Nov. 1, 2004
WASHINGTON ATHLETIC DIRECTOR TODD TURNER
General Comments: "In the last several weeks, Coach Gilbertson and I have had a number of conversations about our football program and its future. About what we could do to give it a boost. We both agreed that our university needs to make an emphatic statement about the future of Husky football. In having that discussion, Keith and I both agreed that at the end of this season he will step down as the head football coach and then assist me in implementing our plan for reinvestment in Husky football.
"We have an unbelievably rich history in our program and we have incredibly high aspirations for its future. We want to continue the tradition of excellence that has existed here for so many years. Keith took over this team at a time when there were many distractions. The chance of being successful was very small. He made the decision to take this on, in my opinion, for two reasons. Number one because he really loves the University of Washington and number two, because he had a strong affection for his team and the coaches that were a part of this program a year and a half ago. He has provided great and steadfast leadership. He's demonstrated uncommon resolve and determination. He's instilled in our players discipline and accountability. They've gone to class, they've been good citizens. They've treated people with respect and treated each other with respect and it's an attribute to Keith Gilbertson.
"Keith's a good man to whom the University of Washington owes much and I'm proud to have him be a part of our university family. I'm very pleased too that he's willing to assist me as we invest in the football future at this university and I'm going to need his assistance in doing that. We are going to be back in the nation's elite. It will take a commitment on the part of many, many people and I think Keith has recognized that and he is willing to make it his goal."
HEAD COACH Keith Gilbertson
General Comments: "This is not a happy day for me and my family, obviously. We love the University of Washington. It became apparent to me, probably even as early as the first day that I took this job, that if we didn't get any kind of long-term commitment, that I was probably going to be the interim coach here. Particularly this year, in light of how the season developed. I said, 'We're going to need some time and some commitment to make the changes that I think are necessary'. I've been here awhile, so when it became apparent that our season was going to go not the way we wanted, I said, 'I either need a commitment or you need to make a change, I'm fine either way'.
"I'm not angry at the University of Washington, I love this place. It's been a part of my family for three or four generations. I want the best for this program, I want the school to make a commitment to football again like it did when I was here before and we were the best football program in the country. Whoever they bring in I will support them all that I can. The best thing for me has been the great people I have got to work for here as an assistant coach, the great people that I coached with, and these unbelievable young guys I got to coach."
On why this announcement was made now: "This really was an important time for Keith, I don't want to speak for him, but in our discussions, it was clear that by removing the obvious distraction that he had to deal with on a daily basis from people who wanted to know about the future of the program and his leadership. Getting that behind us would really make for a much more pleasant end of the season and allow him to really coach his team and to focus with them. The answer to that question is quite simple, it is to remove that distraction, so that his team could enjoy the last three games of the year and his team could focus on the job at hand.
"I met today with the team. We explained our expectations for them for the remainder of the season and also for the interim period. I am going to ask that our fans and our supporters, just as I've asked the players, that they would stay focused on what remains of this year. We still have three important games yet to play. We are supporting our coaching staff throughout this time period and we want to treat them with enthusiasm and respect and hopefully this season will end on a good note. I have confidence that the players that are here have a lot of pride, they have a deep affection for the coaching staff, they are dedicated to ending this season on a positive note and I know that they will take that challenge seriously and do a great job.
On the decision making process: "I will begin the task immediately of developing and researching potential candidates for this position. I will not talk to sitting coaches until the regular season is over. We hope to complete the process in a timely manner, that is as much in advance of the signing date as possible. We will not rush. Our goal is to get the right person and not necessarily meet an external time frame. We will work with the university's leadership and a number of other constituent groups important to our program to develop a profile of the head coach that will take over our program.
"We will meet with members of the faculty, current and former players, some boosters and supporters, and some people who have a lot invested in the future of Husky football to get their input about the profile of the coach we would like to bring into this position. And using this profile, I will meet personally with the president throughout the process to identify who I believe to be the best candidate or candidates and then I will meet with an advisory committee that will review the final candidate or candidates at the appropriate time. In order to ensure that we have a deep and talented pool of candidates and to protect the integrity of the search, after today I will have no public comment on possible candidates until I introduce the new coach to you."
On if offered the job, would he have taken it: "Hell yeah, of course I would.
