- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 28, 2002

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Tyrone Willingham doesn't mind talking Notre Dame football when he has to. But unlike predecessor Bob Davie, the Fighting Irish's new coach hopes to speak less and win more.

"There will be no great orations prior to the game," Willingham said yesterday. "I always believed as a player that as soon as that guy hit you in the mouth, you forget everything the coach told you 30 minutes before."

Willingham has just four days before his coaching debut when the Irish play No.21 Maryland in the Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium on Saturday night.

Instead of preaching to alumni yearning for the glory days, Willingham has been trying to teach the Irish with actions rather than words. He steps in and takes part in drills during practice, getting in with the players and showing them how he wants things done.

He's a high-energy coach who runs from spot to spot during practice. Instead of using a golf cart to get from the practice field back over to the stadium after practice, Willingham bikes it. He's also been spotted frequently in-line skating across campus.

"He's just all over the place," linebacker Courtney Watson said. "He's in great shape, and he loves to work."

He likes to make the Irish work, too. Players say practices under Willingham are high-tempo.

Willingham has been working to instill his style since arriving on campus Dec.31 to a school reeling from the embarrassing resignation of George O'Leary two weeks earlier and an embarrassing 5-6 season that led to Davie's firing.

The Irish were further embarrassed when a Notre Dame student said she was raped, accusing three players and a former player of being involved.

Willingham said he wants to restore Notre Dame to its glory days and, as in every thing else he does, he says it briefly: "I expect us to win."

The Notre Dame job comes with a lot of media attention. Willingham said he embraces that. But at the same time, he is less accessible than Davie was. In addition to a Tuesday teleconference, Davie had another one on Sundays to discuss the previous day's game and met with reporters again after practice on Monday.

Willingham won't have a Sunday teleconference, although he said he might talk briefly with reporters. He won't talk at all on Mondays. But he said the media coverage is a good thing.

"It goes into a lot of homes of the young people we will recruit. And if that comes across very positively, very strongly, very assertive for our program, then that's a great thing," he said.

Willingham's style is succinct. He has no opening statement at news conferences and no talk about what's going on in his children's lives, as Davie frequently did. If you don't ask, he won't tell. Even if you ask, he may not tell.

Don't even bother asking about injuries.

"You guys pay more attention to injuries than I do. You could probably tell me more who's injured, because I can't," Willingham said.

Linebacker Courtney Watson, though, said Willingham knows exactly what's going on.

"Coach Willingham plays close to every minute detail, things that you wouldn't even think of things that most coaches won't think of," Watson said.

Asked for an example, Watson replied, "I better not say, I'm not sure he'd want me to say."

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