UND Staff

Tyrone Willingham

Football Head Coach


Tyrone Willingham: First thing is, as you can imagine, this is a very difficult afternoon for me, just a very difficult afternoon for the staff, families of the staff and also our players. To say I am disappointed, I think that very much misses the mark, but at the same time, I understand that I didn[apos]t meet the expectations or standards that I set for myself in this program, and when you don[apos]t meet your own expectations, you won[apos]t meet the expectations of others.

Today I am not the football coach, and it doesn[apos]t mean that life is over — life will go forward, as I expect this program to.

My goals have always been to inspire people to be the best they could be, on and off the field. I believe that I have been true to that in my time here at Notre Dame and appreciative of the opportunity and appreciative of what we have done and I am disappointed with what I didn[apos]t do more than anything else.

Q. Were you shocked by the news today? Did you see it coming at all?

Tyrone Willingham: Well, I became aware that there were some discussions starting Monday afternoon. Yes, I was surprised.

Q. (Inaudible question about his firing being fair).

Tyrone Willingham: You[apos]ve been around me long enough that I don[apos]t get into what[apos]s fair and what[apos]s not fair. I am an optimist by nature, and I deal with events as they occur.

Q. Are there conditions that are unique to Notre Dame, challenges to approach going into football somewhere else?

Tyrone Willingham: What conditions are unique at Notre Dame? Gosh, Notre Dame is Notre Dame. There[apos]s not another Notre Dame, so uniqueness is to itself, and that is a challenge, to exist and be what Notre Dame is.

Q. What did you tell the guys? Did you have any advice for them?

Tyrone Willingham: No, I didn[apos]t, but my conversation with our team was very much as I started. Okay, I think when I arrived in 2002, I think I told them these words by Dr. Martin Luther King, that said that [quote]If a man is called on to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven played music or Shakespeare wrote poetry.[quote] I think I misquoted him, but I said you should sweep streets so well. It is with that attitude that I approached them in 2002 and the same attitude I approached them that with yesterday, and they should strive always to be the best they can be, and no matter what you[apos]re doing or where you[apos]re at or what[apos]s called upon you or what the circumstances are, that[apos]s what you should do.

Q. I know it[apos]s a little unfair asking you this question at this point, but what do you anticipate your future, your immediate future will be? What are your plans?

Tyrone Willingham: I will take a step back. I will relax for a moment. I do not know how long that moment will be, but a moment could be a moment or it could be a week. Then I will reflect on what I need to do, and I[apos]ll make that decision.

Of course, today there is much speculation, I think, what is already taking place, and I was somewhat surprised by what I saw. Two weeks ago I was contacted by University of Washington. There was unofficial contact with the University of Washington. Any contact with anyone, my position would have been very simply straightforward. I am the Notre Dame football coach. I came to do this job and only this job.

Q. Can you tell us how much you wanted — (Inaudible).

Tyrone Willingham: Obviously when I think you work 8:00 in the morning until 11:30 at night for a stretch that probably runs from August to February, I think it[apos]s not just commitment on my part, it[apos]s commitment on the staff[apos]s part, so gosh, I think that there[apos]s a whole lot that you want to be here. I don[apos]t think there[apos]s any doubt about my commitment to be here.

Q. How secure did you feel with your position, not just with Notre Dame, but earlier in your career?

Tyrone Willingham: Forgive me, but as a football coach — I think I said this at some point — there is no security. It doesn[apos]t exist. It[apos]s not there.

Q. You said you didn[apos]t live up to your own expectations. One of your players said earlier today that at some point they have to live up to — they took some responsibility for what is happening. Have they discussed that with you?

Tyrone Willingham: Yes, they have, and that is exactly what I expect. I don[apos]t think anyone in this room, or not in this room, has ever seen me look to anyone else. That is the way we instructed our young men to see things, that we have a responsibility to each other and ourselves in this group, that anything that takes place, we look at ourselves.

Q. (Inaudible question about contact with the University of Washington).

: There was informal contact, and yes, I gave you exactly what I told them.

Q. How is it for you personally to come back here under these circumstances and with the expectations of what you wanted to do here and you didn[apos]t fulfill those expectations?

Tyrone Willingham: When you say come back —

Q. To the place you were working.

Tyrone Willingham: I haven[apos]t left yet, but what[apos]s difficult is the young people that you bring into the program and those expectations and standards that you talk about that you didn[apos]t allow them to reach, and they won[apos]t have my guidance in the future to reach them. That[apos]s what[apos]s difficult.

The other portion of that is just yourself. When you think that you aren[apos]t successful, it[apos]s like a part of you is ripped out, and when you reach the standards and the expectations that you set for yourself and this program, it[apos]s just ripped out of you. That[apos]s what[apos]s difficult.

Q. What could you have done differently, if anything, to reach your expectations when you go back over it in your mind?

Tyrone Willingham: There[apos]s only one thing. Win. That[apos]s it. That[apos]s the bottom line. Win.

Q. And also, what do you think of the experience of this as you move forward in your coaching career?

Tyrone Willingham: I haven[apos]t sat down and looked at all of the experience. Have I done that at this moment, I haven[apos]t done that yet, but at some point I[apos]ll look back and factor in all the things in my career that I[apos]ve seen and done and figure out a plan.

