Def. coordinator Baer, special-teams and tight ends coach Simmons fired
SEATTLE -- Tyrone Willingham will return despite Washington's third consecutive losing season. Some of his staff won't.
Willingham announced during a staff meeting Monday that oft-criticized defensive coordinator Kent Baer, a 13-year assistant of his dating to their days at Stanford and Notre Dame, will not return in 2008. Neither will Bob Simmons, the special-teams and tight ends coach and former head coach at Oklahoma State.
Washington's defense gave up 446.4 yards per game, easily the worst in Huskies' history. The defense was largely responsible for many of the team's meltdowns in the second half of games en route to a 4-9 season.
"I consider Kent Baer and Bob Simmons excellent coaches and consummate professionals," Willingham said in a statement released later in the day by the school. "Making change such as this is never easy, nor is it done without careful thought and consideration.
"I believe we are continuing to build this football program into a national contender and I truly appreciate the contribution Kent and Bob have made toward our progress both on and off the field.''
With running backs coach Trent Miles already having left to take the head job at Indiana State, Willingham will now begin an outside search to fill three members of his staff following another miserable year, which made Willingham the first Huskies coach to finish three consecutive losing seasons.
Willingham lost his most ardent supporter last week when athletic director Todd Turner, who months ago was talking about possibly giving Willingham a new contract, was forced to resign effective Jan. 31. When school president Dr. Mark Emmert decided after days of delay earlier this month to bring Willingham back for 2008, he committed to just that fourth year of the coach's five-year contract.
Baer, 56, has been a defensive coordinator every year since 1983, when he began a three-year stint in that role at Utah State. In 2002, his and Willingham's first season at Notre Dame, Baer, a native of Logan, Utah, won the Frank Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant.
Simmons, 59, just finished his third season at Washington after following Willingham to Notre Dame from 2002-04. The native of East Cleveland, Ohio, was 30-38 as Oklahoma State's head coach from 1995-2000. He was Big 12 coach of the year for the 1997 season for leading the Cowboys to the Alamo Bowl.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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