BY Howie Stalwick 12:48PM 09/06/2015

Leach is 12-26 as Cougars coach; answers due

After losing at home to a 30-point Big Sky Conference underdog in the opener, WSU coach Mike Leach is 12-26, and some of his players were blaming the weather. Huh?

Portland State QB Alex Kuresa needed only seven completions in 12 attempts to beat Washington State. He also ran 16 times for 92 yards. / Rod Commons, Washington State athletics

PULLMAN – Washington State agreed to pay Portland State half a million dollars to play football Saturday at Martin Stadium. In return, the Vikings agreed to roll over and play dead.

What? That wasn’t in the contract? Technically, no. Still, all parties were well aware of the exceedingly long odds facing the cash-starved Vikings, who accepted a $525,000 paycheck in exchange for a presumed whipping at the hands of a team from the mighty Pac-12 Conference.

“Presumed” is the key word here. As for “mighty,” that certainly didn’t apply to Washington State on a dark, dreary day that became infinitely darker and drearier for WSU supporters when the Cougars suffered one of the worst losses in school history.

Too strong a statement? Not at all. Consider the evidence:

The Cougars lost to a team picked to finish 12th in the 13-team Big Sky Conference in the league’s preseason media poll.

The Cougars lost to a current Big Sky school for the third time in school history – in 49 games dating back to 1903 – and for the first time in 31 home games.

The Cougars lost to a Portland State team they outscored 107-30 in their two other meetings, including 59-21 last year.

Last but not least, the Cougars lost 24-17 to a Football Championship Subdivision team (formerly NCAA Division I-AA) that passed the ball just 12 times and is 3-31 all-time against Football Bowl Subdivision teams (formerly NCAA Division I-A) such as Washington State.

Is it too early for WSU fans to panic after just one game? Of course. Is it too early for WSU fans to be calling for the head of Mike Leach? Not at all, but Leach was quick to reply when asked at the post-game press conference if he worries about his job security.

“I don’t,” Leach said, “because all they had out of me was my best. I do the best I can every day.”

Leach’s best has produced a 12-26 record (7-20 Pac-12) in four years on the Palouse. He won three games in his first and third seasons, which is one less win than predecessor Paul Wulff won in his final year on the job. Leach’s Cougars are 0-4 in season openers and have lost six consecutive home games, which may help explain why attendance was just 24,302. Fewer people actually showed up, and the soggy stadium was largely deserted after halftime.

Making matters worse is the fact that Leach is the highest paid state employee in Washington at $2.75 million a year. Simply put, wins over teams like Portland State should not be expected so much as they are demanded.

“We have to understand it never comes easy,” Leach said.

Moving forward, there should be no confusion on that matter.

So-o-o-o, what exactly happened Saturday? Take it away, guys.

“They just out-competed us,” running back Gerard Wicks said.

“We beat ourselves,” linebacker Jeremiah Allison said.

“We tried to make too much happen,” Leach said. “We never loosened up.”

Leach added, “It’s a shame, because we’re a lot better team than that. We haven’t had a practice that bad.”

Wicks and wide receiver Gabe Marks said some Cougars let the rainy weather distract them.

“Guys started to worry about what the conditions were more than the game,” Marks said.

Wicks agreed, saying, “It seemed like everybody was bothered by the weather instead of just playing the game.”

Quarterback Peyton Bender said, “I’d be lying to you if I said weather didn’t play a factor. Guys were dropping balls probably because it was wet.”

In a classic case of “when it rains, it pours” – literally – Bender was forced to make his college debut with barely a minute left in the game when starting quarterback Luke Falk landed awkwardly on his head and right (throwing) shoulder after being upended. Bender, a redshirt freshman from sunny Florida, went 1 for 4 and threw an interception in Portland State territory to end WSU’s final drive.

Will Falk be ready for Saturday’s game at Rutgers (12:30 p.m., ESPN2 or ESPNU)? Leach was typically flippant/arrogant/dismissive when asked about Falk’s injury.

“Hundred percent healthy just like virtually all of our players,” Leach lied.

Will Falk will be examined at a hospital?

“Next question,” Leach said.

Hey, Mike, how about answering the most important question: Why can’t you get your team to win more? It’s year No. 4, and we’re still hearing how your players don’t have things down mentally. At some point, doesn’t much of the blame for that land at the feet of the head coach?



  • inplaylose

    Leach was successful at Texas Tech because he could make up for talent differences with his creative, unusual and exciting offense which no one else was running. But pretty much every team in college football has taken some aspect of what he was doing in Lubbock and applied it to their own offenses – which means his offense no longer sets him apart from everyone else. In fact, with no deep threats and no legit running game, the “air raid” offense now looks decidedly stale and passe. it’s not that hard for teams to defend who are used to spread offenses. and having a cutting edge offense meant he could get away with having teams that didn’t play any defense and didn’t do many of the small details of the game right. he cannot get away with that in Pullman. the defense is still dreadful and the kicking game continues to be a fatal flaw. Leach was an interesting idea of a hire at the time, but he has not adapted to the reality of the Pac-10 and has not learned from his own mistakes. hard to see how this improves.

