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
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
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
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
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
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
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."