Hello Followers. Hope your week is off to a good start.
Followers, as SeanHawk brilliantly detailed this morning, we have now hit THE critical crossroads for WSU football.
As the empty seats indicate, the broader fan base at large has simply given up on this program. And because football is THE money maker for all athletic departments, and because universities are currently being crushed by state budget woes, the apathy that we are now witnessing represents a terrible, terrible alarm for all of those out there who still dare to care.
And what does that alarm ultimately signal? Judgment Day is ever so near. (read on)
Followers, from the time that Paul Wulff interviewed for this job three years ago, it was obvious that he knew exactly what was needed to turn the program around. He knew-albeit not completely-that the depth and talent in the program was horribly lacking. And because of that, he knew that only way to build a program that could compete for the long haul was through balls-to-the-wall recruiting, patience, redshirting, PATIENCE, TIME, patience, and time.
The problem with Wulff has been-and continues to be-that he has approached the psychological aspects of the program's development (and its public relations) in the EXACT way that we would all want if we had one of our own kids in the program: He's stayed positive. That is, while Wulff could have-indeed maybe SHOULD have-taken the Mike Stoops/Lou Holtz "we suck" public relations approach from the get go, Wulff didn't turn his back on his players. And, in the end, I am afraid it has cost him his job.
Cuz lets face it folks, what would our responses have been to the 2008 season if Wulff had entered that campaign with, "This team is not very good. Don't expect us to be competitive the way we look right now." What would our response to last year's team been had he said before Stanford, "I know that we all want us to be good, but this team isn't even as good as last year's team because we're slower and because we're going to redshirt the kids who might help us compete right now. While the kids we are going to play will improve, this team is simply not very good. And by not very good-I mean that my old team at Eastern would beat them right now-and by a lot." And what would our reaction to this season have been if Wulff had said, "The talent is now here, but that doesn't mean that you should expect us to be much better than the last two years. While I hope the blowouts are over, this group still has a long, long way to go to look like a Pac-10 program. To quote Dick Bennett after HIS second year-We need another year of rebuilding."
Instead, we got the following:
2008: "If this team stays healthy we could compete for a bowl game."
2009: "The worst is behind us, you'll see a much better football team this year."
2010: "This year, you'll see the walls go up on the program. "
"We're going to be competitive. "
"Based on how hard these kids have worked, I refuse to set limits on what they can accomplish."
Each of these statements have set up fan expectations that have been WAY too high. Then, when the season turns into a debacle, Wulff has consistently retreated into what has now become a very tired, albeit true, narrative: "The kids need to improve, but this is what you get with a young team." Unfortunately, this type of coach speak rings painfully hollow after the bar was raised too high.
And while this narrative persists, the people that really matter-the DONORS---strap another layer of tape around their pocketbooks. And that is a sure-fire death knell for a Football coach.
So now we face the defining moment of this program-this week. On Saturday we face a UCLA team that will be as full of itself as any team in the country. A team that is ripe to be upset at the same time that we desperately need to show improvement on the score board.
At the same time, it seems important to note that this UCLA team that has absolutely DOMINATED teams that cannot run the football (Texas and Houston). So, while on one hand this might seem like a game we can stay in, to do so means we need to be really effective at running the football. And as we all should know by now, we are not capable of doing that.
So then in the subsequent weeks, we'll face an apparent avalanche against the Pac-10's top 3 teams. Oregon is going to put 50 on us by halftime. Then, we get Arizona at home. That figures to be a 30-40 point loss. And Stanford on the road? I mean, what will Hargaugh do to us if he's going for two up 34-6 on Notre Dame on the road????
And how about those Arizona State Sun Devlis? The same team that I pegged to be a doormat this year has, according to LaMichael James, "the best defense by far that I have seen in the Pac-10." Simply put, if the Devils can get their turnovers on offense figured out, they look like an upper division team-especially in Tempe.
So, after this week-which could be brutal in and of itself-we are looking squarely at another string of 4 consecutive blow-outs in a row. Meaning: we figure to be a beleaguered 1-7 by the time that we return home to face CAL. And who knows what our "health" will look like at that point? Will we be walking? Will we have given up?____________________________________________________________________________________________________
This past May, my little knave Brinkhater, made an important proclamation. He said: "Give Wulff his fifth year RIGHT NOW." The apparent reason for his seemingly off-the-wall take: The program has been so depleted that the only way to get this program back to respectability is to recruit, develop, recruit, develop, recruit, develop, and then recruit and develop some more. And, in his view, the only way to do that is by bringing consistency and stability to the program by giving Wulff a full recruiting cycle.
Of course, there was another reason for Brinkhater's wish to see Wulff extended: He suspected/feared that because of the huge curve in talent and execution between us and the rest of the conference, this year was going to be a disaster even if we were much improved. And, as a result, he figured that we would erase all this chatter, rumor, and innuendo about Wulff's future if Moos simply let the world know from the outset that Wulff would be here for five years.
So now, we find ourselves in a situation where Wulff's future is horribly clouded. Four star recruits are now changing seemingly in droves to "soft verbals." And, all of this is happening BEFORE we hit the meat of our schedule! I mean, what will our list of 14 recruits look like in one month when a new slay of blow-out losses causes even more apathy, unrest, and dirty recruiting from inside and outside the program????
So, the remedy at this point is for Moos to put up or shut up. UCLA is game five. Oregon is game six-the halfway point. If Wulff can show an additional layer of improvement this week-and that's a big IF-Moos should give him that extension BEFORE the Oregon game. IF he does, then we can all sit back and focus on how our improvement (however seemingly marginal) THIS year might pave the way to a 5-6 win year NEXT year (methinks our non-conference schedule will include 3 cupcakes--which explains my optimism). And, in so doing, all the recruits out there will know that Wulff will be their coach when they arrive on campus next Fall.
But, if Moos isn't willing to commit now, then it is high time to call a spade a spade and pull the plug after the Oregon game. Because let's face it, all the data that is needed to make a decision now is there. Did Wulff inherit the mess that he claims? Are the recruits he brought in as good as advertised? Can the athletic department financially weather another so-so campaign next year with Wulff at the helm? Because if the answer to those questions is yes, then extend him and end all of this harmful speculation!
But if the answer is no, then he has to be let go at mid-season. Think about it: The Apple Cup is December 5th this year. Fire Wulff after that game, then you need a couple of weeks to make a hire. Then the recruiting dead period hits. Then you're into January. And what does that mean for a school like ours?: A 92nd ranked class for a program that needs STARS to sign on RIGHT NOW.
So, it follows, that if you're going to make a change, then you need the new coach named by November 1. It's the only way to ensure that this year's class acceptable.
Now, as for me, I really hope that Wulff gets his extension because I have come to believe in him. Moreover, as time has passed, I have found it more painful to read how many have forgotten that Paul Wulff is one of us: He's a fricking Cougar for god's sake! And that should never fall on deaf ears.
Moreover, Paul Wulff isn't some overrated hotshot coordinator who has never had a head coaching job before (Nick Holt at Idaho), nor is he some Doba or Keith Gilbertson like lifetime assistant that hasn't been, nor should be, a head coach. This is a guy who has already developed a program from the bottom up. And he knows the particulars of WSU as well as anyone, and he views WSU as a destination job.
So, I continue to send all vibes out in the Cosmos that Moos will step up and end all the speculation and chatter by backing up a man who has eaten a sh&t sandwich in his office by himself for three very tough years.
But, no matter what you think or feel, the time has come for Moos to make a real stand.
To do anything else would make our current hole that much deeper, and more seemingly impossible, to climb out of.