On why stay and help the UW: "I'm not angry at the University of Washington. I'm a bottom line guy and the bottom line is that with wins and losses it isn't happening for whatever reason. I'm not going to throw a lot of excuses out there. Like I said, I thought it was going to take some time and if they weren't going to make a commitment to me, that was fine, as long as they made a commitment to football on this campus, I'm okay with that.
"The other thing that really started me thinking that maybe it was time for a change is that we work on recruiting 365 days a year and a year ago at this time we had a large number of commitments. This year it was tougher and we had lost some kids because they thought there was too much uncertainty at Washington right now. So I felt like in the best interest of the school and the program, if there was some certainty, that recruits would hold off decisions until they see who comes in. I feel that it is really important that this next recruiting class match last year's to give this program some depth. All those things were weighing heavily on me, the way that recruiting wasn't going the way I had hoped, obviously the season wasn't, and when you're having our kind of season, recruits are going to be a little bit hesitant jumping in. So all those things really started to ware on me, and I felt like if it wasn't me, they had to make a commitment to somebody and I really felt strongly about that."
On what he told the team: "I told them that it was going to be business as usual for the next three weeks. They have to go to class or else I'd be pissed at them. They have to go to study tables and they have to go to tutors, and they have to be on time and they have to lift weights and they have to practice with some urgency and get better and we have to go like hell in the final games down the stretch."
On if the UW's committed to paying a top dollar coach: "Budget aside, I think it's most important that we have the right person in place and our leadership is committed to that and we'll figure it out."
On if he'll recommend other coaches: "I don't know if I'm in the position to recommend anybody. There's some people who I know personally who are great coaches and when the time comes, if Todd wants to visit about it, I'm be willing to visit about them. For the next few weeks I just want to coach, be left alone, we're going to have some players here to talk to, but after this I would appreciate if you talk to them, it be about the upcoming game and the opponent and how they're playing. This should be enough said about this. This has been a distraction for them, there have been a lot of questions by a lot of people about my future and I didn't think it was fair for those guys to have to answer questions anymore or not speak about it when they were getting asked. So there's no more doubt about my future, so they can play and go to school and have their lives for the next few weeks."
On plans after season: "I don't know. I have a health issue I need to get taken care. I have a hip problem that needs to get taken care of, so that's going to take awhile. Then I don't know. I'll do whatever the university asks at the same time, I'm a football coach, that's what I know, that's all I've ever done, so we'll see."
On what led to decision: "I think from the beginning we've been consistent in our support of Keith and of the football program. I think the circumstances that led to this were incredibly complex, but they really take their roots back to the circumstances which he took the position. As a I said in my opening comment, it's a very difficult play that he was assigned to run. He did it with determination and dedication and I think the university's been supportive of that. We're at this point and we need to do the best thing for our football program. That we will do and I've been very grateful for his cooperation and help, assistance, guidance, and teamwork in arriving at this point and I am going to rely on Coach Gilbertson's experience and knowledge of the University of Washington and the sport of football to guide us through the next few months."
On if regret taking job in first place: "Hindsight's always 20/20. I told Coach Neuheisel that I was going to stay one more season as coordinator. I knew Cody (Pickett) was leaving and I figured Reggie (Williams) was going to come out and I'd been with those guys and I kind of wanted to finish with those guys a year ago. I had no idea what was going to happen. The fact is that it's a great place and a lot of great kids.
"It would have been easy to say no and just go about my business. I had other opportunities to go places, but that would have been doing the opposite of what we tell our kids, which is to step up and take a shot, do the best you can do, it doesn't matter. And coaches are kind of like pioneers or astronauts anyway, there isn't a thing we don't think we can do, there isn't anything we can't handle, there's no problem we can't overcome. We're idiots like that. I did what I felt was the right thing to do at the time and I have no regrets, except I would have liked to win more games, that would have been fun."
What to do until able to talk to possible coaches: "We want to make sure that the current student athletes have the kind of support that they need. My Executive Associate Athletic Director, Jeff Compher will be involved in the daily administration of the football program after the season is over, working with me, Coach Gilbertson, and others to make sure that we take care of the needs of our current students. Between now and the end of the regular season, I'll still be able to do research on candidates, talking to people, figuring our who has the profile that we want to try to have here at Washington."
On retention of any coaches: "I told them today when I met with them that I feel the world of them and I would be very happy to have any and all of them stay, but as is always the case in a changeover, the new head coach will make the determination."
