Washington State will hire Bill Moos to replace Jim Sterk as athletic director
New athletic director Bill Moos, a former WSU football player and Oregon athletic director, will raise the pizzazz factor for Cougars.
Seattle Times college basketball reporter
During some of Washington State's richest times athletically, its most popular figures have often been its most colorful.
Jim Walden, the football coach, lamenting after losing to a pedestrian California team, "We got run over by a damn moped."
George Raveling, the basketball coach, saying that in response to a directive to recruit more white players, that he went out and "got Rufus White and Willie White."
Bobo Brayton, the legendary baseball coach, chatting up everything that moved, and some things that didn't.
Well, the Cougars are about to put a deposit in the pizzazz bank. At a news conference Wednesday, WSU will announce the hiring of Bill Moos, 59, to succeed Jim Sterk as athletic director.
This isn't a home run. It's a grand slam on a 3-2 pitch, down three in the last of the ninth, and the ball lands somewhere beyond Royal Brougham Way.
It's a bit of uncommon good fortune for a school that over a span of 15 months lost 22 football games, saw its shining-star coach, basketball's Tony Bennett, leave for Virginia, and had its football-stadium expansion back-burnered by an economy that went in the dumper.
About that personality thing: It's not in itself a guarantee of anything. But Moos follows a tradition of convivial folks at WSU — call them characters if you want — and right now, that's not a bad trait. It's an entrée into relationships, and if that helps alumni and boosters feel good about the school, well, that Martin Stadium renovation might end up being what keeps the Cougars in the Pac-10.
One Web site dispatch last week wrapped up Moos' hourlong lovefest at a public forum on campus with this line: "A 59-year-old rock star ... cheered by his adoring public."
Think of it: Gandhi, in a crimson polo.
Sitting some years ago in a watering hole in Pullman, I listened to Moos deliver an uproarious, spot-on impersonation of Harry Missildine, the longtime, late Spokane sports writer.
Moos can do things like that, and Jim Sterk couldn't. Sterk, like any athletic director, had his victories and his defeats in what is an extremely difficult job. One of his deficits was a way of dealing with the media that seemed sometime to stray between inaccessible and indifferent.
Which is OK, until that prevents you from reaching your fan base.
I'm guessing that won't be an issue with Moos, whose arrival is beyond fortuitous for the Cougars.
First, there had to be the philosophical breakup with Nike dictator Phil Knight, which led to Moos' ouster at Oregon in 2007. He retreated to a family ranch south of Spokane, where he raises Angus cattle, and accepted a near-$2 million settlement from Oregon in exchange for a promise he wouldn't take an AD job at a Bowl Championship Series (BCS) school west of the Mississippi.
Then came the enigmatic events of December, when Moos went hard after the AD job at UNLV. Getting wind of it, Oregon unearthed an arcane interpretation from a BCS Web site that UNLV is a BCS school (no doubt the Rebels were as dumbstruck as Moos to find out).
To well-heeled, then, add these adjectives to the Ducks who propped up that defense: small-minded, catty and vengeful.
But clearly, Moos wanted to work, and not just back on the ranch. After Sterk departed, there ensued what must be the quickest, most transparent search in history for an AD.
The day Sterk was announced in San Diego, WSU put out word Moos was incoming for talks with staffers, coaches and that public forum. A little later in the week, the Cougars announced they'd offered Moos the job.
Props, then, to WSU president Elson Floyd, who could have looked bad if the whole thing had gone awry. But the going rate for an AD search is about five to six months, and Floyd just got one done in 10 days.
Nowhere else was he going to find an athletic director with BCS-school experience, and one who also knows where the bones are buried inside the Pac-10.
And oh yeah, one who was dying to work at his alma mater. Whatever the tipping point with Oregon that sabotaged the UNLV deal, Moos and the Cougars managed to overcome it.
"You think I bleed crimson ... " said Jack Thompson, the WSU quarterback of the '70s, not needing to finish the thought regarding Moos.
WSU partisans have always looked at their job candidates with a Holy Grail threshold: Somebody good, and somebody who wants to stay in Pullman.
For them, Bill Moos represents not only a slam, but a 2-for-2 day.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
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