PULLMAN, Wash. – The 2011 Washington State football season drew to a close with the same disheartening feeling of “what could have been”. Four years into head coach Paul Wulff’s tenure, there was significant improvement. Over the past two seasons, we saw oft-injured quarterback Jeff Tuel exhibit signs of brilliance, while standout WR Marquess Wilson proved he was the real deal. The defense continued to produce lackluster numbers, inconsistencies on offense were evident almost every game, and the end result produced yet another losing season on the Palouse.
There were many people that still stood behind Wulff, a WSU alum, and it was evident Wulff had a lot of support. The alumni believed in his system. He was a true “Coug” who wanted to bring his school, the one that he loved, back to the big stage. But, when all the dust settled, it just wasn’t enough. Any coach in a major conference – heck, any conference for that matter – is going to have a hard time keeping his job after just nine wins in four years. After days of deliberation, Athletic Director Bill Moos decided that enough was enough. Wulff was fired in Pullman.
Enter Mike Leach. The goofy, eccentric, mad scientist of coaches was the surprise hire of the year.
In 10 years at Texas Tech, Leach was able to produce 10 straight winning seasons. His pedigree speaks volumes and his erratic, fun, and downright interesting personality fits in perfectly at Washington State. Though many were sad to see Wulff depart, the overall consensus on campus was overwhelmingly positive. The day Leach was named head coach could have been taken for a holiday. The atmosphere was electric.
“When word got around that the “Pirate” was coming to town, everyone was ecstatic,” said senior Waylan Kelly. “He’s going to bring a high-powered offense, fill the seats, and bring back an excitement that we haven’t seen in a decade.”
That excitement was met with immediate season ticket sales and donations from boosters all over the country. In the first four days after the hiring, the athletic department reported over 500 new season ticket sales and in excess of a quarter million dollar in contributions. The hiring came at a steep price, including a $2.25 million annual salary, with numerous incentives. But, the risk is already paying off with huge dividends.
“I can’t wait for football season to start again,” said senior Jonny Gannon. “I was never able to enjoy a quality season during my time at WSU but it’s exciting that we’re receiving this much national exposure. Everyone has that itch to finally win and I have confidence that this hire is what will make that happen.”
Moos mentioned that WSU is in a “win now” mode because they don’t want to be left in the dust. With a complete overhaul of Martin Stadium and a new football operations building in the works, Moos is exemplifying his passion to bring a winning attitude back to Washington State athletics. There is more excitement to win, and hope to win, than at any time in Washington State football history. It’s Leach time. It’s our time.
“We’re going to win,” said Gannon. “Just wait and see.”
Spring Practices start March 22nd with the annual Spring Game to be played on April 21st. The Cougars open the 2012 season against Mike Leach’s alma mater, BYU, in Provo on September 1st.