PULLMAN – Paul Wulff lived to see another day – and perhaps many more – as football coach at Washington State.
After meeting with Wulff on Sunday afternoon, WSU athletic director Bill Moos released a statement indicating that no decision has been made on Wulff’s job status. Reports Saturday night said Wulff was fired.
“Paul and I met for an hour and a half this afternoon so I could hear his assessment of the season and where he would like to take the program from here,” Moos said. “Our discussions will be ongoing.”
Since returning to Washington State last year, Moos (a former Cougars football star and assistant athletic director) has said he would wait until the end of each season before deciding whether to retain Wulff.
Anonymous sources with WSU ties have told various media they expect Moos to fire Wulff with one year remaining on his five-year contract. Wulff is paid $600,000 a year, by far the lowest salary for a head football coach in the Pacific-12 Conference.
Wulff’s record is 9-40 after four years. His .184 winning percentage is well below the second-worst mark in school history – the .340 showing (26-59-1) of Jim Sweeney from 1968-75.
Wulff has lost more games in four years than any football coach in the history of the Pac-12 and its forefathers, dating back to 1916. The 1979-82 Oregon State Beavers posted a 3-40-1 record, but Joe Avezzano replaced Craig Fertig after the 1979 season.
The Cougars have finished in last place the past three years. They were next to last in 2008.
When Wulff was hired to replace Bill Doba in 2007, the Cougars had only three oral commitments from recruits. According to Cougfan.com, the WSU affiliate of Scout.com, WSU currently has 18 oral commitments for next season.
Moos has praised Wulff and his staff for improving WSU’s recruiting efforts. Moos has also praised Wulff for adding respected, longtime assistant coaches such as Steve Morton, Chris Tormey and Todd Howard the past two seasons.
The Cougars started 2-0 and 3-1 this year, but finished 4-8. That doubled the victories from any of Wulff’s first three years (2-11, 1-11, 2-10). His 2-7 Pac-12 record this year gave him twice as many conference wins as in any of the previous three years, when the Cougars were 2-25 in league play.
Saturday’s 38-21 loss to Washington marked WSU’s third loss in a row to the arch-rival Huskies. The Cougars’ mistake-filled opening possession ended in a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown.
Two Washington freshmen who were national blue-chip recruits from the state, wide receiver Kasen Williams (Skyline High School) and tight end Austin Sefarin-Jenkins (Gig Harbor), played key roles in the win.
The Cougars signed just three recruits from Washington to letters of intent this year. Highly regarded running back Bishop Sankey from Gonzaga Prep of Spokane reneged late on his oral commitment to WSU and wound up at Washington. Wulff said rival coaches told Sankey that Wulff’s job status was shaky.
Wulff and his supporters frequently note that the Cougars have made considerable progress on and off the field since Wulff inherited a program that had been faltering under Doba. WSU has not posted a winning record or gone to a bowl game since 2003, Doba’s first season as coach.
Because of injuries, the Cougars were forced to start three quarterbacks this year, but they rank ninth among the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams with 322.3 passing yards per game. However, WSU ranks 112th in rushing (100.2) and is tied for 117th in quarterback sacks allowed (3.3).
The Cougars started seven seniors Saturday, including quarterback Marshall Lobbestael and middle linebacker Mike Ledgerwood.
Junior Jeff Tuel was projected to start at quarterback this season, but he saw little action due to injuries. Senior wide receiver-kickoff returner Isiah Barton started most of the season before suffering a knee injury in the next-to-last game.
Next season, the Cougars return Tuel (an honorable mention all-Pac-10 pick in 2010), leading receiver Marquess Wilson, leading rusher Rickey Galvin and the seven leading tacklers behind senior linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis.
“Our program has come a long ways,” Wulff said after Saturday’s game. “I’m very proud of where we’re at. We’re right on the cusp of being really, really good.”
Should Wulff be let go, long-rumored candidates to replace him include former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, current Houston coach Kevin Sumlin and former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti.