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Seniors reflect on loss of yet another coach

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Notre Dame was abuzz Tuesday afternoon with the news of Irish football coach Tyrone Willingham’s firing, but for some students that excitement was all too familiar.

“I was excited when Ty was hired,” Morrissey senior Andy DeVoto said. “That excitement wore away pretty quickly. He wasn’t able to perform as well as we’d expected.”

After four football seasons as Notre Dame students, seniors must now bid farewell to the third head football coach in four years. Willingham’s termination follows the University’s decision to fire former head coach Bob Davie in December 2001.

Several seniors they said they felt the firing was justified, based on Willingham’s performance.

“I definitely think that within the past three years, he’s had time to make quality wins,” senior Kathryn Kinner said. “He’s on his own recruiting class and still he’s been unable to make good decisions in key games.”

“I’m glad to see him gone,” added senior Terry Brown of Farley Hall. “The man was given three years and all he did was take [former head coach Bob] Davie’s team and then make it progressively worse.”

Kinner said that, while Willingham had a good character, he didn’t fulfill his responsibilities.

“I feel badly because he is a respectable guy with very high moral and social integrity, which is good for the University,” she said. “[But] they had specific goals and expectations, like in any other job, which weren’t met.”

But other seniors, including Steve Salwierak and Bill Kern, disagreed completely with these views.

“I think he was a success,” said Salwierak. “He was hired to change our offense from a power-style to a West Coast style, and he accomplished that. He changed our offensive philosophy.”

Kern credited Willingham with solid improvements to Notre Dame’s offense.

“Watching games a freshman, compared to now, our offense has come a long way,” Kern said. “When we were so good in 2001, our defense was scoring two touchdowns a game. Now the offense is actually putting some points on the board.”

Salwierak said Willingham did not have enough time to establish a solid football program.

“I think it was too soon,” he said. “I don’t think you can expect anybody to turn a program around in three years.”

Kern also supported the team’s playing in a bowl game this season, regardless of who ended up coaching the team.

“I think they should play in the bowl game,” he said. “It strengthens the program and rewards the guys. It gives them more practice time, and ultimately, more exposure.”

Senior Terry Brown said she supported Tuesday’s announcement, but expressed frustration about the multiple coaching changes.

“It’s sad because Notre Dame has so many traditions, and football has always been a big one,” she said. “The University’s bureaucracy has taken over our school, and it no longer produces the image that Notre Dame once had.”