Jan. 8, 2002
Tyrone Willingham began settling in as Notre Dame coach on Monday, his first full day on campus since being introduced as the new Irish coach six days earlier.
Willingham said his priorities are filling out his staff, contacting recruits and getting to know returning players.
Willingham said he couldn’t comment yet on how many of his assistants from Stanford will join him at Notre Dame, although offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick already has said he will make the move to South Bend.
The arrival of Willingham and Diedrick is expected to drastically change the look of the Notre Dame offense, which had the second worst passing attack in the country.
Willingham said the days of the Irish depending on the run are over. He said he wants to make sure Notre Dame’s offense is not one-dimensional.
“We want to be an offense that has the flexibility to throw it, run it or whatever we need to do,” he said. “If it means pass it 70 times to win, we’re going to pass it 70 times. If it means run it 70 times to win, we want to run it 70 times. That’s what we’re looking to gain. We want to have complete control of the field.”
Willingham said he will be a hands-on coach who will oversee his assistants, but also will work with the players himself. He said his past as a walk-on who played quarterback, receiver and special teams gives him a good insight.
Willingham, who posted a 44-36-1 record in seven seasons at Stanford, was hired on Dec. 31. He succeeded George O’Leary, who resigned after just five days on the job after admitting he had lied about his athletic and academic background.
O’Leary had replaced Bob Davie, who was fired Dec. 2 after posting a 35-25 record over five seasons, including a 5-6 record in 2001.
Willingham said the excitement of being named the new Notre Dame coach hasn’t yet started to wear off.
“I hope my emotion never wears off. I’m still very excited today and should be excited the next day,” he said.