BCS scenarios, Willingham's future, Minnesota's revival, more (cont.)
What happens to Tyrone Willingham now? Certainly no Division I-A school will want him. Would a coach with his background be willing to coach at a lower level, or does he just ride off into the sunset? Personally, I think it would be a shame for the game to lose someone who seemed to have a higher than normal degree (for college coaches) of personal integrity.
The downward spiral of Willingham's career will forever remain a mystery to me. Not that long ago, he was one of the most respected figures in his profession. In 2000, Sports Illustrated ran a lengthy feature on the then-Stanford coach in which Kansas City Chiefs president Carl Peterson said of Willingham: "He's one of the best up-and-coming coaches in football, college or pro. The way he handles players and motivates them is excellent. His day is coming, and soon."
If Willingham is a master motivator, we sure didn't see it at Notre Dame or Washington, though it might not have mattered. Poor recruiting was his downfall at Washington and, to a lesser degree, Notre Dame. (For whatever reason, Willingham fell out of favor in South Bend almost as soon as he got there, well before the low Rivals.com ratings began showing up.) If you look across the sport today, elite recruits are increasingly drawn to dynamic coaching personalities like Pete Carroll, Urban Meyer and Mack Brown. Willingham's more inward, stoic persona didn't cut it.
Where Willingham heads next may be a matter of where his priorities lie. From a purely football standpoint, his best bet is probably the NFL, where he originally achieved his reputation as a respected assistant. He may not be as coveted as he was at the time of that SI article, but some team would certainly be interested. However, if he's more interested in continuing to work with young players, to play a part in their development into men, I could see him dropping down a level. Based on his Stanford experience, I think he would make a fantastic Ivy League coach. There are plenty of academic-minded schools in other I-AA conferences as well.
What's up with Minnesota? I haven't heard a single thing from anyone about them. Irregardless of schedule, 1-11 to 7-1 with the only loss coming at Ohio State is impressive. I believe they had a decent recruiting class as well, right? Where do you see them in the future?
The Gophers' turnaround is a fantastic story, no question, as long as you keep it in perspective. They've beaten one team with a winning record, 5-3 Northern Illinois, and conveniently avoid 9-0 Penn State and 7-2 Michigan State on their schedule. They've still improved tremendously from last season, when they hardly could beat anyone, regardless of record.
Obviously, the future is extremely bright for Tim Brewster's program. As James mentioned, Brewster stunned the recruiting world last winter when he hauled in a national top-20 class. Several members of that class have made an immediate impact, particularly on defense, where Minnesota has improved dramatically under the direction of coordinator Ted Roof (the former Duke head coach). Sophomore QB Adam Weber (who is completing 67.1 percent of his passes with 10 TDs and three INTs) has made significant strides in his second year as a starter.
With a magnetic head coach, a young roster (just 11 seniors, fewest in the Big Ten) and the long-awaited arrival of a new stadium next season, the stars seem to be aligning. You'll never see Minnesota competing for national titles, and the Big Ten title will always be a long-shot so long as Ohio State and/or Penn State and/or Michigan is clicking. But Gopher fans' frustration with former coach Glen Mason was that he could never get them over the hump in the Big Ten and into an upper-tier bowl. With remaining games against Northwestern, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa -- all winnable -- Brewster could deliver one as soon as this year.
How is this for a new feature. You pick a song of the week/month that you really like, maybe an under-the-radar-song, maybe of varying genres, and recommend it to the readers?
I think that's a great idea -- except for one tiny problem. Between living in New York, not owning a car and therefore never listening to the radio, lacking the energy or initiative to go trolling the Web for up-and-coming bands, and being an unavoidably un-hip thirtysomething, I have almost no grasp of new music. (I did listen to the radio quite a bit during my trip to Ohio last weekend and came to the conclusion that Coldplay is the only band currently in existence.)
However, I do have a five-hour drive through the middle of nowhere awaiting me this weekend. Yes folks, that's what it takes to get to Lubbock, Texas, at least on Texas-Texas Tech weekend, where all flights in and out of Lubbock the day before and after the game apparently sold out weeks ago. So I'm fully planning to rent XM for the trip from Dallas and will let you know what I uncover.
Even better, I'm planning to chronicle my entire, weekend adventure -- my first-ever trip to West Texas, on Halloween weekend no less, including the nine-hour trek from New York to get there -- in The Sweep. So be sure to check in starting Friday. Any Lubbock restaurant/sports bar/sights worth seeing are welcomed.