On recruiting for this season: "We have a small list of commitments, we have a larger list of prospective athletes that we've already offered, and then we have another, what we call 'A List' of guys that we know about, we've evaluated, we're familiar with, we've been writing, calling, and talking to them every week. The last couple of weeks, with having a sense of what was going to happen with me, I've called recruits and my line has been, 'whether I'm here or not, this is still a great place to go to school and play football. You should be thinking about Washington, whether I'm here or not.'
"That's kind of been my message for a couple of weeks. Our staff is going to continue to talk to people every week with that same message and I think it's key that maybe there's a guy in this state who has said he's not interested, that they reexamine this and take a long look because I know the guy who comes in here will be a big timer, first class, and that there'll be a great commitment again on the campus to football and if you're a local guy, you should stick around here and play. I'll do what I can do in the next two weeks or month to keep guys interested and I have no problem selling this university."
On team's reaction to the announcement: "When they stopped cheering they carried Todd out on their shoulders. No, I told them what I told you and then I left so Todd could visit with them. I think some of them really understood and I think some of them were quite surprised."
On team's reaction to the announcement: "Probably the thing that I drew most from my meeting with them is that they're very respectful of two things. Coach and the job that he's done and secondly, they're very respectful of the institution and they want to be successful and they want to have a chance. I told them, 'Our university needed to be committed to their success and that we've left a lot of things undone in our history to take a look at.' I think that was an encouragement to them and I ask our supporters and boosters and people who love the University of Washington to do the same thing. It is not in our keeping and our desire to be excellent in all that we do, that our football program would not have the best and we're going to make sure that that is first and foremost on our plate. Our players know that, I want alumni supporters to know that, I want our recruits to know that, I want our new coach and his staff to know that. We want to return to where we're one of the premier programs in the nation and we're not far from it and that's what we're going to get done."
On the profile of a coach he is looking for: "It's more about personal characteristics and experience than it is about a particular person. A couple things that you can rest assured about, they're going to need to have a P.H.D. in coaching, they need to know the game. They need to be people of the highest integrity with flawless character who understand the mission of the university and the job. With that being said, I think it's important for the new coach to have significant experience on a college campus. It's a culture shock I would think to go to college without any experience at all in recruiting and all the things that go along with it. That doesn't mean that it's impossible for that to happen, but I think it would be a challenge, but there are people in professional football who have had considerable collegiate coaching experience, Keith was one. The profile will have to fit our institution, it will have to fit our league, they have to be able to recruit in the west, particularly in the northwest, and put some pazzazz and give people some confidence and hope and I expect that with the help of President Emmert and our various boards and supporters that we'll get that done. This is a great job. I think there are coaches who dream about being at the University of Washington and hopefully we will find the person who finds their dream here and it works great."
On particular point where this decision became apparent: "I don't think there was any particular moment and I felt back for our coaches and our kids because not only was the table set in a tough way, but if it hadn't been for bad luck, we wouldn't have had any luck at all. We've had a dozen kids have surgeries and it was just one thing after another. Somehow we have to put all that behind us and focus with a positive frame of mind and with a new sense of energy and vision and move ahead and put Washington football back on top."
On how long it will take for UW to be on top: "I hope not long, but it is a process and there are no magic potions and it will take hard work and the right people doing the right things. For instance, if you're going to talk about an investment in our stadium, that's not going to take six months, that is a three to five year project just to get that started. The specifics will take some time, but the vision is not going to take very long. We're going to pretty quickly know what we need to do and how we need to go about doing it. It's the implementing that will take a little bit of time."
On the difficulty of bringing a coach in from a different part of the country: "I think it's lot different than it was 15 or 20 years ago. The world is a lot smaller and I think people adjust more quickly. I wouldn't rule any part of the country out. Obviously, if you have ties to the west coast, you will probably be at an initial advantage, but whether that is a difference-maker in hiring the right person, that's hard to say."
On relationship with Gilbertson: "I really appreciate our relationship. It has been very professional, very positive, and we have not had a cross word or disagreement. We're bound by one thing and that's to do the best thing for the kids that are here and I think together we've sailed through this stormy weather and I think there's still a little water in the boat, but we're doing fine."
