SEATTLE – Bill Moos has a big decision to make this week.
The Washington State athletic director has said all season long he’ll decide after the 2011 football season ends whether or not coach Paul Wulff will be back for the fifth year of his contract.
That season ended Saturday night with Washington’s 38-21 Apple Cup win at CenturyLink Field. The Cougars finish 4-8 overall and 2-7 in Pac-12 play.
After the game, Moos said through a WSU representative he will meet with Wulff on the plane ride home and they will set a time for an early-week discussion. He said he expects a decision soon.
The Seattle Times reported Saturday night that the decision has been made and Wulff is out. Contacted by The Spokesman-Review later, Moos did not confirm or deny the report, texting, “(I) don’t know where (they) got that info.”
If Moos hasn’t made a decision, there is one group that has some thoughts on the matter: the Cougar players. They are the ones most affected by a coaching change.
Quarterback Marshall Lobbestael, who will graduate this year and not be affected by Moos’ decision, was recruited by and played a year for Wulff’s predecessor, Bill Doba. In his four years under Wulff, he was pulled in and out of the lineup on a regular basis, starting Saturday’s game only because Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday were both injured.
So what would Lobbestael tell Moos?
“My opinion is, and I would tell him this, ‘Mr. Moos, I’m sorry because this probably isn’t what you want to hear, but we have faith in your decision,’” Lobbestael said this week.
But he did have some experiences he would like Moos to consider.
“They’ve been the best of my life so far,” he said. “If you had said before I came here that this is going to be your record, I wouldn’t have guessed I would have come out with the outlook on WSU, with the outlook on football, with the outlook pretty much on life, that I have.”
And he credits the staff for that.
“Their hearts are in it, they are dedicated guys,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot just by being around this particular staff. I’ve taken a lot of stuff that’s kind of made me who I am, first of all, and then it’s also affected me in a way that I want to have an influence on my players if I’m in coaching.”
Senior-to-be Travis Long wants continuity.
“I don’t want a new coach for our senior year,” the defensive end said. “I like our coaching staff, I believe in what they are doing here. A couple games didn’t go how we wanted them to this year, I don’t think you can put all that on the coaches. Personally, I don’t want a new staff my senior year.”
Cornerback Nolan Washington will be a junior next year, so a change would be for his final two years.
“They’ve done a good job,” he said of the staff. “They work hard, harder than any staff I know. They deserve to come back. We are so much better than we were a couple years ago. We’re only going to get better.”
Sweat it out
If Wulff is back, he may have to decide on linebacker C.J. Mizell’s future.
Mizell did not play against Arizona State, nursing a sore shoulder that probably will require off-season surgery. He was cleared to play and did against Utah, though senior Mike Ledgerwood started.
Ledgerwood started again Saturday and Mizell, in uniform, watched from the sidelines. At halftime he switched to sweats.
“Ledgerwood was playing awesome, as a senior in his last game,” Wulff said as way of explaining why Mizell didn’t get in. “(Mizell) chose to put his sweats on.”
Mizell went through his ups and downs as a freshman, finishing with 57 tackles. Last spring, with new linebacker coach Chris Tormey demanding more, Mizell played with the second and third strings.
But he came back in the fall with a different attitude, according to Wulff, and started the first nine games, until injuries slowed him.
Mizell finished his sophomore season with 56 tackles, fourth-best among the Cougars.
Gonzales back in action
One player who wasn’t expected to play was left tackle David Gonzales. The senior rolled his right ankle against Utah, did not practice all week, then trotted out for warmups, his ankle heavily taped.
He took every offensive snap.
“He hurt his ankle pretty bad, but he said all week ‘I’m going to play,’” said fellow senior, right guard B.J. Guerra. “He came out here in his last game and played his best.”
“He shocked me,” Wulff said. “He came in and played his tail off. He’s was operating pretty well, so we kept in the game.”