I definitely think Ty is a great person and an excellent representative of the Notre Dame off the field, but his performance on the field wasn't at the same level.
Willingham had a great 8-0 start to his career in 2002 and it seemed like things were turning the corner, but things have changed for the worse since then. The team has gone 13-15 since then and suffered 8 blow-out losses by more than 3 touchdowns. And last year under Willingham was one of the lowest ranked recruiting classes in a very long time.
Like most ND fans, I was extatic for those first 8 wins, but in the back of my mind I was a little concerned with how close many of those games were, but I didn't care because we were winning. The flaws of the system were exposed near the end of the 2002 season and it's been down hill from there. At the beginning I was in denial, and trying to make excuses like a lot of people, that we just needed to give it time and wait for Ty's "system" and recruits to get into place. Last season was horrible with blow-out after blow-out and it was getting harder and harder to make excuses. Following that was the lowest ranked recruiting ND has brought in in decades. Prior to that we consistantly brought in top 10 recruiting classes.
This season was going to be the true test if this coaching staff could return ND to the school it once was. ND pulled a big upsets over Michigan and Tennessee and proved there is a talented team that could motivate itself to win big. However losses to easier opponents like Bringham Young, Pittsburgh, Boston College, and Purdue and then getting absolutely humiliated for the 3rd year in a row by USC showed that the coaching staff was making huge mistakes in play-calling and under-utilizing the potential of the talented players on the team. The team has appeared to regress under this staff and no end was in sight.
I also felt a lot more concern about the assistant coaches on the staff, namely Bill Dietrich the OC and Buzz Preston, the Special Teams Coach who had no special teams experience (as obvious from their performance). While I like Willingham, it was obvious these were some very weak links on the team last year, but he refused to replace him. And the only person you can hold accountable for the coaching staff selection is the head coach.
I think after the BC
game this year I gave up on this staff. I thought that a coaching change was necessary but was shocked that the administration at ND actually went through and let the staff go now.
Unlike Bob Davie, people genuinely liked Willingham, and truly wanted to see him succeed at Notre Dame. But the performance wasn't showing it. Bob Davie at least followed his losing seasons with considerably decent seasons. A 6-5 season isn't much of an improvement over last year.
3 years is a good evaluation point of coaches too. Look what Pete Carroll did at USC and Bob Stoops did at Oklahoma in their first 3 years and compare that to Willingham. Look what Lou Holz and Ara Parseghian did in their first 3 years to turn around ND in the past. Look what Urban Meyer is doing at Utah now in his first 2 years there. Someone like him have great potential to do it at Notre Dame.
At the same time everyone's making a big deal about Willingham being fired after 3 years, where are the complaints about Ron Zook at Florida or Buddy Teavens at Stanford getting fired in their 3rd year. I don't remember USC being too sad to see Paul Hackett get fired in his 3rd year, especially after bringing Carroll in? Or better yet the complaints about Solich getting fired at Nebraska after a 9-3 season, much less a losing season followed by a mediocre 6-5 one?
Again, I wish Willingham could have been one of the great ND coaches, but in 3 years ND has regressed and run in circles. I wish him the best in his next position (I hear Washington is highly interested in him). And I hope ND finds the next Lou, Ara, Leahy, or Rockne in the coming days and weeks!
Hey, PresRDC it's great to see another Domer on the board. I just graduated this past May!