Turner hopes to hire next UW coach quickly

Updated: November 2, 2004, 2:07 PM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Break out the checkbook, Washington. The athletic director hopes to restore Huskies football to its old glory when he hires a new coach, and that hire is probably not going to come cheap.

Washington AD Todd Turner said Monday that Keith Gilbertson will step down after the season, ending an extremely difficult 15 months as Rick Neuheisel's successor.

"It became apparent to me -- really as early as the first day I took this job -- that if we didn't get a long-term commitment, then I was just going to be the interim coach," Gilbertson said.

Turner will begin his search immediately. He announced no time frame but hopes to make the hire quickly.

"They're going to need a Ph.D. in coaching," Turner said. "They need to be people of the highest integrity, with flawless character, who understand the mission of the university and the breadth of the job."

Turner, hired in August, and new university president Mark Emmert are distancing Washington from the turmoil that surrounded Neuheisel's dismissal. They intend to make the Huskies a national power again.

Gilbertson, 56, is 7-13 in two seasons after stepping into a difficult situation in summer 2003. Neuheisel had just been fired for gambling on NCAA basketball when Gilbertson, the offensive coordinator, was promoted.

"It would have been easy to say no," Gilbertson said. "I had other options, but that would have been the opposite of what we tell our kids to do: Step up and take a shot."

The Huskies went 6-6 in Gilbertson's first season, then fell to 1-7 and 0-5 in the Pac-10 after a 31-6 loss at Oregon last weekend. It's the worst season in 35 years for a school that shared the 1991 national title.

Gilbertson, who also coached Idaho (1986-88) and California (1992-95), is 55-48 overall in nine seasons as a head coach.

In his three months on campus, Turner has outlined plans for an ambitious renovation of Husky Stadium, and he wants a winner on the field. Emmert knows the importance of a successful football program -- his last job was as president at national co-champion LSU.

"We have an unbelievably rich history in our program," Turner said. "We have incredibly high aspirations for its future. We want to continue the tradition of excellence that has been here for many years."

Some names mentioned as potential candidates include California coach Jeff Tedford, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, Urban Meyer of Utah, Boise State's Dan Hawkins and Missouri's Gary Pinkel.

All are rising stars and/or have ties to Washington.

With recruiting in full swing, Gilbertson and Turner agreed after three weeks of talks that a commitment of some kind -- extend Gilbertson's contract or find a new coach -- was needed to define the program's future.

"I want the best for this program," Gilbertson said. "I want the school to make a commitment, like it did when I was here before and we were the best football program in the country."

Four years ago, Washington went 11-1 and beat Purdue in the Rose Bowl. Gilbertson was the offensive coordinator, the same job he held when the Huskies shared the 1991 national championship with Miami.

Turner's goals will require a financial commitment from boosters, alums and fans.

"I'm going to ask our supporters, the people who love the University of Washington, to step up," Turner said.

How much will it cost? Well, earlier this year LSU coach Nick Saban became the highest-paid coach in college football when he signed a seven-year, $18.45 million contract.

Turner said he's more focused on finding the right coach for the job, but he expressed confidence the school can find a way to pay enough money to make the best hire.

"The profile will have to fit our league," he said. "They've got to be able to recruit in the West, particularly in the Northwest, put some pizazz in and give people confidence and hope."

As for Gilbertson's future, he will work the final three games, starting Saturday against Arizona. Other than hip replacement surgery, he's not sure what will come next.

"I've got a hip problem. That's probably going to take a while," he said. "Then I don't know. I'll do whatever the university asks. I'm a football coach. That's all I really know. That's all I've ever done."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press