We've been saying it since the day Wulff was hired and the initial articles appeared. Wulff went out of his way on more than one occasion to mention the current culture of the team, and how he believes some things need to change. Now that he's had a full spring practice session under his belt, spent time with the players on and off the field, what does he see? In a quote-heavy article with the Evergreen, Wulff opened up on where we are, and where we'd like to be.
When asked about the off-the-field issues of late, Wulff was candid:
“There's improvement, but we're not where we need to be," he said. "We still have players that don't fully understand the responsibility you have of being a college student-athlete, and that it's different than being a college student. They need to be held to a higher standard – whether they like it or not they're going to be – so they might as well accept it. There's a lot of success so far, we're just not where our culture's gonna be yet. We're working on that.”
Culture is a hard thing to peg. It's not as easy as just being introduced at a press conference with a WSU hat on and the WSU banner and glowing quotes from all parts of the state. It's much, much more than that. It's the changes in the way things have been done, from the smallest detail to the actual football game itself, that Wulff and company are trying to correct.
I don't want to throw Doba under the bus here. He did a great service to the school when Mike Price cashed his lottery ticket. He won 10 games his first year, including the Holiday Bowl which rates as one of the biggest wins in school history on his way to co-Pac-10 coach of the year honors. He got his kids ready to go in three out of four Apple Cups, something we will always be thankful for. He suffered a terrible tragedy with his wife that no man should have to go through, no matter the stage in his life or the situation. He was a class act at every step of the way.
But given the poor academics that are starting to show with the loss of scholarships, and the constant things we hear about the general surprise Wulff has felt in regards to the changes that need to be made in regards to depth and culture, well, it's time to say it - Doba was over his head. It's sad, it's unfortunate, it's generally too bad, but it's hard to argue with the results.
We've heard the rumors just like you, about what things were like towards the end of Doba's reign. The lack of organization, attention to detail, the attrition, the failure on the recruiting front on so many levels. Then you have the fake punts, the Brink/Swogger QB mess, etc. We don't need to fully rehash everything. But maybe the biggest problem with Doba was the lack of the CEO mentality, because, well, it's not in his DNA. You can't become something you aren't after doing something a certain way your entire life. The old dog-new trick isn't just some stupid saying that has been around forever without having some substance to it. Doba was an NCAA assistant from 1977 through the 2002 season. To expect him to suddenly become this great head coach after carrying someone else's clubs for over 25 years was just too much.
What the program needed was a no-doubter. You know, the guy who has someone carry his bags all the time? The guy who sits in the front seat, and the rest pile into the back of the van? When there is absolutely NO DOUBT who is in charge? The guy who has an ego, who has wanted to be in charge? Look around at the other successful programs in the conference right now, you'll know what I mean. Dennis Erickson is a coaching nomad who is always looking for the next best thing. He's got a reputation of things being fast and loose and his players reflect that. But when he walks into the room, he's in charge. Period. There's no uncertainty about who the head coach is and what the goals are. He's a prick when he needs to be, a guy who can make big decisions without having each assistant chime in.
Look at Pete Carroll. He's nicknamed High School Harry for a reason. They have a great time down there, but he's also got the ability to reel everyone in when it's time to get some work done. How that guy keeps all that 5-star talent focused in Hollywood every week is just remarkable. There was an amazing stat about Lawrence Jackson, the new Seahawk draftee who was a 4-year starter at USC. He won 46 games in his 4 seasons. 46 WINS!?!? I didn't even know they played 46 GAMES in 4 years, let alone bag 46 victories. And to win that many in one of the best conferences around?? Amazing. We pat ourselves on the back for having three straight 10 win seasons from 01-03, but that is merely a flea on the shoulder to the mighty Trojans. And down in LA, there is, again, zero doubt who is in charge.
You can say the same thing about Mike Bellotti at Oregon, or Mike Riley at Oregon State. Think there is any doubt that Jeff Tedford is in charge at Cal? Neu-weasel might generally be a phony, dishonest, full-of-it clown, but things are very clear down in the land of powder blue as to who's the captain of that ship.
So, the bottom line to this rant? The article opens some eyes to one big thing. This blanket term of "culture" is thrown around a lot, but changing culture is more than just placing someone as the head coach or painting the walls a different color. It's so much more than that. And I am thrilled to hear these things already from Paul Wulff. He hasn't even been in charge for 6 months and there is already a strong emphasis on changing the way things are done at WSU. No beating around the bush or hiding from the truth. And to that, there is NO DOUBT who is in charge! We have a head coach who knows the drill, and it's in his DNA to be a head coach. But with that, we have to give it some time, have some patience. Understand that this isn't going to simply turn over in the blink of an eye, but it will happen.