Saturday, December 04, 2004

Instant karma for a football factory

I love when people get exactly what they deserve.

Notre Dame officials went over athletics director Kevin White's head to force head football coach Tyrone Willingham out of his job with two years remaining on his contract after he took the previously struggling Fighting Irish to two bowl games in three years. Many commentators have questioned whether race was a factor in the decision -- Willingham was the first black head coach under the Golden Dome, and white coaches with similar records were allowed to keep their jobs longer -- but the clearest impetus behind the firing was the school's all-consuming desire to hire Utah coach Urban Meyer, a hotshot former Irish assistant who led the Utes to a perfect season and a major bowl berth this year.

Meyer loves Notre Dame and its traditions. He speaks of the Catholic school in reverent terms. He was even named after a pope. So what did he say when the Irish offered him the keys to the football kingdom? "No, thanks, I'll be in Gainesville."

It's a brilliant decision on Meyer's part. Florida is stocked with talent and plays in a strong conference, so he'll be coaching a national title contender from day one. Plus, the institution's president is the same guy who hired Meyer at Utah, so the comfort level will be much higher than it would have been at a place where the administrators fired a good coach for no other reason than to pursue the latest hot coaching prospect.

Notre Dame is left humiliated after destroying its football program's long-term stability to make a play for a guy who told the school to go fly a kite. Meanwhile, Willingham has already been contacted about filling the coaching vacancy at Washington, a Pac-10 university with a rich football tradition of its own.

Thank you, karma. You've done right by Willingham, and you've given Notre Dame officials the slap in the face that they deserve.

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