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Thursday, August 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Mike Leach spent offseason coaching football in Italy

Washington State coach Mike Leach speaks at the Pac-12 NCAA college football media day in Los Angeles on July 14. On Tuesday, Leach accused the media and the local police of unfairly targeting WSU football players. (Reed Saxon / Associated Press)
Washington State coach Mike Leach speaks at the Pac-12 NCAA college football media day in Los Angeles on July 14. On Tuesday, Leach accused the media and the local police of unfairly targeting WSU football players. (Reed Saxon / Associated Press)

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.—From Alaska, to Cuba, to the Florida Keys, Mike Leach’s offseason itinerary has been an atlas of exotic, interesting, and hopefully restful locales.

Oh, he went to Italy, too, but he had to tell airlines security that trip was for “business” not “pleasure.”

See Washington State’s coach traveled to Milan, Italy, to host a football clinic with Chris Ault, who transformed the Nevada Wolfpack’s football program first as its coach, and then again as its athletic director. And then once more as its coach, his third stint as the UNR head man.

Ault also transformed football when he and current WSU running backs coach Jim Mastro crafted the Pistol offense, a whip-quick rushing attack that uses smart spacing and multiple running backs to get ball-carriers downfield quick as a hair trigger.

Ault now coaches the Milano Rhinos and used his relationships with Leach and Mastro to get the WSU head man out for a multi-team workshop in May so that the Italian players could learn two very different offensive philosophies from the coaches who crafted them.

“They play American football in Europe and I coached in Finland for a season,” Leach said. “Chris asked to have me over for a clinic, which I was honored to do. It gave me the chance to travel around the great spots of Europe and do what I could to share football with Italy.”

The camp took place in May, during a spring recruiting period when college coaches aren’t given much opportunity to contact prospective college players. Leach compares the American football played in Europe to soccer played in the United States, generally, in terms of popularity and expertise. Leach also noted that Finland, Germany and the United Kingdom have played it the longest and show the most proficiency.

Leach is admittedly in favor the globalization of America’s favorite sport, an initiative likely to be spearheaded by the Pac-12 conference, which will see California open its season in Australia. While there are obvious recruiting repercussions to increasing the pool of overseas players, Leach, who has coached a plethora of foreign-born players during his career, believes it will be a long time before a recruiting trip to, say, Austria would be a justifiable use of resources.

That said, German Moritz Bohringer was selected in the most recent NFL draft despite having never played at an American college, perhaps a sign that American football is becoming global.

“I would like to see football become a worldwide sport,” Leach said. “Yeah, I would like to see football become fully international instead of just kind of hobbyists overseas. I’d like them fully integrated, no doubt.”

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