College Football – Brian White, Former National Assistant Coach of the Year, Joins Husky Staff

Slowly, hopefully inexorably, the misguided loyalty on the University of Washington football staff is getting a facelift and some actual competence.

The defensive disaster that has permeated the U-Dub campus could actually improve next season with the recent addition of defensive coordinator Ed Donatell and now former offensive coordinator Brian White.

White was the latest addition to Ty Willingham’s Husky staff. The powers to be lit a fire under Willingham’s backside after last year’s season of promise degenerated into an unacceptable string of losses.

The message was short and to the point: you can stay another season but fix the defense, and for God’s sake, win more games than you lose before we all forget the great football tradition you inherited. Willingham, whose 3-year coaching record at Washington is 11-25, somewhat reluctantly got the message.

Being a college football coach today is not much fun when you are not winning. Willingham is one loyal person who sincerely believes in the goodness of everyone he hires. Unfortunately, one can go “blind” in this effort to succeed.

In the real world, the lesson that Willingham has to learn is that there is no reward for good. You can be the best person in the world and the best coach in the world, but being good does not mean that you win football games. Think about how many GREAT pro players have no Super Bowl ring.

The reality of life dictates that there can be only two outcomes as a coach at the end of each game: results or excuses.

Just because the CEO of a Fortune 500 company makes more decisions does not mean that he makes better decisions. Loyalty does not translate to the bottom line. This is a really tough lesson for Ty, but if he wants to achieve his potential as a coach, he will learn or be gone.

That is why Ty’s slow, methodical, unemotional move to shore up his defense has resulted in the hiring of Ed Donatell as defensive coordinator and Brian White as an assistant coach, perhaps handling tights ends and special teams, or running backs.

Nowhere in Brian White’s coaching resume do I see special teams coaching experience, which suggests that he would be better placed as the running backs coach.

White spent 11 years as the running backs coach and offensive coordinator for Barry Alvarez at the University of Wisconsin. During his tenure, White was selected as the Division 1 Assistant Coach of the Year in 2004 by the American Football Coaches Association.

As Wisconsin’s running backs coach and offensive coordinator, he helped coach Wisconsin in 9 bowl appearances, including Rose Bowl selections in 1999 and 2000. He mentored 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, 2001 NFL first-round draft choice Michael Bennett, and 2001 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Anthony Davis.

White has spent his last 2 years at Syracuse as its offensive coordinator and tight ends coach with little or no success. His lack of accomplishment may have had more to do with Syracuse head coach Greg Robinson, who came to the Orangemen with a terrific record as an NFL defensive coordinator with the New York Jets, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs.

Since arriving at Syracuse, Robinson has gone 7-28 in 3 years, the worst 3-year record in Syracuse football history. Nonetheless, Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross is bringing Robinson back for a 4th season.

All you really need to know about Robinson at Syracuse is that he serves as the head coach AND defensive coordinator, a really dumb idea whose time has yet to come. Syracuse is Robinson’s first head coaching job and it shows. Big egos like to micromanage everything and everyone; they have not figured out why they have assistant coaches to make them look better.

Gross’ judgment may be worse than Robinson’s. Some outstanding coordinators are simply not good head coaches; they may lack the talent, temperament, media skills and organizational skills to run an operation without screwing it up.

Brian White did spend 2 years as a graduate assistant for Lou Holtz at Notre Dame, and White was there when the Irish won the 1988 national title with a Fiesta Bowl victory over West Virginia. Two years of experience in ANY capacity with Lou Holtz is worth at least 10 years at Syracuse with the best the current Orangemen have to offer.

While coaching the receivers at Nevada, White helped the Wolf Pack offense lead the nation in total offense (582+ yards per game) and passing offense (401 ypg).

For whatever it is worth, White is also more highly qualified-education-wise-than almost all NCAA football coaches. He has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard, a master’s degree from Fordham and another master’s degree in business administration from Notre Dame.

While there is no direct correlation between education and success as a football coach, White is apparently no stranger to learning and is capable of getting 3 degrees from three academic powerhouses. Let’s hope it rubs off on his fellow Husky staff members and players. Until the Huskies can once again win a lot more games than they lose, they (staff and players) need all the help they can get.

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley