If you've kept up with the AP headlines, you know that Texas Tech defensive coordinator James Willis has left Tommy Tuberville's Red Raider staff a week before the Raiders' appearance in the TicketCity Bowl. But according to this report from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal , there's a lot more to Willis's departure than in your run-of-the-mill firing or resignation:
The Avalanche-Journal learned Sunday night Willis was talking about a job with the University of Florida and Tech coach Tommy Tuberville found out through third parties. The two came to a mutual agreement Willis should leave Tech ...If Willis does wind up making the move to Gainesville, it will come as a surprise (even to parties who aren't the apparently blindsided Tuberville) no matter how it happens. If Willis has agreed to become a position coach on Will Muschamp's staff, it'll mean a step back down the coaching ladder and away from what looked like a secure position on his longtime colleague Tuberville's staff (not to mention a likely pay cut). If Muschamp is planning on naming Willis his own defensive coordinator, he's bringing aboard a DC with only one year's experience at the coordinator position, and a fairly lousy year's worth of experience at that; Willis's Red Raiders finished 116th (out of 120 teams, you'll recall) in total defense and a slightly-less-horrific 85th in scoring defense.
“I wish James the best of luck, but it is important for (the) football team to keep pressing forward,” Tuberville said in the statement. “We have a great defensive staff here that will carry the load along with my assistance as we prepare for Northwestern .”
Tech spokesman Blayne Beal said Tuberville would not discuss the situation further until Monday in Dallas ... When asked whether Willis’ departure was a resignation, Beal declined to say.
As auditions go, that's not the kind that usually lands a gig as plum as defensive coordinator for the Gators. But you can't accuse Muschamp of not knowing what he's getting into; he and Willis worked together under Tuberville to forge some frequently dominant Auburn defenses in 2006 and 2007.
So Willis-to-Gainesville does make some sense, if not a lot of it. In any case, this is not how anyone would have foreseen Willis's time in Lubbock coming to an end, as the pairing of Tuberville and his longtime assistant seemed destined to be a fruitful one. Instead, Willis spent his only season in the coordinator's chair trying desperately (and unsuccessfully) to patch various holes and wrapped it up going behind his employer's back to look for something better. It's fair to say it's not what anyone -- Raider fans, Tech brass, even Tuberville himself -- would have ever expected.