One day after Tyrone Willingham was fired by Notre Dame cries of racism are surfacing.
Well, no one actually published that dirty little R word. It has been thinly veiled with clever phrasings like arrogance, intolerance and, my favorite an unmistakable stink.
Washington Post columnist and ESPN Pardon the Interruption (PTI) co-host Michael Wilbon is the author of those choice words and he is ignorant. Not just for writing it, but for just thinking it.
Check the college football want ads, at press time 14 coaching positions are now open as the wave of dismissals continues. The majority of pink slips have been handed to white men.
This isn’t about black, white or pink slips, Willingham simply underachieved at Notre Dame. In three years as coach, Willingham was 21-15. Those are not successful numbers according to Notre Dame standards. Mediocrity is unacceptable.
“They want college football to look just like it did in the 1950s and ’60s They want to tie up all the good bowl games They want to live in Pleasantville as long as possible, and Pleasantville, in case you didn’t notice, doesn’t include black coaches telling white boys how to block or tackle, which is why there are only two black head coaches in Division I-A.” — Michael Wilbon
College football is a business. It’s about winning and losing. Winning equals dollars and cents. Losing breeds financial suffering. That’s where the storied Notre Dame football program is headed and the pressure is on the administration to produce.
Notre Dame has not won a bowl games since 1993. As a matter of fact, in six bowl appearances dating back to 1994, the Fighting Irish are 0-6. How do you think those numbers look to alumni, boosters, national television programmers and sponsors? They don’t see black or white, they see another color: green.
Willingham, the first black coach at Notre Dame, did not get the job done on the field. After finishing with an impressive 10-3 record his first year at Notre Dame, the team has been consistently inconsistent. They finished 5-7 in 2003, including four losses by 26 points or more. It was Notre Dame’s third losing record in five seasons, the team’s worst stretch in 115 years of football.
This year Notre Dame finished 6-5 culminating in a embarrassing 41-10 loss to number one ranked USC in the final game of the season. Notre Dame officials and supporters were embarrassed and red-faced.
It’s been like that all season for Notre Dame, you never knew what team you were going to get. One week the Fighting Irish went out and beat Michigan and Tennessee and the next week they would suffering an embarrassing loss to Purdue or USC. The Jekyll and Hyde performances played a large role in the decision to let Willingham go.
“From Sunday through Friday our football program has exceeded all expectations, in every way,” Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White said. “But on Saturday, we’ve struggled. We’ve been up and down and sideways a little bit.”
“Notre Dame, the school that never before fired a coach before his initial contract expired, fired the first black head coach the school had ever hired in any sport. I’m sure everybody ever associated with Notre Dame will tell you color had nothing to do with letting Willingham go, that it’s totally a coincidence, which is like spitting in somebody’s face and telling him it’s a rain drop.” Michael Wilbon
The formula is simple: winning + money = success. Again, its business.
At the end of the day, Willingham failed to meet expectations that a high-profile, Division I program like Notre Dame requires. Under Willingham the Notre Dame football program was going nowhere, fast. For his performance, he was let go.
For their decision, demand and high expectations, Notre Dame is exposing the true colors of every Division I collegiate athletic program: winning. If it helps, choose your color black, white, red, green, pink, blue or gold, but leave race out of this.