Mike Leach is the perfect coach for Washington State
Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach will make Washington State a winning program again.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Mike Leach bio
New Washington State football coach Mike Leach will be introduced Tuesday at a news conference in Pullman.
Age: 50, born March 9, 1961 in Susanville, Calif.
Education: Graduated from Cody (Wyo.) High School, Brigham Young University. Earned a law degree from Pepperdine and a Master's in sports science/coaching from the U.S. Sports Academy.
Assistant coaching career: Coached as an assistant at Cal Poly (1987) and College of the Desert (1988). Offensive coordinator at Iowa Wesleyan (1989-91), Valdosta State (1992-96), Kentucky (1997-98) and Oklahoma (1999).
Texas Tech: Leach was head coach at Texas Tech from 2000-09, compiling an 84-43 record and leading the Red Raiders to a bowl game each of his 10 seasons.
Flash back a mere four seasons ago. The 2008 Apple Cup in Pullman. Washington and Washington State came in with a combined one win in 21 games and this game, and these programs were the sources of derision around the nation. That is, if anybody was paying attention.
Football in the state was irrelevant. Programs that had produced Rose Bowl champions, national titles and dozens of All-Americans were the targets of one-liners.
And that day, the Apple Cup lived down to expectations. That day the Cougars took advantage of just enough Husky mistakes to beat Washington 16-13 in double overtime. And afterward, you had to wonder how long it would take for the Apple Cup to have meaning again.
Now we know.
With Washington State's hiring of former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach on Wednesday, football in this state once more became competitive.
"The Pirate" is in Pullman. Hiring Leach is a game changer, it's an Apple Cup changer. Rivalry week is alive again in Washington.
With this hire, Washington State emerges from the deep shadows of college football and back into the spotlight. The nation will pay attention to Leach. Cable pundits will be curious to see if he can win in Pullman like he did in Lubbock.
Guess what? He will.
Who knows? Maybe even ESPN's "Game Day" will show up in Pullman next year. Maybe Lee Corso will utter another expletive as he fumbles with a Husky head or a Cougar mask while making his Apple Cup prediction.
The game and now both programs have juice again.
I know there are many Husky fans who wish Wazzu would be Apple Cup patsies in perpetuity. But for the rest of us, the idea of regularly having two bowl-going universities in the same state is exciting and intriguing.
And the athletic directors at both schools, Washington's Scott Woodward and WSU's Bill Moos, deserve credit for standing their ground and demanding revenue sharing among their Pac-12 brothers.
The money Washington State is getting from the conference's new television deal allowed Moos to be bold this week and hire exactly the right guy for the job.
But as he insinuated on Wednesday, now that he has written the check to hire a high-profile coach like Leach, he expects boosters to open their checkbooks and contribute to the tangible improvements planned for Martin Stadium and the football program.
Moos worked on this hire like a coach recruiting a blue-chip prospect. He traveled to Key West, Fla., to meet with Leach. He understood Leach was the exact fit for Pullman. This was his Cinderella hire.
Leach, 50, knows how to recruit to a small university town far away from the brightest lights. And he knows how to win there.
He is the perfect marriage of place and predicament. He coached in Lubbock, Texas. Ever been to Lubbock? It's Ellensburg without the hustle and bustle. (That's just a joke, Lubbock.) It's as windy as Candlestick at sunset and as exciting as Colfax on Monday nights.
But Leach made it a destination for football players. He brought the nation to Lubbock. History says he will do it in Pullman. He will fill Martin Stadium. He will cause a commotion.
In 10 seasons at Texas Tech, before his controversial firing, Leach's teams were 84-43. And the truth is football fans in Pullman will walk across wheat fields in bare feet in November to watch Washington State teams that are as good as Leach's were at Texas Tech.
Washington State is a unique place, with a unique fan base. It needs a creative coach with an innovative system. Leach proved he doesn't need a gaggle of four-star recruits to win.
Give him a bunch of guys who can run and catch, and his offense will find the space to make them effective. The pass-happy spread offense that Leach calls "Air Raid" will be ideal for the Cougars.
Imagine the excitement returning quarterbacks Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday are feeling today. Eight of Leach's quarterbacks have led the nation in passing.
Think about the offense next year with Marquess Wilson and Bobby Ratliff and who knows how many other skittering wideouts and slotbacks running loose in the secondary.
If Moos is smart — and we know he is — he should immediately introduce Leach to Bothell's senior wide receiver, Trent Sewell, a big, sure-handed receiver who runs crisp routes. Sewell is close to signing with Wyoming, but wants to play at Washington State. He would be a good fit in Pullman.
Just like Mike Leach.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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