PULLMAN – Bill Moos has said all along he wants to make Washington State a destination for coaches, not a waystation.
“This place deserves big-name people,” he said earlier this week during the press conference announcing Paul Wulff’s firing.
Wednesday, Moos roped in one of the bigger names in the college football coaching ranks, former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach.
Leach agreed in principle to a five-year contract that will pay him more than $10 million, according to athletic department sources. He’ll be introduced as WSU’s 32nd head football coach at a press conference Tuesday.
“I have spoken about the need to re-energize our fan base and take Cougar football to the next level,” Moos said in a news release. “I believe hiring Mike Leach accomplishes both those goals. His credentials speak for themselves.”
“I’ve always admired the tradition of Washington State,” Leach said in the same release. “It’s a university on the move that is experiencing growth.”In Leach, Washington State has attracted one of the hottest commodities in the nation – on the field. But the way his tenure at Texas Tech ended made him somewhat of a pariah.
In late December 2009, Tech suspended Leach after Adam James, son of ESPN commentator Craig James, alleged he had been isolated in an equipment room when he couldn’t practice due to a concussion.
The incident, added atop Leach’s acrimonious contract negotiations with the school, eventually led to his dismissal. Within weeks Leach, a 1986 graduate of Pepperdine Law School, had sued the school for wrongful termination.
Before the year was out he sued ESPN and a public relations firm for libel and slander. Both suits are still in litigation.
On the field Leach developed his reputation as an offensive innovator at Valdosta State and Kentucky, before moving on to Oklahoma as offensive coordinator under Bob Stoops. Former Arizona head coach Mike Stoops was the defensive coordinator when Leach was at Oklahoma.
Named Texas Tech head coach in 2000, his Red Raider teams won seven games the first two seasons, then never less than eight until he was let go in 2009. They played in bowl games each of those 10 years, though Leach did not coach in the 2009 Alamo Bowl.
When he was let go, Leach was making a reported $2.5 million per year.
Leach’s Tech teams led the nation in passing six times and only in his first year finished out of the top five.
“I’m not going to hire somebody whose going to run the Houston veer,” Moos said Tuesday. “I do believe you do feel the seats by having a flashy, high-octane offense that lights up the scoreboard.
“And then you comeback and win the championships with defense.”
The Red Raiders finished in the top 10 in scoring seven times while Leach was head coach.
Leach was born in Bakersfield, Calif., in 1961, though he grew up in Cody, Wyoming. He attended Brigham Young when LaVell Edwards was the coach, though he didn’t play football.
His first assistant coaching job was at Cal Poly before spending a year at the College of the Desert, a junior college in Palmdale, Calif., with much of the rest of career spent in the South and Southwest.
It has been a whirlwind week for the Cougars, who completed a 4-8 season Saturday with a 38-21 Apple Cup defeat to Washington. Within the next 48 hours, Moos says he pondered Wulff’s future before ending his four-year tenure at WSU on Tuesday morning.
Wulff, who played at Washington State in the late 1980s, was 9-40 in his four years at his alma mater.