Yes, winning matters, but so does character

If there’s one thing Tyrone Willingham is not, it’s slick.

Integrity, discipline and excellence were the words University of Washington President Mark Emmert used Monday to describe Willingham, the new Husky football coach. They are welcome traits for a program that imploded on and off the field with the messy departure of Rick Neuheisel, a divorce hastened by recruiting violations, deceit and a gambling scandal. All the distractions surely contributed to Washington’s 1-10 record this season, one in which departed coach Keith Gilbertson never had a chance to succeed.

Some will tell you that such woes are woven into the fabric of modern college football, with its win-at-all-costs value system. Willingham’s availability itself was a sign of how far the game’s priorities have sunk. He was fired just halfway into a six-year contract at Notre Dame because impatient boosters and some trustees wanted more wins – now. Even that storied university’s president said he was embarrassed by the decision.

So Notre Dame’s loss is Washington’s gain. The Huskies have hired a deeply principled coach with a reputation for plain-speaking honesty who treats players with respect but demands that they earn it. In three years at Notre Dame and seven at Stanford, the football graduation rate was between 82 and 92 percent. Washington’s rate is 67 percent – much better than average, but with room to improve.

Willingham has had his share of on-field success, too, taking Stanford to the Rose Bowl in 2000.

The fact that Willingham is African-American, one of just three such football coaches out of 117 NCAA Division I-A schools, is secondary but a plus. Washington is the only I-A school with African-Americans running both the football and men’s basketball programs, a fact that sends a strong message of inclusiveness.

Emmert, who came to the UW earlier this year from football power Louisiana State, has called college football “the front porch of the university.” He understands that a program that not only wins but builds successful student-athletes reflects well on the character and values of the entire university.

Let the character building begin.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

Randall Tharp’s month recovery coins after battling a fentanyl addiction.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Fentanyl crisis should force rethinking of approach

A continuum of care, that includes treatment in jails, is imperative, says a journalist and author.

Editorial cartoons for Friday, Sept. 29

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Editorial cartoons for Thursday, Sept. 28

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Patricia Gambis, right, talks with her 4-year-old twin children, Emma, left, and Etienne in their home, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019, in Maplewood, N.J. Gambis' husband, an FBI agent, has been working without pay during the partial United States government shutdown, which has forced the couple to take financial decisions including laying off their babysitter. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Editorial: Shutdown hits kids, families at difficult moment

The shutdown risks food aid for low-income families as child poverty doubled last year and child care aid ends.

Schwab: Since GOP won’t use ‘law and order’ title, Democrats will

Exhibit A: The ‘weaponized’ Justice Department charged a Democratic senator. And who complained?

Congress can pass housing tax credit to make housing affordable

Thanks to The Herald for keeping the housing crisis in front of… Continue reading

Adams has proven herself with work on Snohomish School Board

As a prior Snohomish School board member for twelve years I have… Continue reading

Do clothes really make the senator?

Regarding Kathleen Parker’s column on the relaxed dress code in the U.S.… Continue reading

Comment: Shutdown politics won’t get any easier for McCarthy

A long shutdown may be necessary before McCarthy decides it’s safer to offend the GOP radicals than its mainstream.

Most Read