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Originally published Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Tyrone Willingham finds work

Former Huskies coach will be an assistant in new United Football League, still collects $1 million buyout of final year on UW contract.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Former Washington football coach Tyrone Willingham reportedly has been hired by the San Francisco franchise of the United Football League, a new professional minor league that plans to begin play this fall.

Willingham will be the special teams and running backs coach for San Francisco, according to The Web site also reported the hire. Attempts to confirm the hire with the league were unsuccessful.

The UFL plans to have four teams competing this season in its inaugural campaign, beginning in October. It recently announced a TV contract with Versus and that it will have a title game Thanksgiving weekend.

It bills itself as "Where the Future Stars Come to Play!" and will compile rosters later this year. Its Web site states that the league will provide an opportunity for "thousands of talented world-class players who are looking to play professional football at a high level."

Among its investors are Paul Pelosi, husband of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was involved in the league early but isn't any longer.

The San Francisco team has announced that its head coach will be Dennis Green, a former NFL coach who is a mentor to Willingham. Willingham worked as an assistant to Green at Stanford and then with the Minnesota Vikings before beginning his head coaching career at Stanford in 1995 (following Bill Walsh, who had taken over for Green).

The UFL's site says it will have four teams playing in seven markets this season — Las Vegas/Los Angeles, New York/Hartford, Orlando, and San Francisco/Sacramento. It has announced that the San Francisco games will be played at AT&T Park, the home of the MLB Giants.

Willingham relocated to the Bay Area after being fired at Washington following last season. The Huskies finished 0-12 in 2008, the worst record in school history, giving him an 11-37 mark in four years at UW.

Willingham finding a job will not have an impact on the bottom line at UW. His contract called for him to receive a lump sum of $1 million as a buyout of the final year of his contract, with all obligation from both sides ending there. Washington officials said Monday they knew nothing of Willingham's new job.

The league's goal is to make a splash by hiring well-known head coaches. Besides Green, other head coaches are Jim Fassel (Las Vegas), Jim Haslett (Orlando) and Ted Cottrell (New York). Fassel and Haslett all are former NFL head coaches and Cottrell a well-known former assistant. Fassel led the Giants to Super Bowl XXXV.

None of Willingham's assistants were retained by new UW coach Steve Sarkisian. All but offensive line coach Mike Denbrock have found new jobs, either in the NFL or Division I.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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