PULLMAN – A roundabout recruiting trip finally brought Mike Leach back to Pullman just a shade after 3 a.m. on Saturday and no more than eight hours later, the Washington State coach was blowing a whistle and orchestrating the Cougars’ second bowl practice at Martin Stadium.
The simple fact that Leach was back in Pullman wearing a crimson hat and grey sweater is something that’ll make WSU fans breathe a little easier this holiday season. For a few days about one week ago, it felt like the coach’s future in Pullman was uncertain as Leach reportedly met with former Tennessee athletic director John Currie about the Volunteers’ head coaching position.
Until Currie was suspended and ultimately fired by UT, rumors swirled about Leach’s status and the WSU coach certrainly wasn’t unaware of the speculation.
“You just ignore them, just ignore them,” he said. “Just do your job and focus on your job.”
For the foreseeable future, that’s the one in Pullman. Though, given Leach’s success at WSU over the last six years, and given his popularity across the college football landscape, it’s likely his name will resurface whenever other Power Five jobs open up.
“It’s kind of an annual deal,” Leach said. “You’re either on one of two lists. You’re either the guy that’s going to get other jobs or you’re going to get fired. So yeah, it’s better than the alternative.”
In a brief meeting with the media following Saturday’s practice, Leach addressed, but did not necessarily expand on, the status of wide receiver Isaiah Johnson-Mack. WSU’s third-leading receiver expressed a desire to transfer from the football program more than a week ago, then drafted a tweet two days later claiming Leach refused to grant his release.
The player and coach were unable to meet on Friday as originally planned because Leach’s flight from Seattle to Pullman was turned back. Leach and Johnson-Mack hadn’t spoken as of Saturday afternoon, but the coach said the wideout from Belle Glade, Florida, isn’t practicing with the Cougars and isn’t expected to play in the Dec. 28 Holiday Bowl versus Michigan State.
Asked if he would grant Johnson-Mack’s release, the WSU coach said, “I certainly wouldn’t share that with you.”
According to a report from The Seattle Times, Leach is currently in contract negotiations with WSU and was supposed to meet with President Kirk Schulz on Saturday to go over a potential extension.
Leach and Schulz hadn’t met by the time Saturday’s 11:30 a.m. practice began, but the coach said “I talk to him on a regular basis.”
WSU practices Sunday at the same time, but if Leach does intend to meet with Johnson-Mack and/or Schulz in person, it’ll probably have to happen Sunday afternoon. Due to the NCAA’s new early signing period, the Leach and most of his assistants will be on the road recruiting for the third consecutive week. Many of the WSU coaches plan to leave Sunday night and return Wednesday evening for Thursday’s practice.
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