Q. Ultimately who do you think made this decision?

Tyrone Willingham: That[apos]s not for me to be concerned about, only that there was a decision.

Q. What do you feel that your legacy at Notre Dame?

Tyrone Willingham: I[apos]ll let you write that up.

Q. Given the tremendous stress that you have been under —

Tyrone Willingham: Does it show? (Laughter.)

Q. How will you look back years from now?

Tyrone Willingham: I think pretty much you asked the same question that Mr. Carroll asked, so I[apos]ll let you two collaborate on the answer.

Q. (Inaudible question about the reaction of the Black Coaches Association).

Q. (Inaudible question on his feelings on the subject).

Tyrone Willingham: None of them will be expressed now.

Q. You talked about Sunday afternoon you started getting wind that there was a turning process going on. Can you tell us what was said to you?

Tyrone Willingham: Those are private conversations.

Q. (Inaudible question about accepting a bowl bid on Sunday).

Tyrone Willingham: I was very excited.

Q. I assumed you thought you were going to coach the Insight Bowl. What changed?

Tyrone Willingham: I cannot respond to that. I think there are parties you should talk to to have an answer.

Q. Some of the players talked about their loyalty to you. It was expressed in the media. How much did these players mean to you? There was obviously a huge family figure there.

Tyrone Willingham: Well, I have always said that there are two reasons I coach. One is because of them, and the other one is for them. I always ask them this question: I ask them, [quote]How many of you have been 50?[quote] And when you ask that age group that question, you get an amazing answer: [quote]None.[quote] So I can give them experience that they haven[apos]t had. I can understand what it is to walk in their footsteps, and I can understand what it is to feel like them. Those are the two reasons I coach, in order to show them growth and become the human beings they want to be.

Q. Has Notre Dame changed for you?

Tyrone Willingham: No, it hasn[apos]t. It is still Notre Dame. It is still, I think, a great place to be.

Q. Has there been any further contact with the University of Washington?

Tyrone Willingham: I think I answered that earlier. If you missed it, there was informal contact.

Q. (Inaudible question about getting three years while some previous coaches have earned five years)

Tyrone Willingham: I[apos]ll refer you to someone else that asked a very similar question that you could go to another party to try to answer. Forgive me, there is not any anger associated with that, it[apos]s just that is the truth. Someone else holds the answers.

Q. Is there any sense of relief at all?

Tyrone Willingham: No.

Q. Is there anything that you wish you knew coming in that would have helped you over those three years, something that could have helped you be more successful?

Tyrone Willingham: No, I don[apos]t think so. We had some success. We didn[apos]t have enough success. That is, I think, the bottom line. We didn[apos]t reach the level that I wanted to reach.

Q. What advice would you give your successor?

Tyrone Willingham: What advice would I give my successor? You[apos]ll have to excuse me. My Rolodex is working because there are a lot of things I could tell him, but I[apos]m trying to figure out what would be the one thing.

Q. Can you give a few?

Tyrone Willingham: It would take too long.

Q. Is there one primary thing that stands out to you?

Tyrone Willingham>: It would be [quote]Be yourself.[quote] That[apos]s always what[apos]s important.

Q. You[apos]ve never had a bad day here?

Tyrone Willingham: No, I[apos]ve never had a bad day. I[apos]ve had bad moments, and sometimes those bad moments will run into another day that you[apos]ll have hurt, pain, et cetera, but it[apos]s still a day. There are so many blessings that Tyrone Willingham has that it[apos]s amazing. For instance, I think the day that this happened, okay, there was a young man that had his father pass, a player of mine.

Q. Did Kevin White discuss with you the decision that had been made? Did he call you into his office or vice versa to inform you what had occurred?

Tyrone Willingham: For those of you who are close to our program, you will know that Kevin White and I have been very close. We[apos]ve had conversations weekly, daily. Kevin and I have always been very close and Kevin has always kept me informed everything about our program as I have kept him informed about everything about our program.

Thank you, and my wish will be that this program has great success in the future, and that whoever the coach is that he comes in and does a great job because I believe there[apos]s some great young men in this program.

Thank you.

Nov. 30, 2004

Following is a statement from Kevin White, director of athletics at the University of Notre Dame, regarding the head coaching position of the Notre Dame football team:

[quote]The University has determined that Tyrone Willingham will not be retained as the Notre Dame head football coach, and I informed Tyrone of that decision this morning.

[quote]All of us had great expectations when we sat here three years ago, and in a number of ways Tyrone has been an excellent fit and a great representative of our program. He personally has displayed impeccable integrity and tremendous character – and his players have represented themselves off the field in a first-class manner. In addition, our football program under his watch has never been stronger in terms of its academic performance.

[quote]At the end of the day, we simply have not made the progress on the field that we need to make. Nor have we been able to create the positive momentum necessary in our efforts to return the Notre Dame program to the elite level of the college football world.

[quote]We will immediately begin a national search for a new football coach. I don[apos]t have any particular parameters in mind — other than identifying an individual who can lead Notre Dame football back to the sustained level of excellence that everyone associated with the University and the program wants and desires.[quote]