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WSU HC Nick Rolovich
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Moore: Rolovich hire has a chance to unite all WSU fans

Nick Rolovich is the new head coach of the WSU Cougars football program. (AP)

Nick Rolovich was introduced Thursday in Pullman after being named the new head football coach at WSU. I recorded the press conference on the PAC-12 Network and watched it Thursday night. Twice.

UW Huskies, WSU Cougars 2020 football schedules released

Why would I watch it twice? Partly because my kids missed it the first time, partly because I was so damn happy about what Rolovich had to say that I wanted to watch and listen to him again.

Granted, he could have said just about anything and I would have been hanging on his every word, nodding my head in agreement and appreciation. I was more than ready for a change from our last head coach, and Rolovich seems like the kind of guy that every Coug fan can support.

I didn’t totally enjoy the last few years of the Mike Leach Era, and yep, that includes the fantastic 2018 11-2 season with Gardner Minshew. I rooted for the team but didn’t root for Leach, and that’s a weird place to be. I tried to overlook how he criticized his players after losses and acted during some of the press conferences, continually telling myself that what matters most is the team’s record, and with Leach, the record was almost always good enough to get us to a bowl game.

But he never took accountability, never admitted that he might have made a mistake, and the worst part about him that I heard from several sources: Mike Leach was always about Mike Leach ahead of anyone else. Whatever you heard in the public proclamations about him, there were few tears shed in the WSU athletic department when he left for Mississippi State.

So here comes Rolovich, a breath of fresh air, riding into the Palouse on a Pineapple Express from Hawaii. He was clearly briefed before he made his first media appearance, talking about terrific coaches and players from WSU’s past. You could tell he wants to be a Coug and embrace everything about it. He tweeted that he really likes the video montage of glorious Cougar football moments accompanied by Andy Grammer’s “Back Home” song that is played on the scoreboard at every home game.

He was asked about the Apple Cup and recited how many days until the Cougars get another shot at the Huskies – 317. The Cougs, as you know, have lost to the Huskies seven years in a row, and the rivalry has not been competitive at all. Leach stuck to his guns, not wanting to change his gameplan year after year, and the results were the same.

To Leach’s credit, he treated the Apple Cup like any other game even if it isn’t. I’m giving him credit because it’s the same approach Pete Carroll has used with the Seahawks, and it’s been wildly successful, showing up the most in his great record in prime time games.

But a new approach to the Apple Cup is needed, and Rolovich could be the man who throws a changeup that catches the Huskies off-balance in 2020.

I don’t know if he’ll be a great coach like Leach or if we’ll go back to the Paul Wulff days or if he’ll be something in between. The one thing he needs to do is find an assistant coach who can upgrade the defense. But here’s what I consider the best thing about him – Rolovich offers Coug fans a chance to all be united again. I know that sounds corny, maybe even dumb, but it bothered me that we had a fractured fan base for part of the last decade.

The majority were firmly in Leach’s camp, supporting the Pirate and being thankful that he revived the program and made it relevant again. The minority felt the same way for awhile but grew sick of him, and the majority and minority bickered on social media, each thinking the other was way off-base. If he’s successful and delightfully quirky and fun, Rolovich could bring us all back together again.

For the first time in a long time, I didn’t go to a game at Martin Stadium this year. I stopped getting season tickets two years ago. I’m planning to get season tickets again and donate to the Cougar Athletic Fund.

I guess this was a long way of saying I can’t wait for the Nick Rolovich Era to begin at WSU.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jim Moore on Twitter.

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