Facing his past

hen Ted Williams walks onto the field of Martin Stadium on Satur- day, he may look up into the crowd and reminisce for a brief moment.

He will think back to some moments he shared with Washington State over the past few years.

But that will be the extent of it.

His trip to Pullman, Wash., marks his first return to the sideline since he left the job as the Cougars' offensive coordinator, a position he held from 1991-93. But seeing his old stomping grounds and his former players is not something he plans to get teary-eyed over.

"I'm glad they're doing well," Williams says. "I hope they continue to do well. But I don't want to lose."

Williams is used to these sort of homecomings. In his 26 years of coaching, he has gone through this kind of experience before twice.

"It's kind of like deja vu for me," he says.

After 11 years at Compton (Calif.) High School, he moved to UCLA and watched seven of his former high school players suit up for Washington State and tie the Bruins 17-17 in 1981.

As a Cougar assistant ten years later, he returned to the Rose Bowl for the first time and watched the Bruins demolish the Cougars 44-3.

"I had been there a lot longer and it was a lot closer to me," he says in comparison to his return Saturday. "That was real hard."

For Williams to work on three successful Pac-10 programs seems remarkable considering he never played football.

His sport of choice was always baseball. He played in college at Cal Poly-Pomona and eventually for two seasons with the California Angels minor league system. When asked to play in the Mexican leagues, the thought of riding around the country in rickety buses and playing on shoddy fields led him away from the game.

"I didn't want to go somewhere and prove myself," he says. "As much as I love the game, I was not making that sacrafice so I walked away."

He was then faced with a decision.

"I had two options, coach football or teach junior high," Williams recalls. "I wasn't going to teach junior high, I don't have that kind of patience. I took the lesser of two evils and coached football."

While watching a Los Angeles Rams game at the Coliseum, the Compton High School principal told him he needed a science teacher and a football assistant coach. He could do both.

He ran a tight program as the coach at Compton from 1968-79. Players reported at 5 a.m. for practice, which ran year-round, and they only got two weeks off. That strict discipline kept led to 17 players receiving football scholarships in his final three years.

High school success led to positions at UCLA and then Washington State before his move to Arizona last February.

"He was one of our first choices but we really didn't expect to get him," UA coach Dick Tomey said.

Williams said his main reason for the move was that his family could be closer to his two older children, who both reside in Los Angeles.

"When I looked back at UCLA, I was there too long. I should have moved," he says. "In this profession, the people who move on get promoted a lot quicker because they know a lot more people, they have more contacts."

The secondary is his fourth position to coach and he says he has the confidence to take on any other part of the team.

"It helps you to understand if you're commited and you're willing to learn and have an open mind, you can do anything," he says. "Coach Tomey told me, 'It doesn't matter if you've coached the position before. Can you talk to people, can you relate to people and can you teach?'

"I've learned so much from the kids that what I don't know they teach me."

Washington State coach Mike Price said this week his team is especially eager to face the Wildcats in order to impress Williams. Price also had to alter the audibles because Williams was familiar with the Cougars' offensive schemes.

Meanwhile, Williams has concentrated on guiding the UA secondary into its showdown with the same offense he built the past few years.

"It will be emotional but it won't affect me," Williams says. "It's just another day of work."

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