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Originally published December 17, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified December 17, 2007 at 6:33 PM

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UW Football | Baer, Simmons given the ax

Washington defensive coordinator Kent Baer and special teams and tight ends coach Bob Simmons were fired today by Huskies coach Tyrone Willingham.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Washington defensive coordinator Kent Baer and special teams and tight ends coach Bob Simmons were fired today by Huskies coach Tyrone Willingham.

Both coaches were told this morning of the news.

"Making such a change as this is never easy,'' Willingham said in a statement. "Nor is it done without careful thought and consideration. I believe we are continuing to build this 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.''

The moves by Willingham were made in response to UW's 4-9 season, which led to much conjecture that Willingham could be fired. The Huskies are 11-25 in Willingham's three seasons.

Willingham has in the past been reluctant to make staff changes but UW president Mark Emmert hinted when he announced earlier this month that Willingham would be retained that the coach had promised to make needed changes.

Willingham has two years remaining on his contract but with the firing last week of athletic director Todd Turner, he will be under significant pressure to produce a winning record next season.

Baer is the longest-tenured of Willingham's assistants, having been with him since Willingham was named coach at Stanford in 1995. He has been the coordinator of Willingham's defenses since 1995.

When reached by phone today, Baer refused to comment.

Baer came under increasing fire this season as UW ranked last in the Pac-10, giving up a school-record 446.4 yards per game.

Washington allowed 500 yards or more on six occasions this season and allowed 31.6 points per game. Willingham held a meeting with his coaches this morning. All coaches are home after having been on the road recruiting the past two weeks -- today is the beginning of a dead period.

Baer's contract runs through June 30, 2008. He made $190,968 for the 2006 season, plus a $24,000 housing allowance. It is not known how much he was paid last season. As is typical of such contracts, he will be paid through the remainder of the contract unless he finds another position.

Simmons had been with Willingham since the 2002 season at Notre Dame.

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The Huskies' special teams play was spotty all season, ranking near the bottom of most of the Pac-10 statistical categories.

Most notable of UW's special teams problems were its kickoff units. The Huskies ranked ninth in the Pac-10 in kickoff returns and kickoff coverage.

Simmons was also in charge of UW's tight ends, a group that has not met expectations the past few years, with the three main players at that spot combining for 20 catches this season.

One of UW's top incoming recruits is a tight end, Kavario Middleton of Lakes High, who recently gave a verbal commitment to the Huskies.

Washington will have three spots to fill on its staff with all other coaches expected to be retained.

The Huskies are searching for a running backs coach to replace Trent Miles, who left after the season finale against Hawaii to become head coach at Indiana State.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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