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News reported Wednesday that USC isn’t thrilled about the idea of paying Wilcox’s buyout, which is triggered if he leaves Washington for a non-head coaching job at another Pacific-12 Conference school. The buyout is part of Wilcox’s UW contract, a three-year agreement that was signed on Jan. 2, 2012 and expires Dec. 31, 2014.
Wolf also reported that Wilcox was set to interview with Woodward for the Huskies’ head coaching job. But now with Tuiasosopo being named interim head coach, there is speculation that Wilcox’s future might be elsewhere.
Tosh Lupoi, UW’s defensive line coach, also reportedly is being courted by Sarkisian to come to USC. Wolf’s report indicated that USC would be more willing to pay a buyout for Lopoi, whose contract stipulates that if he leaves for a non-defensive coordinator or head-coach job before the end of his deal, he owes UW the equivalent of any remaining salary he is due.
Lupoi’s contract doesn’t expire until Feb. 6, 2015, and he is paid an annual salary of $350,000. If he leaves voluntarily for another job before the end of his contract, Lupoi also forfeits a $100,000 bonus.
Neither Woodward, nor any UW official, is commenting on the coaching search until its completion.
“Whatever decision is made we’re going to roll with it,” Washington quarterback Keith Price said earlier this week. “We’re going to perform at the best of our abilities.”
Washington is coming off its best season since 2001, winning eight games in the regular season with a chance at a ninth victory in the bowl game.
The Huskies are expected to return to practice later this week in preparation for their bowl game. Washington’s official bowl-game invitation won’t come until Sunday, and the Huskies’ most likely destination is the Dec. 27 Fight Hunger Bowl, played at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Associated Press contributed to this report.