Bow Down To Willingham

By Derek Johnson


  • Bow Down To Willingham

    About the book

    Tyrone Willingham was, at every turn, one man everybody could look at to make themselves feel good. In 2002, when he led Notre Dame football to a 10-3 record, the national media anointed him as an icon of impeccable integrity, discipline and class, the legendary "Molder of Men." For black Americans in particular, Willingham represented one of their own, rising to prominence in a high-profile position usually held by middle-aged white men.

    Following his controversial firing at Notre Dame, Willingham came to Washington in 2005 under great fanfare as UW's first-ever black head football coach. At the initial press conference, Willingham stated his purpose: "It is time for the University of Washington to return to being the Dawgs. And it is my understanding that a dawg is a vicious animal."

    But from the moment Willingham got behind closed doors with his new team, a disturbing side of his personality emerged. In this ground-breaking book, Derek Johnson presents a shocking side of Tyrone Willingham only seen by the Washington Huskies players. Many of them quickly grew to loathe him and the game of football, while watching in dismay as the public idolized the media's lofty image of Willingham.

    By December 2007, crushing defeat after crushing defeat eroded Washington's legacy as a powerhouse. Despite warning signs of incompetence, many fans, sportswriters, pundits and even the NAACP still rushed to Willingham's defense. With regional tensions running high, UW President Mark Emmert rendered his decision to retain Willingham for a fourth year. The resulting fallout blemished the face of Husky Football forever, while raising questions about the true nature of race relations in America.

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  • Bow Down to Willingham is very interesting reading, especially in hearing the insight from many of the players covered in the book.
    — Coach Don James, College Football Hall of Fame
    In my opinion, Jake Locker is the greatest athlete to come out of the state of Washington. If your boat is taking on water, you can either bail it out with a coffee can, or with a modern day hydraulic pump. Locker is like the hydraulic pump. As I saw it, Tyrone didn't know how to effectively use that pump. That's what Jake Locker was to me. The most capable tool or means to bail the Huskies out of the hole, and we had a guy who had very little idea how to use it.
    — Hugh Millen, football analyst and former Husky
  • Willingham's footprint will always be part of the history of the University of Washington. And now everybody needs to know why and how he acted so wrong.
    — Former UW defensive tackle Manase Hopoi (#56)

    WOW!! I've been reading some of the posts here on Facebook and I'm glad you and the other guys didn't hold nothing back. Sounds like you got after it. I know all of us players that had to play for that guy appreciate your book and hopefully a situation like that never happens again.
    — Former Husky quarterback Johnny DuRocher

  • You know, if you've got a coach that you love, then you're going to respect him and you will want to play hard for him. Willingham didn't have anyone's respect. It was us versus him. Then the scouts come in, and Willingham never had anything good to say. I felt like he was speaking through his coaches and the coaches were doing the dirty work.
    — Former UW safety C.J. Wallace

    Featuring an exclusive interview with NCAA and former UW president Mark Emmert:
    Absolutely not. I know that's a popular theory out there, but it really did not. It was decision using my best judgment on what was the right and fair thing to do there.
    — Emmert, on whether the NAACP influenced his decision to bring Tyrone Willingham back for the 2008 season.