UW Class of '66 law school grad pledged $200K if Willingham, AD fired
Among the many e-mails and letters received by the University of Washington regarding the football program and coach Ty Willingham, there are the usual: words of praise, derision, encouragement, urgency.
And then there was this: an offer by a Huskies alum to donate $100,000 to a Washington law school scholarship if Willingham were fired, and another $100,000 if Todd Turner were fired as athletic director.
The Huskies finished the season 4-9, and it was their third straight losing record under Willingham, who had assumed the helm of a program that was strafed by scandal under former coach Rick Neuheisel. Turner had hired and given Willingham a five-year contract. But after the 2007 season, there were fervent calls for Willingham's dismissal.
Two of the e-mails, dated Oct. 30 and Nov. 29, and obtained by the Seattle Times in a public records request, are from Ed Hansen, a lawyer, developer, banker, 1966 graduate of the university's law school and former mayor of Everett, Wash.
The first e-mail, sent to Washington president Mark Emmert, detailed Hansen's background, his part in an upcoming Washington fund-raising drive -- and his disappointment in the state of the football program. Hansen said in that e-mail that he had "decided to defer establishing the law school scholarship until Ty Willingham is replaced as Husky football coach," according to the report.
In the subsequent, more direct e-mail, Hansen elaborated: "By this letter I hereby pledge to contribute a minimum of $100,000 towards a law school scholarship within 90 days, conditioned upon the termination of Ty Willingham as football coach.
"In addition, I hereby pledge a second $100,000 towards a law school scholarship within 90 days, conditioned upon the termination of Todd Turner as athletic director.
"Also, I do not intend to contribute any further funds to the athletic department as long as these two gentlemen are employed by the University."
On Dec. 5, the school announced Willingham would return for 2008, albeit with the very clear, unspoken understanding that this would be his last chance with the Huskies. The following week, Turner chose to resign as athletic director, effective Jan. 31.
Hansen told the Seattle Times he never expected his e-mails to become public, but he also believes he did not do anything inappropriate. "If someone is willing to make a gift of money for a charitable purpose, they are entitled to put conditions on it. The UW is free to do what it will do, and Ed Hansen is free to make contributions to the UW if he likes the direction things are going."
Regarding the money, Hansen said he had not considered the possibility that Turner would be the only one to leave, instead of Willingham. But he also told the Times: "I think, as you and I are talking, I will go ahead with the $100,000 I mentioned."
Emmert, the school president, said he tries to read every e-mail he receives, but ignores the ones with financial threats or inducements, according to the newspaper.
Emmert said he disregards any e-mails that include financial threats or inducements tied to personnel decisions. Neither he nor Turner remember seeing Hansen's e-mail bounties. Such offers, Emmert said, are "grossly inappropriate," according to the report.
There were e-mails from other fans, threatening to refuse renewing their season tickets or to withhold donations. There was the personal: "Today is the single worst day I have ever experienced as a Husky. My hope is gone, and that is truly sad. I am 24 ... "
There were letters from the local chapter of the NAACP and other organizations, concerned about the potential loss of a prominent black member of the community.
There are letters of support as well, from the ordinary fan to the lofty. Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander -- who went to Alabama -- e-mailed to say that in knowing and hanging out with the Huskies players, he was pleased "with the direction of the program and the character of the guys Ty has been bringing in ... Let him finish what he started and you'll be pleased with all your decisions."
Former Seahawks quarterback Jeff Kemp wrote and extolled Willingham's "commitment to excellence" and dedication to ideals: "This man has changed lives and the reputation of UW football player culture [of which there were too many sad embarrassments before]. He is building a foundation, and winning will result."
On Wednesday, it was announced Willingham had been elected president of the American Football Coaches Association, which has more than 10,000 members.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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