On the Washington program: "I've told Todd for a couple of weeks that if it wasn't going to be with a commitment that spanned three or five years, that they needed to go outside and this program needs a boost. It needs a real positive boost. If you look at so many things that have happened to us in the last 11 years since Don James felt as though he was not backed by the university and he was misled that it has kind of been one thing after another after another. God bless Marcus Tuiasosopo and that group of kids who gave us the chance to go back to the Rose Bowl in 2001. Since then it has kind of been one mishap after another after another. We need a positive jolt and if it wasn't going to be me and my guys then it needs it and it needs it now. This program is suffering and it's time for a real investment and commitment. My staff and I feel as if we've really let the fans down with our record. It's hard to please our fans and that's important to us. There's a great sense of frustration with how this season has gone."
On how UW has fallen behind the leaders in football: "I've had the chance to go workout players in Texas A&M and Texas. I've seen Utah's facilities and I know they have new facilities at Arizona and Arizona State and Stanford. Obviously the Oregon facilities are really good. In 1987 I think we had really good facilities, but it's the same facilities other than the indoor facility which is a first class, major league facility. The facilities build on campus have been for the whole athletic program than specifically football, so we've fallen behind there in that."
On if UW beats Oregon, does this happen: "It was kind of a evolution so much as anything else. It developed from our discussions and we were very honest with one another and Keith tried. We both agree that this program needs a boost, a shot in the arm, an investment, and we're going to do that. We're going to make sure we give these young people the chance to be at the top again. It is more than facilities. Some of it's attitudinal. Some of it is having the right people in the right places. Keith's right, if you go around the country, people have made commitments to their athletic programs that are maybe a little of the chart, but that's the world we live in and if we're going to compete at the division IAA level, there's a level of support you have to provide. It doesn't mean that we have to have the biggest football stadium in the country, it doesn't mean we have to have the biggest weight room, but what we need to have is quality and a demonstrated commitment. I think we need to do a better job of that and as an institution we will."
On this year compared to last year: "Last year was a very different season than this year. Last year it was a daily affair and you had to carve out a chunk of time just about every day to deal with that stuff, this year has been much more settled down that way. This year has just been so disappointing from a record standpoint, the health of our team, kind of how the ball has bounced. Last year was very strange, this year is just a tough year."
On last football coach he hired: "I hired Bobby Johnson at Vanderbilt. We announced the decision just prior to the end of the season and he took the job on December 24. His team was in the one-double A playoffs, so it was a little different than a team in a bowl game. Vanderbilt's a long way from here and you don't get to see what they have to do. They've had 21 consecutive losing seasons and it's a very difficult, competitive situation for them. I think the coach we hired there fit the values of the institution. Had great experience, was very competent and a good fit, whether that translates itself to wins at their university is still yet to be seen, but that's a very difficult spot. You don't measure success there like you may here."
On his role after the last game: "It's not like I'm going to move into a different office with a different title. If somebody asks me a question, I'll tell them what I think. After the Washington State game I'll move out of my office and get out of here and take care of what I have to take care of. If somebody is interested in my contributing or need my help, I'll always step up to this place."
On giving up dream job: "It would have been anybody's dream whose dad was a high school coach in the state to coach at the University of Washington if you were a guy they went out and sought to hire, that you had a long-term commitment and you had an understood of what was going to happen for you when you were there. The way I got this job was not a dream job. That was hard on a lot of folks, (Neuheisel), us, everybody. I would not call this a dream job situation. I do love this place and I have a great passion for Husky football and I feel like I've made a contribution here. I'm sorry this year has not been a good one, but that was not a dream situation for anybody. It was real tough on our players, on Coach Neuheisel and his family, on our staff, on the university, that was not a dream situation by any means."
On how to make the next three weeks the most enjoyable as possible: "The best part of my day is when I go down that tunnel and go to practice. You'd have to be a coach to know it. I have 12 more practice days, Monday through Thursday for the next three weeks and hopefully we can make some good Saturdays in the next few weeks and that would be plenty."
On hardest part of coaching: "I think the amount of information. The internet coupled with things like talk radio, there's just so much of it that it has a mind of its own and you can't control it all and I don't pretend to be an expert at it. You used to be able to tell the flow of information. The other part is recruiting, all the information about recruiting now is tough to track. I think that's the hardest part now, but you don't get in my business unless you love doing it and you love being out there, but you can't control the talk."