Notre Dame Football Coach Tyrone Willingham Fired
SOUTH BEND, Ind. Tyrone Willingham was fired Nov. 30 as coach at Notre Dame for failing to turn the nation’s most storied football program back into a national championship contender.He was fired three days after the Irish lost 41-10 to No. 1 Southern California — their third straight loss by 31 points to the Trojans — to drop to 6-5 for the season.“We simply have not made the progress on the field that we need to make,” athletic director Kevin White said. “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.” Players are considering whether to play in the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28, and White said he didn’t know who would coach the game. Notre Dame accepted the bowl invitation Nov. 28.Willingham’s firing comes after a season in which the Irish pulled off upsets of Michigan and Tennessee but also were beaten badly by USC and Purdue. They also lost games they were expected to win against Brigham Young University, Boston College and Pittsburgh.White said he met the morning of Nov. 30 with Willingham to tell him he was fired, then both met later with some players to tell them.Players were stunned.“I think it’s a shock to everybody,” tight end Jared Clark said.Other players declined comment, but were clearly surprised and saddened by the announcement. “As a player, you think it’s our fault. We didn’t get the job done,” Clark said. “I think coach Willingham was a great coach, and I enjoyed playing under him.”Notre Dame officials said Willingham had decided not to speak publicly about his firing.White praised Willingham’s handling of the team, especially the Irish’s strong academic record.“From Sunday through Friday our football program has exceeded all expectations, in every way,” he said. “But on Saturday, we’ve struggled. We’ve been up and down and sideways a little bit.”Notre Dame hired Willingham, the first Black head coach in any sport for the Irish, from Stanford to replace George O’Leary. The former Georgia Tech coach resigned five days after taking the job because he lied about his academic and athletic achievements on his resumé.Floyd Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches Association, said he was disappointed with Notre Dame’s decision.“In three years, I think he has done everything, short of winning a national championship, and I don’t think he inherited national championship talent,” Keith said. — Associated Press
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