PULLMAN – Mike Leach would like to hear the back story on why Eastern Washington colored its football field red, but the Washington State coach wouldn’t jump at an opportunity to trade the green turf in Pullman for the non-traditional surface in Cheney.
Nor would the pupils in his eyes.
“I’ve seen it on film and I’ve been by the field one time,” Leach said Monday during a weekly news conference ahead of Saturday’s clash with the FCS Eagles. “I never have heard the story on why they do that. Let me just say that from a practice standpoint, I’m glad I don’t have to watch practice on the bright red turf every day. I’m glad it’s a mellower, less bright color. I’m sure they have pretty strong eyes over there at Eastern after doing that.”
He is curious about its origins.
“But why do they have the red turf?” Leach asked Monday. “Do they know?”
So, a brief history lesson for the Cougar coach, and any WSU fan unfamiliar with the roots of the red: In 2010, former EWU and Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Michael Roos pledged $500,000 to the installation of a new playing surface. Ex-EWU athletic director Bill Chaves figured the off-colored turf could bring the Eagles more notoriety, citing the attention Boise State got after introducing its iconic blue turf in 1986.
“In a similar vein we have a tremendous opportunity at Eastern to do the same by differentiating ourselves with the red turf while providing a superior playing surface,” Chaves told The Spokesman-Review in 2010.
The Eagles have the most recognizable field in the FCS and their time on the red turf has certianly coincided with a pretty successful football spree.
While Leach is certainly not the most conventional coach out there, he is in favor of a conventional football field.
“Well I think you need a neutral color, I think green’s a good color,” he said. “I think green’s nearly a perfect color.”
Leach also isn’t a huge proponent of the synthetic playing surfaces most schools use now, and wouldn’t mind reverting back to the natural grass fields he grew up playing and coaching on.
“The reason they don’t is because of maintenance, but there was a time where battle conditions for football would vary based on the surface and the weather and what not,” he said. “And if you throw the ball like we do, a lot of people would argue you’d want the consistent surface, but I’ve always thought the terrain was kind of a fun part of the whole equation. … The maintenance department would be happy because a whole bunch of guys would be hired to maintain that sucker.”