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Shhhhhh, UW is still searching

Shhhhhh, UW is still searching
On Thursday, it will have been one month since Washington announced Tyrone Willingham wouldn't return next season as football coach.

Over the course of that month, UW president Mark Emmert and athletic director Scott Woodward have taken their search from sea to shining sea, over hills and dales, through urban campuses and remote burghs.

Or maybe not.

Emmert and Woodward, figureheads of a state university whose board of regents have established the school's primary mission as "the preservation, advancement and dissemination of knowledge," are hoarding whatever knowledge they've accumulated in their quest to determine a successor to Willingham

Their mission statement? Nonna Yer Beeswax.

So we're left to wonder: What kind of coach fits their criteria? A high-energy salesman? A low-key tactician? An autocratic taskmaster in the mold of Nick Saban? A glib communicator such as Pete Carroll?

The only candidate known to have been granted an interview for the position is Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Haywood. Wait. Make that former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Haywood, who recently was stripped of his play-calling duties by embattled Fighting Irish coach Charlie Weis.

The only other candidate known to have been approached about a possible interview is Missouri's Gary Pinkel, the former Huskies assistant who acknowledged Tuesday that his attorney "had a conversation with Washington."

Speaking to reporters in Columbia, Mo., Pinkel continued: "I did not want to get involved with it if I really didn't want to do it. I was never offered a contract. But I made a decision that I didn't want to pursue it or have the conversation go further."

For his vow of loyalty to Missouri, Pinkel has been awarded a new contract that will provide him a healthy pay raise from the $1.85 million he's annually guaranteed through 2012. Despite withdrawing his name as a successor to Willingham, at least Pinkel advanced the process.

That's one candidate off the board, reducing the pool of prospects to several hundred head coaches and several thousand assistants, each sharing something in common: Their identities will never be revealed by Washington.

It's impossible not to contrast the Huskies' top-secret search with the transparent hiring process implemented this month by the Seattle Mariners . General manager Jack Zduriencik narrowed a group of managerial finalists to seven, made their names public, then asked the candidates to participate in a conference-call interview with the media.

By allowing the public to follow the managerial hiring search from afar, the darnedest thing happened: Nobody was forced to fib. Nobody had to speak in code. The Mariners showed that adults, every so often, can behave like adults.

And yet Washington, as are similarly rudderless programs at Clemson, Tennessee, Syracuse and Wyoming, is going about the business of finding a coach in the covert tradition of Soviet secret agents during the Cold War.

Uh, comrades? You're not looking for an American expatriate in London willing to exchange information on nuclear-warhead locations for a suitcase of cash. You're just looking for somebody who can restore energy to an emotionally sapped football team, and galvanize its fans, and embrace its tradition, and, OK, beat Washington State now and then.

I can understand why Emmert and Woodward are reluctant to follow Zduriencik's decision to open the windows and draw back the drapes throughout the last round of interviews. The Mariners managerial finalists came to Seattle during Baseball's offseason. Permission was obtained from the candidates' employers. As there was nothing to hide, Zduriencik hid nothing.

It's quite more clumsy to track down potential Huskies coaches whose teams are still playing. (And thanks to the new, TV-tells-us-what-to-do scheduling format in college football, almost everybody is still playing.)

Still, there's nothing healthy about a culture of secrecy, especially when it's a state university perpetuating the secrecy. If Emmert and Woodward are convinced it's unethical to approach a head coach before his team's season has concluded, then that would be reason to announce to fans: "We're taking so long, folks, because we respect the immediate priorities of the candidates."

More likely, Emmert and Woodward want to spare any candidate's interest in UW from distracting his players this late in the season - and at the same time, spare themselves the embarrassment of a public rejection.

So the charade plays on, behind closed doors, in whispers. Mark Emmert and Scott Woodward aren't doing this out of spite; they're merely following college football protocol. I suspect if they had their druthers, they would be happy to provide you with a vague update on the first month of the coaching search.

But then they'd have to kill you.

John McGrath: 253-597-8742; ext. 6154

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: November 27, 2008

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