By Jim Moore
Not sure if you caught the Associated Press story from Yakima on Monday, the one in which Bill Moos made a lukewarm assessment of the 2013 football season, Mike Leach’s second as head coach.
“I don’t think I would forecast that we are assured of six wins this year,” the Washington State athletic director said. “We’ve got a tough schedule. We’ve to open on the road at Auburn and then at USC, but we’ll be better. I don’t know if the scoreboard will show it. We’re setting the foundation for what I believe will be a very strong program. Year 3 is when I believe it will show.”
Washington State went 3-9 during Mike Leach’s first season as head coach. (AP)
Year 3?! What about Year 2?! And for that matter, what about Year 1 when we went 3-9 in Leach’s first season? Didn’t we have higher expectations? Weren’t we supposed to go to a bowl game last year? And now we’re being told we might have to wait ’til 2014?
I know – it takes time to change the culture, time to get every player on board, time to rebuild the offensive line among other things. I also get that there weren’t a lot of talented players for Leach to work with last year. As Moos pointed out in the AP story, “The guy is a great football coach, he’s not the Wizard of Oz.”
But we were 4-8 in 2011 and seemingly poised for a decent season at least, especially with a rock-star coach coming to town. Or so I thought. Didn’t you?
Those games against Colorado, Utah and ASU were as bad as any games during the Paul Wulff era. I never saw 3-9 coming, and we were an eyelash from being 2-10 and going winless in the Pac-12 until the miraculous Apple Cup rally.
If you criticized Wulff during his tenure, it was more than acceptable – he had won at Eastern Washington, but there were questions about whether he could do it at a higher level.
But boy, if you criticize Leach you’ll hear it from many alums who think you’re not a true Coug. I was actually told by a prominent WSU booster that if I wasn’t 100 percent supportive of Leach, I would lose my right to be a Coug and should no longer be able to say: “Go Cougs.”
These fans basically feel that what happened last year – when the bad apples and slackers were weeded out – was a necessary step toward building a successful program. They also point to Leach’s shiny record at Texas Tech and the fact that he led the Red Raiders to 10 consecutive bowl games.
And you know what? They’re probably right. I’m guessing in 2014 when we’re at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and in 2015 when we’re at the Holiday Bowl and 2016 when we’re in the Rose Bowl, they’ll put it in my face and say I should’ve been more patient and should’ve understood the process.
But right now? Off of the season we just had? Then to be told not to expect much in 2013? With a schedule that features Southern Utah and Idaho?
(By the way, that Southern Utah game bothers me. We replaced BYU with Southern Utah because Moos said it gave our schedule more competitive balance or something like that. Personally, I’d rather see us play BYU in Pullman on Sept. 14 instead of Southern Utah, a team I’d never heard of. Sure, we’ll beat the Thunderbirds, but I think it would’ve been more fun to play BYU. Our home schedule at Martin Stadium is the saddest home schedule we’ve ever had – Southern Utah, Idaho, Oregon State, ASU and Utah. BYU would’ve spiced it up.)
When you’re a Coug, I understand that we’re a loyal bunch that sticks with the team through the ups and the far-too-many downs. I’ve never been this conflicted about our football team before, and it troubles me when my allegiance to my alma mater is questioned. I should probably march in step with all of the Cougs who firmly believe that the Pirate of the Palouse is the answer to all of our football problems.
But from what I’ve seen so far, I’m on the fence with Leach.