Hello Cougar Nation! A tremendous Thursday to you all.
Today, we continue the saga which has become America’s 28th favorite dramady, a feature that we call “Khan-tucky Fried Thursday.”
Yesterday, Huddy started the midweek off with a bang, offering a post that was historic for us with respect to page views. Then later in the day, it was announced that our Cougies are going to open the 2012-13 campaing on the season’s first night, and in front of a nationally televised audience no less.
Well, I spent the night checking out some videos, such as this, this, and this from our best friends at ESPN’s Pac12 blog. And as I watched a few choice clips from our new head coach Michael Leach and positively compared his charisma, allure, intelligence, and personality to the other newbies in the conference, it all just hit me.
For more on that, read on.
Followers, a few years back, (September 30, 2008 to be exact) I wrote a post about the difference between making a prediction (something that I think is going to happen) and a declaration (something that I KNOW is going to happen). In that post, I highlighted my Uncle’s declaration back in 1978 that the Seahawks would NEVER make the playoffs with Jim Zorn as their starting quarterback (he was right).
And, I followed that story by describing a time in which I DECLARED to our very own SeanHawk right after the day that Bledsoe was picked #1 in the draft that Seahawks would never make the playoffs with Rick Mirer as their starting quarterback. Of course, I was right about that one too.
But the main thrust of that post was to offer a declaration about the fortunes of our Cougs. And in that post—four short weeks after the start of Wulff’s inaugural campaign/disaster—I declared to the masses that the Cougs would NEVER play in a bowl game as long as Jody Sears was the Defensive Coordinator of the Washington State Cougars.
And once again, I was right-- it was a DECLARATION after all.
Keeping in mind that a prediction is something that I think will happen, and a declaration is something that I know is GOING to happen, the focus of today’s post is to make a very important, albeit potentially ill-timed, PRECLARATION (something I am definitely sure will probably happen, at least maybe). And that preclaration is as follows:
MIKE LEACH WILL NO LONGER BE THE FOOTBALL COACH OF WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY AT THE START OF THE 2015 SEASON.
Now, before I get to the quick, watered down version for making this preclaration, please keep in mind the following:
#1 I am not suggesting that the Leach hire was a bad decision. In fact, I think the Leach hiring potentially represents the best personnel move in the history of WSU Athletics (with Dick Bennett being the best to date, with Mike Price being a close second).
#2 I am not in any way suggesting or implying that I want Mike Leach’s tenure to be short. Au contraire, if I had it my way, Leach would stay at WSU for forever and a day.
So, with that all noted, here are the quick reasons for this take:
Not the Same Boy I Used to Be
Over a quarter century ago, one of the best and cheezy solo artists of the 80’s, Steve Winwood, had a pretty big hit called “Valarie.” In that song, Winwood ends each chorus by telling some lady (Valerie) that he is the “same boy I used to be.” And while Mike Leach has brought virtually the same Air Raid offense to Washington State that he had a Tech—as well as similarly funny/classic stories about Grizzly bears, Mascot wars, and Harry Potter movies, he is NOT the same guy that was coaching at Texas Tech just a few years ago.
You see, the Mike Leach that stayed at Texas Tech for a decade was a guy that had never been publicly slighted or de-famed. What's more, the Mike Leach who coached at Tech, though he had achieved some significant national notoriety and exposure, wasn’t a celebrity coach like he is now. After all, since Leach was fired from Texas Tech, Leach has published a best-seller type book in Swing Your Sword, co-hosted a National radio show with Jack Arute, and has seen his Air Raid offense go viral in the College Football world. When you add the whole “Friday Night Lights” movie thing to the equation, the possibility of an HBO series and so forth, well, the guy is jumping off the charts.
Of course, Leach’s celebrity status in the short term is a HUGE asset for a place like WSU. In fact, in addition to his football acumen, the fact that Leach is a STAR hire made him a no-brainer for Bill Moos; an AD who is struggling to make the structural changes needed for WSU to remain in a major college athletic conference. So, while Leach’s celebrity status could have been a turn off for a university that’s always struggling NOT to be stepping stone U, Leach is a man that fit the needs of the time.
