Friendship with Leach keeps assistant Mastro in Pullman

McClatchy news servicesJanuary 7, 2013 

The latest blitz on a Washington State assistant football coach was blocked by the coach himself.

Running backs coach Jim Mastro, who said he was Chris Ault’s personal choice to replace him as head coach at Nevada, said Sunday he will remain at Washington State because of his friendship with Cougars head coach Mike Leach.

“I was never, ever going to take that job at Nevada,” Mastro said. “I have a better job where I am.”

The Cougars already lost linebackers coach Jeff Choate to UTEP and inside receivers coach Eric Morris to Texas Tech. Mastro still owns a home in Reno, where he coached running backs under Ault from 2000-10, and his name was mentioned prominently among candidates to replace the retiring Ault.

“He wanted me to succeed him,” Mastro said. “We talked about that for years. … I built the house in Reno because I want to retire here some day. But I didn’t want anything to do with that (replacing Ault).”

Mastro said he did not interview at Nevada, even though “all the people in Reno wanted me to come back.

“But Mike’s my friend. I made a commitment to Mike.”

The friendship between Mastro and Leach began when Mastro was a running back at Cal Poly in 1987, when Leach began his college coaching career as a graduate assistant with the Mustangs.

Mastro’s loyalty to Leach remains strong despite a disappointing 3-9 season in their first season at WSU.

“I learned more this year than I’ve learned in my last 21 years of coaching,” Mastro said. “Just trying to change a culture … they (the players) just really didn’t know how to win.”

Mastro said players “started to turn the corner” late in the season.

“We’re going to win, and we’re going to win big,” Mastro said. “I want to be part of this.” GO DADDY.COM BOWL

Ryan Aplin threw for 213 yards and a touchdown, J.D. McKissic caught 11 passes for 113 yards and Arkansas State edged No. 25 Kent State, 17-13, to win the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

Arkansas State’s usually prolific offense struggled against Kent State, but a stingy defense was enough to help the Red Wolves to their first bowl win since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1992.

EXTRA POINTS

Arizona All-America running back Ka’Deem Carey had a protection order issued against him stemming from an incident before Christmas, a person familiar with the situation told the AP. Carey was the FBS rushing leader this season with 1,929 yards and had a school-record 23 touchdowns. … Northern Arizona assistant coach Jeff Lewis, a former Lumberjacks quarterback who played for Denver and Carolina in the NFL, died Saturday of an undisclosed cause. He was 39.

Howie Stallwick The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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