Today, Deseret News columnist Brad Rock stoked the flames of baseless rumor mongering by suggesting Kyle Whittingham may be on his way to Washington. Of course, this is news worthy because earlier in the week Ty Willingham was terminated after an 0-7 start.
So do I believe Kyle Whittingham will accept the head coaching position at Washington if offered? No. I guess it's possible, but it seems unlikely and I've come to that conclusion after watching Dan Hawkins struggle at Colorado.
Though two different programs, Colorado and Washington seem to have charted similar courses. For a time, they were dominant programs, both winning a national championship in the early 1990s (The Buffs in 1990, Washington a year later in 1991) and yet, they've struggled at capturing past glory. There is also the connection of current UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel, who guided Colorado for four seasons until leaving to coach Washington, for four seasons. His record at both schools is eerily similar and in the wake of the Neuheisel's career, neither program has done much on the college football scene. Neuheisel's successor at CU, Gary Barnett, was fired at the end of the 2005 season (replaced by Hawkins) and his successor at Washington, Keith Gilbertson, was fired a year earlier (replaced by the now fired Ty Willingham).
Now while Hawkins has had more success at Colorado than Willingham had at Washington, he still has failed to really take the program to the level many thought when he inherited it in 2006. Willingham was a mess from the beginning and unfortunately for the fans in Seattle, is probably leaving a bigger mess now than the one he took over. That is key, because if Whittingham were to ever accept the job there, he would do so knowing the program is probably at its lowest point in modern history. A prospect that faced Dan Hawkins when he came to Boulder in the post-Bill McCartney era.
Hawkins won't be fired this year, but you've got to wonder if he is second guessing the choice to leave Boise State for Colorado. It's not to say he can't succeed there, but it's going to be tough and the risk is there that if they struggle again next year, he'll be looking for a job. Had he stayed with the Broncos, though, it's pretty likely they walk through the 2006 season, still go undefeated and crack the BCS, defeating Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Had he accomplished that, he probably could have used that season as a launching pad for a far better offer. Instead, he's stuck rebuilding a Colorado program that has to live with the fact they're in the toughest conference in the country.
Now Washington is a bit different. The Pac Ten is not as tough as the Big 12. However, it's still not something that can be fixed over night and it will require a ton of commitment and a little luck. That's asking a lot, especially knowing the last three coaches there have been fired. This would have to be a major concern for Whittingham, since I don't believe it's about money. Does he want to risk giving up a great position here at Utah for a job he may lose three years down the line? My answer is no, just like when Urban Meyer rebuked Nebraska's offer after the 2003 season. He realized it would be a huge risk on his part and then when Florida came along a year later, a program that he was convinced he could win at, he jumped ship. Whittingham isn't different. He isn't stupid. He understands the political game of coaching in college football and I don't see him putting it all on the line for a program like Washington.
Cal? Maybe. Oregon? Definitely. Washington? No way.