SEATTLE (AP) -The most trying week of Tyrone Willingham's coaching career is about to get more difficult.
He was fired by Washington on Monday for being 11-32 in three-plus seasons leading the Huskies, but the dismissal is not effective until the end of this season.
That means Willingham has six more weeks of thankless tasks. Creating game plans including raw redshirt freshman Ronnie Fouch instead of his injured, dynamic star quarterback Jake Locker. Studying the practice and game tapes of one of the two winless teams in major college football. Motivate and lead confused players who have questions about their futures.
Oh, yes, and the next game is Saturday at No. 7 Southern California. Washington is a 44 1/2-point underdog.
ng able to focus 18-year-olds, 19-year-olds, 20-year-olds, which is always difficult. That is difficult in itself. Then you have to deal with the circumstances that were presented in front of them. There are a lot of things they think about. There are a lot questions they have that they can't be provided answers for at this time.
``So that's difficult trying to corral all of that so they can work as a football team.''
Willingham, 54, was elected as the president of the American Football Coaches Association last winter. His 12-month term will outlast his Washington one, which will end after the Dec. 6 season finale at California. Willingham said he hasn't ruled out coaching somewhere next season, and he has many friends in the profession.
They have reached out to their respected AFCA president since Monday's announcement created the second major opening in the country, after Clemson. Willingham says his colleagues are rallying behind him with encouragement - and empathy - after his second firing in less than four years.
Notre Dame released him after going 21-15.
``They understand the circumstances, as we all do. I do. But they are very much behind the quality of the man and the thing that I bring to our position,'' he said.
t to see high-school games. Not anymore.
``No, we will focus on our team. Just being the nature of this week, we made the decision to focus on our team,'' he said.
When asked if that is a big setback for Washington's recruiting, missing a chance to see so many prospects in a particularly talent-rich region, Willingham said, wryly, ``Well, under the circumstances, I don't think it's a setback.''
What about those who have already committed to Washington? One of the state's top prospects, defensive tackle Deandre Coleman of Seattle's Garfield High School, reneged on his verbal commitment even before Willingham was fired.
``You want to make sure you are giving the message of the next coach. At this time, that's difficult to do that,'' Willingham said, with another wry smile. ``You are kind of caught within a rock and a hard place right now. You just ask those young men to be patient until that direction is established, then that man can speak for himself.''
Washington has already started its search for a new coach, and athletic director Scott Woodward has not ruled out hiring one before season's end.
Meanwhile, Willingham trudges on with his winless, wounded and wondering Huskies.
focus, because it's hard to tell sometimes when you are subdued what your real focus is.
``I'm hoping that we like the challenge. I'm hoping that we accept the challenge. I'm hoping that we will embrace it and play some of the best football that we've played.''

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