If Cougars do turn to Mike Leach, it could be an interesting pairing
Mike Leach heading list if Washington State starts looking for a new coach
Seattle Times colleges reporter
A year ago, Washington State played a football game at Southern Methodist, which it lost, 35-21. An analyst for CBS College Sports Network took note of what he perceived to be the dour countenance of WSU coach Paul Wulff.
"You like to see a little more optimism out of coach Wulff here," he said. "Expect good things to happen. I don't know if it put me in a better mood, but I felt like it contributed a little ... sometimes on the sideline, you forget to smile."
Wulff's critic that day was none other than Mike Leach, who had been fired at Texas Tech the year before. Now it's believed that WSU would like Leach and his demeanor on the sideline rather than Wulff.
Sunday, WSU athletic director Bill Moos met with Wulff for 90 minutes and the school announced no decision on the head coach. In a statement, Moos said they met "so I could hear his assessment of the season and where he would like to take the program from here. Our discussions will be ongoing."
The Times has reported that Moos was likely to dismiss Wulff unless Moos had an 11th-hour change of heart, and that Leach tops the list of possible replacements.
No doubt Leach and WSU would be a bit of a shotgun marriage. The Cougars aren't normally a destination spot for coaches with big-time aspirations and Leach is bearing some battle scars as a result of his bitter departure from Texas Tech after the 2009 season.
We can debate whether this would be a good thing for the Cougars, whether Leach is a kook, or whether, once his name is fully restored, Leach would be out of Pullman on the first Horizon flight east.
But this we do know: Hiring Leach would be a game-changer for the Cougars. Part of his mission would be to stir donors to action with a major facilities overhaul on the docket at WSU.
What shouldn't be lost here is that the Cougars wouldn't be looking to hire the hot coordinator from the Top 25 program at (fill in blank here). Moos, with the mandate of president Elson Floyd, is hellbent to win in Pullman and to change the culture. In their world, no more is aw-shucks, a-bowl-every-five-years-is-great acceptable.
Leach's last contract at Texas Tech was for $12.7 million over five years. Paul Wulff is making 600 grand at WSU. Even if you assume Leach to be eager to return to coaching, it figures the Cougars would have to double, perhaps triple, what they're paying Wulff.
That ante could be raised by the tumble of coaches that has begun in earnest. The Pac-12 is likely to have four new ones by 2012.
About Leach: He's Mormon-raised, and got a law degree at Pepperdine. He won with regularity at Texas Tech, and he became known as a man of many interests — including a fascination with 18th-century pirates.
Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel caught up with the idle Leach last January and heard that he had spent time as a house guest of Matthew McConaughey and had paid visits to another friend, director Peter Berg, on the set of "Battleship."
"It should be pretty cool," Leach was quoted. "There're aliens coming to the Earth, of course. And the world navy has to stop them."
The controversy around Leach two years ago had to do with his directive to Adam James, son of ESPN analyst Craig James, to spend time both in an equipment shed and a closet while he recovered from a concussion.
Leach was fired, he sued the university, ESPN and a PR firm working for the James family. Through it all, though, he emerged as a sympathetic figure among nationally respected media outlets.
Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post wrote Leach deserved another chance.
She pointed out that he wasn't exactly conventional, nor a fan of coddling athletes, quoting him as saying once at Tech: "We got hit in the mouth and acted like someone took our lunch money, and all we wanted to do is have pouty expressions on our face until somebody daubed our little tears off and made us (expletive) feel better.
"Then we go out there and try harder once our mommies told us we were OK. Neither of those things is acceptable."
Andy Staples of SportsIllustrated.com visited Leach last summer at his home in Key West, Fla., and puzzled over Leach's lack of appeal as a candidate on the rebound.
"In this age of near-constant scandal," wrote Staples, "a coach who wins, who draws fans and donations, who graduates his players, who doesn't commit major NCAA violations and who doesn't tolerate drug use, stealing or violence against women can't find a job."
Clearly, Leach casts a huge shadow, too big for a lot of schools. Only somebody with an equally big athletic director might chance him. Mike Leach, meet Bill Moos.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-12.
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