SEATTLE (AP) — Tyrone Willingham agreed to become Washington’s third football coach in four seasons yesterday, just two weeks after being fired by Notre Dame.

Washington athletic department spokesman Jim Daves announced the hiring in a written statement.

Willingham was 21-15 in three seasons at Notre Dame; after an 8-0 start in 2002, the Irish went 13-15. Willingham is familiar with the Pac-10, going 44-36-1 from 1995-2001 and reaching the 1999 Rose Bowl with Stanford.

He will be introduced by the Huskies at a news conference today.

The Huskies are coming off a school-worst 1-10 season, and Keith Gilbertson stepped down after two years as coach. He replaced Rick Neuheisel, who was fired for gambling on NCAA basketball.

Willingham served the shortest tenure of any full-time Notre Dame coach in 70 years. He had three years left on his initial contract. Notre Dame had made a tradition of allowing its coaches to at least work through the length of their first contract.

Last week, outgoing Notre Dame president Rev. William Malloy criticized Willingham’s firing and expressed concern over a growing trend of schools that are searching for “messiah coaches.”

Washington athletic director Todd Turner and the university president met last week with Boston College coach Tom O’Brien. He and Willingham were the only known candidates interviewed for the position, but O’Brien withdrew Friday.

Willingham’s firing also drew criticism from the Black Coaches Association. He was one of only five black head coaches in Division I-A last season. That number dropped to two after Tony Samuel was fired at New Mexico State, Fitz Hill resigned at San Jose State and Willingham was let go.

The hiring makes Washington the only I-A school with black head coaches in the two major sports. Men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar is in his third season leading the Huskies.


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