Notre Dame Hires First Black Head Coach
SOUTH BEND, Ind.
Notre Dame has hired Stanford’s Tyrone Willingham to coach one of the most widely followed college football programs in the country.
Willingham becomes the first Black head coach in any sport at Notre Dame, which is looking to move past the embarrassment of its previous coach’s resignation over lies on his resume.
“It’s a victory for fairness and equal opportunity to succeed or fail,” says the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who had urged Notre Dame to consider Black candidates. “To even the field for athletes, you have to be willing to even the field for coaches.”
Willingham replaces George O’Leary, the former Georgia Tech coach who resigned five days after taking the job on Dec. 8 because he lied about his academic and athletic achievements.
Associate athletic director John Heisler said Willingham signed a six-year contract but did not disclose the financial terms.
ESPN.com quoted Willingham’s agent, Ray Anderson, as saying Willingham will get $2 million to $3 million a year to coach the Fighting Irish. Anderson did not immediately return calls for comment from the Associated Press. Heisler called the figure “a real exaggeration.”
Willingham was among the leading contenders for the job when Bob Davie was fired Dec. 2 after five mostly disappointing seasons. The Irish were 5-6 this season.
Willingham has been a head coach for seven seasons, he has a winning record (44-36-1), and he knows how to recruit at a school with high academic standards. While Willingham’s winning percentage of 54.9 percent is worse than Davie’s 58.3 percent (35-25), Notre Dame coaches historically have done better with the Irish than they did at their previous jobs.
The search for Willingham’s successor will start immediately, says Stanford athletic director Ted Leland.
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