The early 2000s was a tough stretch for Washington football. From Gilbertson to Willingham was far from an upgrade and Willingham managed to have a worse year than Gilbertson’s 2004 campaign.
Willingham had found success as the head coach of Stanford from 1995-2001, amassing a record of 81-44 with a Rose Bowl appearance in 1999. He then made the jump to Notre Dame in 2002, taking over the storied program and leading it to a 10-3 year.
However, he flew too close to the sun in South Bend. Willlingham authored a 5-7 season followed by a 6-5 year in 2004 and was dismissed. Washington wasted no time scooping him up, assuming he could recreate his success at Stanford.
It took a bit of time for Willingham to outdo the 1-11 Gilbertson season. In Year 1 of the new regime, Willingham managed a one-win improvement to 2-9 and climbed to 5-7 in 2006.
Somehow, 5-7 was his peak for the Huskies. In 2007, Washington went 4-9 and there was no bounce-back year on the horizon. In Willingham’s final season, he led the Huskies to the worst year in program history with an unthinkably awful 0-12 record.