Small Time Guys Always Blend
Its pretty tough to come up with a blanket statement that describes the personalities of guys who like to coach and/or work at second tier schools (of which WSU is one—we aren’t SC, Alabama, or Ohio State). But one common thread among that crew appears to involve their willingness/desire to blend in during the offseason, after they kick some serious arse during the “on” season. I mean, if you look at guys like Mark Few, Brad Stevens, Chris Peterson, and even Frank Beemer for that matter, the common denominator in all of them is that you basically NEVER hear from them in the off-season. Simply put, they’re just content to lay back, go hunting, and stay the heck out of the spotlight for 20-30 odd weeks out of the year.
Frank Beemer or Karl Malden? Do you know?
But, Leach doesn’t seem to have that interest. I mean, the guy is out doing National Book signings in Omaha Nebraska, is doing countless interviews on National Sports Radio shows, and is now involved in fueling internet talk and related “memes” about Craig James and the like. Simply put, guys who seek the type of national exposure that Leach does do not live in places like Pullman Washington for more than a few years. They just don’t.
Chip on The Shoulder
I think a good argument can be made that virtually all major college coaches carry one solid Chip on their shoulders.
I mean, guys who aren’t uber competitive simply cannot keep up with the daily grind of coaching college football if they don’t have that additional gear and/or drive.
But in Leach’s case, that drive appears to be more than intrinsic. Leach seems to be driven by extrinsic factors/motivations—much of his actions seem hell-bent to prove that all who were around the Texas Tech fiasco were dead solid wrong about him. I mean, whenever I listen to tidbits from Leach’s radio interviews, Leach isn’t talking much about Washington State University, he’s talking about himself—his previous record of achievement, the virtues of his offense and philosophy and so forth. Mind you, I don’t think that any of that is inherently bad, I just think its revealing: The guy is out to settle a score with those who wronged him and that seems as important to him right now as anything else.
Of course, ultimately, for Leach to be able to vindicate himself to his detractors, he has to win big. After all, despite all of his tremendous successes at Tech, Leach has never coached in a BCS game. And so, in order for Leach to stay for the long haul, he’s going to have to see some evidence in the short term that WSU provides a real opportunity to do just that. And that involves winning a lot of games early and putting a lot of backsides in the seats.
FANS and WINNING
We all have heard about the thousands of new season tickets WSU has sold since the Leach hire. And that is great, it really is. And honestly, who knows what Martin Stadium will look like come October and November if we beat BYU and Oregon State and start the season off 5-1.
What we do know is that Martin Stadium hasn’t sold out often even when we’ve been really good. I mean, we got 40,000 for Stanford in 1997 when we were nearing playing for the Rose Bowl. But outside of a Dad’s weekend crowd here or there during the 2001-2003 stretch of top 10 finishes, we still weren’t selling out a 37,000 seat venue. And one has to wonder how that will feel for Leach if he’s looking up at empty seats when other jobs start to open up in a few years. Again, there certainly is a possibility that the WSU fan base will really step up in the next year or two, but history suggests otherwise.
And then we get to the winning thing. Personally, I think things are shaping up for us to potentially have a really, really GREAT year this year, especially if the O-Line and D improve the way that they can. But next year? Well, with games @Auburn, @Oregon, @Washington, and potentially @USC not to mention the rest of the conference slate (plus BYU), well, it may be pretty darn for next year’s team to become bowl eligible. And the year after that? Well, that’s time to make hey (That team figures to potentially be a real contender).
But ultimately, when we look at how this all might progress from an outsiders’ perspective—including Leach’s—consider the following:
- Cougs win 9 games including a bowl game this year.
- Cougs win 7 games including a win against Auburn in 2013.
- Cougs win 10 games and play in the Alamo Bowl in 2014
- Cougs average 30,000 fans in 2013 and 2014
Now, when you look at that potential resume and compare that against Wulff’s 7-28 record over the past 3 years, you can see how an outsider would consider such a turnaround to be more than noteworthy.
Then, factor into the equation that at the end of 3 years, Leach’s buy-out will “only” be $800,000. And about that time, a certain team in Florida should be about ready to fire yet another coach.
And so, without making a declaration, here’s to making the following preclaration: In 2015, Mike Leach will be the head coach of:
Suffice to say, it's high time to enjoy this while it lasts. I sure know that I'm going to.
All for now. Go Cougs.