So the story is out there and reality is setting in. Paul Wulff is the new head coach. There are a lot of pros, and some cons as well, and that's to be expected for a guy without a successful D-1 resume. But is that overrated? Does it matter if a guy is coming to Pullman without a long track record of winning on the highest level of competition?
First of all, on the field:
- Wulff comes from one of the biggest have-nots in the west. Not a swipe at Cheney, but the stadium holds 8 K and the budget is the smallest in the Big Sky.
- Wulff has a 53-40 record as a head coach. Is that some sort of world-beater? No. He's not exactly like Jim Tressel, who won championships at Youngstown State before he went to Ohio State. But you have to take the record in context. If you factor in the games against BCS competition, where they had no choice but to take the paycheck game in order to even hope to be competitive in recruiting, they were drilled. But the record on equal footing is more like 53-30. He's taken his team to the playoffs in 3 of the last 4 years, and had only one losing season where they basically cleared the bench and went young in every sense. All that youth used in 2006 paid off in spades in 2007 as they fought to the end vs. App State (the same App State that BEAT MICHIGAN).
- He's got an excellent offensive staff, and one that has produced fantastic results. You don't lead the nation twice in total offense, and finish second in two other years, over the last eight seasons if you don't know what you are doing. His sophomore QB just threw for over 3500 yards and 34 TD's in a system that is designed to play fast, spread the field and really be unpredictable.
- As a former center, not only is he known as a cerebral guy, but he also knows how to coach up the o-lineman. Since Wulff has been associated with EWU, he's had 17 offensive lineman finish first-team All-Big-Sky, had 14 on the second-team, and 16 getting honorable mention. As several people have pointed out, the offensive line can make or break a team, and you can have very little doubt that the line is going to be good as things roll forward in Pullman.
- As Hooty McBoob pointed out, Wulff has spent nearly a decade building relationships with high school coaches throughout the northwest and in Washington. He knows them all, and given a recruiting budget of basically nothing, he's turned over rocks and shaken bushes and found players that can compete.
- One more thing in regards to recruiting - Wulff may not have a lot on his roster in terms of California players. But that's not exactly by design. Again, you have to keep in mind the situation from where he's coming from. The recruiting budget at EWU is very, very limited. In other words, they can't exactly afford to go on all these visits over long distances. Wulff and his staff have put in a ton of windshield time throughout the state of WA, and they have absolutely made the most of the situation they are in. But you can't immediately dismiss the idea that Wulff can't recruit in California. After all, he's from there and played high school football there. If anyone can stand in a living room in that state and tell kids and families first-hand what it's like to move from CA to Pullman and be a successful football player, it's Paul Wulff.
- If you don't think he's ready for this, then you aren't seeing the bigger picture. And based on his qualifications, you never would have hired Dennis Erickson or Mike Price either. Both were .500 coaches from lower-level programs. And guess what? With that logic, UW never would have hired Don James! Don James had a .568 winning percentage as a relative unknown at Kent State before he showed up in Seattle. Just imagine the outrage today if WSU had hired Dennis Erickson, coming off a 6-6 record at Wyoming. Imagine the rioting today if we hired Mike Price, who was just 46-44 at WEBER FRICKIN' STATE! Yet that worked out OK, didn't it??
How about off the field? As the Go-2-Guy writes today, Wulff is a tough SOB. How tough? Try having an appendix out on Monday, then plays in the Apple Cup on Saturday. Try having your mother disappear when you are 12 years old with no concrete explanation or evidence as to what happened, all the while suspecting that your father did it. Try having the woman you love, your first wife, fade away to brain cancer and having her pass away in your arms.
Adversity can make or break a person and has a huge say in who you are today. Wulff has dealt with tougher times than any of us can ever hope to deal with in our lifetimes, and he's had it all happen at a relatively young age. Yet instead of laying down and wallowing in the hand that he's been dealt, he's instead scraped himself off the floor and said the hell with it. All that's happened to him has made him the man that he's become. He's embraced the challenges and has become one heck of a success story in the making.
And for all that, I'm glad that WSU is going to be another chapter in the Paul Wulff story.
Some other news-n-notes:
I heard Dennis Patchin on KJR last night with Ian Furness. Patchin claims that Wulff will bring with him offensive coordinator and QB coach Todd Sturdy, as well as former Coug and defensive coordinator Jody Sears. Patchin said that it's not exactly known what their roles will be at WSU, but that will be decided shortly.
Everyone wants to know, what about Rosenbach? Patchin made it sound like that is very much up in the air. Rosenbach is actually a candidate to take the EWU job, at least according to Patchin, so he might be moving on. But if Wulff is taking Sturdy with him to Pullman, well, there might not be a spot for Rosey on the staff.
One other key from Patchin's interview last night - Wulff was told that he DOES NOT HAVE TO RETAIN ANY OF THE EXISTING ASSISTANTS ON STAFF. For those of you thinking Wulff was hired on the cheap and would be forced to keep some of the staff together, well, you are wrong. Wulff was told during the interview process that he will have full authority on which assistants he can retain, period. Patchin also noted that it was possible however that Wulff, Rosey and Steve Broussard were part of the greatest upset in school history on that fabled 1988 team, and they all could potentially be on the coaching staff going forward.