November 30, 2011 in Sports

Probably candidates to be the new WSU football coach

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Associated Press photo

New Washington State coaching candidate Mike Leach went 84-43 at Texas Tech, with nine bowl appearances in 10 years.
(Full-size photo)

PULLMAN – So who is on Bill Moos’ list?

Washington State’s athletic director said Tuesday that, like most everyone in his position, he has a list of possible candidates available if he has to make a coaching change.

Now he’s made one with his football coach, and he’s looking for someone to spark interest in the WSU program.

Moos was asked about a few names in his press conference and shared some of his thoughts. He was also asked what he was looking for in his next coach.

“Ideally, a current head coach or someone with head coaching experience,” Moos answered.

Here are people he mentioned and a few other names that might be on what he called his “short list.”

Dave Christensen

The Wyoming head coach is from Everett, went to Washington and was considered for the WSU job when Wulff was hired.

At that time he was the offensive coordinator at Missouri, before being named the Cowboys’ head coach in 2009. Though Wyoming is just 17-18 overall under Christensen, it is 7-3 this season and third in the Mountain West Conference.

Before Missouri, Christensen coached at Toledo, Idaho State, Washington and Community Colleges of Spokane.

• Pros: He knows the Northwest and was at Missouri when WSU president Elson Floyd was part of the administration.

• Cons: Probably not a big enough name to excite the Cougars’ fan base.

Ron English

Eastern Michigan’s head coach spent most of his early coaching career on the West Coast after graduating from California in 1990.

But after stints at Northern Arizona, San Diego and Arizona State, he moved to Michigan in 2003, where he eventually moved up to defensive coordinator.

After a year at Louisville in the same position, he accepted the Eastern Michigan position in 2009. After a winless first season and only two in his second, Eastern Michigan has won six games this year and is headed to a bowl.

• Pros: A hot, relative inexpensive coach who is building a track record.

• Cons: A Northwest newbie, with little name recognition.

Mark Helfrich

Helfrich is in his third year as Oregon’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, coming to the Ducks when Chip Kelly took over as head coach.

Before joining the Oregon staff for the second time – he was a graduate assistant in 1997, when Moos was athletic director at the school – he coached quarterbacks at Colorado, Arizona State and Boise State.

• Pros: Young (37), innovative offensive coach with Northwest ties, having grown up in Medford, Ore.

• Cons: An unknown who has never been a head coach before and has no connection to Washington State.

Mike Leach

It was obvious from Moos’ comments the former Texas Tech head coach is the front-runner – and would bring interest to the Palouse.

“Pretty good record,” Moos said of Leach. “Ten winning seasons, 10 bowl games. I’ve read his book.

“He’s intriguing. I certainly enjoyed my conversations with him last spring. I do hear and believe he wants to get back into it. I hear his name in a lot of different jobs that are popping right now.”

Leach is a California native with no Washington State ties – if you don’t count speaking at WSU’s football coaches’ clinic earlier this year, at Paul Wulff’s invitation.

A respected offensive coordinator at Kentucky and Oklahoma, he became the Red Raiders’ head coach in 2000.

While at Texas Tech, Leach’s teams had prolific offenses, leading to an 84-43 record and nine bowl appearances in 10 years with the Red Raiders.

But his Tech tenure ended in controversy in 2009 when ESPN analyst Craig James alleged Leach, 50, forced his son Adam, who had a concussion, to stand in a shed during practice.

After Leach was fired in the fallout from the incident, he sued the university in a case that is winding its way through the Texas state courts.

Leach’s name has been linked to many openings, including Kansas, Arizona State and UCLA.

• Pros: A big name that should jump-start the conversation of WSU football – and lead to increased donations.

• Cons: Expensive, eccentric and has a cloud over his head based on the Texas Tech situation.

Jim McElwain

Alabama’s offensive coordinator has ties to the area, having graduated from Eastern Washington in 1984. The Missoula native started his coaching career at Eastern and also worked at Montana State, Louisville, Michigan State, Fresno State and in the NFL.

McElwain, 49, has spent the past three years in charge of the Crimson Tide’s offense and quarterbacks.

• Pros: Longtime college assistant coach ready to take the reins of a program.

• Cons: Name recognition. Not a lot of Cougars fans would know his reputation.

Jim Michalczik

Wulff’s former Washington State roommate is in his eighth season at California, where he returned for a second stint this year, taking over as the offensive coordinator.

Previously Michalczik, from Port Angeles, Wash., was the Bears’ offensive line coach before leaving to accept the offensive coordinator position at Washington, though he made an about-face when Tom Cable was named Oakland Raiders coach and became his offensive line assistant.

Michalczik has also coached at Montana State, Miami and at Oregon State.

• Pros: A Cougar who knows what it takes to win in Pullman.

• Cons: May just be Paul Wulff without the head-coaching experience.

Kevin Sumlin

Houston’s head coach began his career as a graduate assistant at Washington State under coach Mike Price. After spending nearly two decades working at five schools, he was also considered for the WSU position when Wulff was hired.

Instead, he became Houston’s head coach and has led the Cougars to a 35-16 record in his four seasons including a 12-0 record and a No. 6 BCS ranking this year.

Moos said he is interested in Sumlin and he is on his list.

According to published reports, Sumlin, 47, makes $1.13 million, nearly double what Wulff was being paid, though Moos said he’s willing to pay a lot more for the next coach. He is also reported to be atop Arizona State’s wish list.

• Pros: Would be a huge get for WSU, making a national splash that could ripple for a while.

• Cons: Hottest commodity in college coaching right now, which wasn’t the case four years ago. He won’t come cheap.

Justin Wilcox

Tennessee’s defensive coordinator, Wilcox played at Oregon when Moos was athletic director.

He began his coaching career at Boise State as a graduate assistant, moved to California as linebackers coach and then jumped back to Boise as defensive coordinator under coach Chris Petersen.

He moved to Tennessee last year and the Vols have vaulted to 28th nationally in total defense, yielding 22.6 points a game.

• Pros: Young, energetic and knows the West Coast.

• Cons: Never been a head coach and his name is not well-known.


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