PULLMAN – Bill Moos, who vowed to change the “culture” of Washington State athletics, may have changed the landscape of Pacific-12 Conference football for years to come Wednesday.
WSU made a splash on the national sports scene when Moos announced that former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has agreed in principle on a five-year rollover contract to replace Paul Wulf as coach of the Cougars.
“I asked athletic director Bill Moos to select the best head football coach in the country and I am convinced that he has done exactly that,” WSU president Elson Floyd said in a news release.
“A lot of schools wanted him; he wanted us,” Moos said at a hastily called press conference.
Moos said Leach, the 2008 national coach of the year, will be paid $2.25 million a year, and there are incentive bonuses. Moos said he thinks Leach’s annual compensation may rank in the upper half of the Pacific-12 Conference next season.
“In order to compete on the field, you have to compete with salaries,” Moos said Tuesday, when he fired Wulff after four years and a 9-40 record. Wulff made $600,000 a year, the lowest salary in the Pac-12.
Moos said it is mere coincidence that Leach’s annual compensation matches what Washington’s Steve Sarkisian is guaranteed this year. Sarkisian gets a bump to $2.4 million next season.
If Leach were to leave WSU before five years, Moos said Leach would have to pay WSU $450,000 for each year remaining on his original contract. After five years, Leach would owe nothing.
Moos said he met with Leach on Nov. 16 in Key West, Fla., where Leach has been living since he was fired by Texas Tech prior to the 2009 Alamo Bowl.
Moos said he stressed to Leach that he would not fire Wulff if the Cougars finished strong, but the team lost its two remaining games.
From 2000-09, Leach’s Texas Tech teams featured high-scoring, crowd-pleasing offenses with plenty of passing. Moos has stressed the need to put “butts in seats” after years of subpar attendance at Washington State.
“I have spoken about the need to re-energize our fan base and take Cougar football to the next level,” Moos said. “I believe the hiring of Mike Leach accomplishes both of those goals.”
Leach, 50, compiled an 84-43 record at Texas Tech. All 10 of his teams posted winning records and went to bowl games. Leach’s last two teams produced 28 all-academic players in the Big 12 Conference.
WSU juniors Jeff Tuel and Travis Long expressed regret that Wulff was fired, but both players said they’re excited about the hiring of Leach.
“I can’t wait,” quarterback Tuel said. “If I’m throwing for as many yards as some of his guys were a game, then it’s going to be a good year and I’m going to have a lot of fun.”
Defensive end Long said players are “definitely excited” about Leach. Moos said the “response of our donors has been fantastic.”
Leach is scheduled to be introduced at a noon press conference Tuesday in Pullman. Moos said previous commitments prevented Leach from arriving earlier.
“He’s the only guy I talked to,” Moos said, “and he’s the only guy I wanted.”
Prior to taking his first head coaching job at Tech, Leach had been offensive coordinator at Oklahoma and Kentucky.
Leach is known for his colorful and outspoken personality. He was fired at Tech after simmering disputes with school officials boiled over when a player suffering from a concussion (Adam James, the son of ESPN broadcaster Craig James) was sent to a shed with limited lighting during practice.
Leach said he did not know where James was sent. Leach was fired after refusing the school’s request that he apologize to James.
Over the years, Leach has drawn both praise and criticism from players for his demands on players.
“He pushed his players and coaches as hard (as) anybody I have ever been around, but he is fair to every player,” former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell once said.
Leach, who alleged that his firing was linked to an $800,000 bonus he was about to receive from Tech, has sued the school and ESPN in connection with events surrounding his dismissal.
Leach, married and the father of four, has reportedly gone without a car in Key West, preferring to ride a bicycle. He’s been known to dive for lobsters in the ocean, and he has a bar stool with his name on it at a Key West bar once frequented by famed author Ernest Hemingway.
Leach is the rare college football coach who did not play in college. Born in Susanville, Calif., he graduated from Cody (Wyo.) High School, Brigham Young University and the Pepperdine University School of Law.
“He’s a fascinating individual and extremely smart,” Moos said.
Moos selected assistant coaches Steve Morton and Chris Tormey and coordinator of football operations Shawn Deeds to continue working until decisions are made on a new staff. Moos said he will increase the assistant coaches’ payroll $500,000 to $1.8 million next season, which he thinks is average for the Pac-12.
Moos said he expects Leach will take most or all of the 19 recruits who have made verbal commitments to the Cougars.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to Mike Leach and his staff,” Moos said.
What Mike Leach is worth
$2.25M MINIMUM PER year
TIED FOR 3rd highest paid PAC-12 football coach *
WHO IS THIS GUY?
Born: March 9, 1961 (age 50) in Susanville, Calif.
Colleges: BYU, bachleor’s degree in American Studies (1983), Pepperdine University School of Law (1986).
Notable: Did not play college football.
Coaching history: Assistant coach at Cal Poly SLO (1987) and College of the Desert JC (1988), offensive coordinator at Iowa Wesleyan (1989-91), Valdosta State (1992-96), Kentucky (1997-98) and Oklahoma (1999), head coach at Texas Tech (2000-09)
Accomplishments: At Kentucky, his offenses set four NCAA, 42 SEC and 116 school records. At Texas Tech, his teams set more than 150 NCAA, Big 12 and school records; was named AP and Big 12 coach of the year in ’08.
* excluding USC and Stanford, private schools that don’t report coaches’ salaries MIKE LEACH AT TEXAS TECH
A year-by-year look at Leach’s tenure with the Red Raiders:
YEAROVERALL CONFERENCE BOWL RESULT
20007-6 3-5 Loss, Galleryfuniture.com
20017-54-4 Loss, Alamo
20029-55-3 Win, Tangerine
20038-54-4 Win, Houston
20048-45-3 Win, Holiday
20059-36-2 Loss, Cotton
20068-54-4 Win, Insight
20079-44-4 Win, Gator
200811-27-1 Loss, Cotton
20098-45-3 Invited to Alamo*
* – Did not coach in Alamo Bowl, although team won the game