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Kelley King
September 30, 2002
Next up for Willingham and the Irish: Stanford, the school that gave him his first head coaching job
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September 30, 2002

School Ties, Continued

Next up for Willingham and the Irish: Stanford, the school that gave him his first head coaching job

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Don't expect Tyrone Willingham to be any more effusive when Stanford visits South Bend on Oct. 5 than he was facing his alma mater last Saturday. "I have a special relationship with all of the young men in that program," says Willingham, the man who was dubbed the Palo Alto Paterno while leading the Cardinal to a Pac-10 title and four bowl appearances in seven years. "Everyone at Stanford, from [athletic director] Ted Leland down, had real vision. It was a great place to work."

And what now in Palo Alto? Any bitterness at his departure last December was smoothed over when Willingham turned up for the Cardinal's postseason banquet in January. "There's no animosity," senior guard Paul Weinacht told the San Jose Mercury News, "but I'll tell you this: There are 85 guys here who want to go kick [Notre Dame's] ass." But the idea that the Cardinal could backslide did seem to rankle a few players who have made backhanded reference to the coach's regimented ways as compared with those of his successor, former Florida assistant Buddy Teevens. "Coach Wllingham was more of a disciplinarian, more stem," defensive lineman Matt Leonard told the San Francisco Chronicle. "You wouldn't invite him to dine with you, because he scared you."

If Stanford plans to put a scare into Notre Dame, it will need to improve in some key areas. The young Cardinal, which plays Arizona State this Saturday, had trouble making stops in the red zone in a 34-27 season-opening loss to Boston College, and while the team scored the most points in a single game in 21 years during its 63-26 win over San Jose State on Saturday, it committed five turnovers and 12 penalties in the process—the kind of errors Notre Dame has fed off this season. "A lot of our guys played young and made some mistakes," said Teevens after the Boston College loss. "But the belief that they would have success was there, which is very, very important."

Willingham's a believer as well. "They have plenty of talent and made a smart hire in Teevens," he says. "They ought to do well."