    • Effzee

      “Leach was successful at Texas Tech because he could make up for talent differences with his creative, unusual and exciting offense which no one else was running.” That and he got all the scraps off the UT/Texas A&M/Oklahomo reject pile. Lots of talent just landed in his lap. Out there in Wazzuland he gets to pick from… Kennewick? Boise? Bozeman? *shudder*

      • art thiel

        It was very nearly Quarterback U for awhile, starting with Jack Thompson.

        • Effzee

          Totally. One QB from the NW on their roster right now. How strange.

    • art thiel

      You may be right — what was once innovative is now passe. Many lower-tier programs are de-emphasizing defenses and putting best athletes on offense, but Leach/Pullman aren’t attracting enough premium players to fill out even one side of the ball.

  • jafabian

    Is there a better coach out there? Of course there is. Are they willing to come to Pullman is the real question.

    • Effzee

      I guarantee you they are. Its still a Pac-12 school (whether it should be is totally debatable), and some young offensive guru would leap at that job. I betcha Leach has his agent on the phone every day trying to get him pretty much any other Division I (or whatever the hell they call it now) gig. Trouble is, he’s not able to sell much with these results. If he can’t turn this around (and I do not think he can), he will either end up back coaching in the Bible Belt, or he’ll go into broadcasting. He’s kind of this self-made weirdo coach without a pedigree except what he’s created on his own. You can still “succeed” at Wazzu, but I think its going to have to be one of these young brash fellows instead of the curmudgeonly, isolationist type.

      • art thiel

        I wouldn’t be able to predict a style, age or personality that would work. To get one with a track record to come to Pullman, it will take large coin, more than Leach is getting now.

      • jafabian

        Like Paul Wulff? Fans and more importantly alums want someone with some sort of track record. Cougar fans would be fooling themselves if they believed that the team would go to a bowl this year. Same with the Huskies. Both had too many losses from last year. You bring in some young, dynamic coordinator and there’s going to be a learning curve like there was with Sark. Or they could go with someone with baggage like Jim Tressel. Yes, this is a game they should have won but it’s much too early to call for Leach’s dismissal, though it always makes for interesting discussion.

        If there’s a coordinator out there for WSU to target you can bet other schools will want that person as well. Then it becomes a bidding war and WSU usually can’t match that.

        • Bobby Paluga

          Nobody is talking about this guy, but the best coach out there is Jim Leavitt the former coach at South Florida. In fact he established the football program. You may not remember but this dude had the Bulls in the top 15 yearly. He was fired for supposedly slapping a players helmet, a charge he denied, which led to accusations of lying. Coaches who followed him fell flat. Tressel is less personable than Leach and just as arrogant, he is the president of Youngstown State Univ. I would guess that this means YSU doesn’t rate well in the academics arena and has little problem with a guy who can’t tell the truth to save his life.

      • Bobby Paluga

        I wouldn’t bet on it, the guy is getting a lot of money while dealing with much less pressure than a guy coaching in a major population center or someone at a traditional power. In essence Leach gets $1 million per win

    • art thiel

      There will always be many candidates for a P12 job. But in the nearly 15 years since Mike Price succeeded, the world and college sports has much changed. The farm-town college setting works for fewer and fewer D-1 kids.

    • sabasarge

      Well, there’s always Mike Riley. He should be available in two years (bet on it), and he’s comfortable in the farm town college setting.

  • Al Wasser

    If the losses continue to pile up this season, more and more Cougar fans will become disenchanted with Leach’s condescending attitude toward the media or anyone who questions him. He can get away with that when he’s winning or if fans believe that he will lead the team to victories. But once the faith that people had in his abilities is gone, then “amusing quirkiness” will be seen as smug obnoxiousness.

  • WestCoastBias79

    Can EWU and WSU just swap programs? I can almost guarantee that Eastern would have a better go of it. They might even be a lower tier bowl team. If they still had Vernon Adams they might be better than UW. It’s almost shocking how bad WSU is.

  • 1coolguy

    After 4 years, Leach is exposed: He’s a phony and Moos needs to buck up, admit his mistake and get a new coach. This is beyond miserable.

    • Bobby Paluga

      It’s easy to say, however WSU would be creating a situation identical to what Kansas has with former coach Charlie Weis, meaning the school would be paying the guy 60% of his $2.75 million salary for the length of the contract. At the same time, you have to find someone to take his place, underpay the guy until Leach’s contract ends. That means you’re only able to attract an assistant or a FCS head man, maybe the Eastern Washington head coach. If not for Leach’s contract, the school could look at someone like Bronco Mendenhall, a guy that does more with less than anyone, or maybe Nebraska’s former head coach who produced a min 9 wins a year, Bo Pelini
      BTW- Weis is still getting his salary from Notre Dame around $3-4 million (the year before he was fired, his contract was extended to 8 years altogether and he has either 3 or 4 years left on his Kansas deal. For an incompetent, completely unpleasant character, two schools are paying him $7 million a year to go away. Nice work if you can get it.