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Guest column: For the sake of Washington State athletics, protect Mike Leach

UPDATED: Sat., Oct. 21, 2017

During happier times: WSU Athletic Director Bill Moos introduces new coach Mike Leach in 2011. (File/Associated Press)
During happier times: WSU Athletic Director Bill Moos introduces new coach Mike Leach in 2011. (File/Associated Press)
By Kevin Arthur Penrod Guest columnist

Kind of a lost weekend for Coug fans, huh?

I’m writing to you as a WSU alum and Cougar fan who happens to live in Omaha, Nebraska.

First, I have to stay awake until 1 a.m. – as is unfortunately the regular case – to watch The Cougs get hammered by Cal.

Then, while browsing the Travel Section at a favorite Omaha bookstore on Sunday afternoon, more wind is let out of my sails when one of my Omaha pals texts me with the shocking news: Nebraska has just poached our athletic director. Within minutes, after I register my complete shock and surprise to this buddy in Omaha that Bill Moos, a personal acquaintance and family friend of 40-plus years, has jilted my university “family” for Nebraska, my Omaha pal asks me if my connection to Moos can be leveraged to get him tickets to Cornhuskers games.

After swallowing my first inclination to tell him to take a long walk off a short pier, I simply refuse to respond.

But a long day and even longer night of angst, panic and worry about what may be the next shoe to drop – Mike Leach’s imminent departure to some other poacher – I call the office number for WSU President Kirk Schulz to leave an urgent message. In this voice mail among my comments is included this: “I admonish you to protect the WSU football program and strongly urge you to first prevent Mike Leach from leaving WSU while you consider who will lead the Washington State University athletic department.” This is the centerpiece of my controlled, yet firm, message to President Schulz.

I’m a Coug alum living in Nebraska who feels completely left in the lurch like a jilted lover by Bill Moos. Humiliated.

I’m worried. I’m also depressed and staring squarely at the “Here We Go Again” state of affairs that too many Cougar fans and WSU alumni have been forced to deal with over the decades when our program is chosen by the “haves” of college football who seem to find in Pullman, Washington, The Holy Grail – and an ever-present “have not” – to go to for the inspiration to rebuild their flagging football fortunes.

I feel embarrassed, betrayed and simply slack-jawed by Moos’ sudden departure from his home, his alma mater, his Cougar family. At the age of 67, Moos thinks this is the job he wants to run toward? Bill, I never thought you would do this to me and the rest of Cougar Nation. Bill, you are the last guy I would’ve expected this from.

So, our football fortunes, (and don’t mistake this for anything else), lie in the hands of Schulz, a fellow who has shown less than stellar enthusiasm for WSU’s football and athletic resurgence. Shulz leaves me with little confidence that he can heal the pain of losing Moos – if ever there was a lifelong Coug, Moos was it – and bring in a new AD who can heal the wound of Moos’ sudden departure, shore up the gaping hole and keep Leach happy.

My telephone message to Schulz emphasized, (in strong yet level tones), that no matter how you view it, athletics is indeed the so-called “front porch” for the university as a whole. Athletics brand WSU as either a “winning place” or “Loserville.” As an alum, CAF donor and Cougar fan (and part of a family that has sent generations of members to WSU for an education, has donated to the Cougar Club since 1951, and helped financially as Stadium Builders for Martin Stadium in 1971 to the tune of $10,000.00), I have to admit today I feel like a discarded piece of trash with a university president who simply doesn’t feel as strongly about Cougar athletics as I do.

What the heck, Schulz really isn’t a Coug. He’s some stranger from Kansas State who’s been in Pullman a couple of years at most.

RIP, (former WSU President) Elson Floyd. We sure could use that visionary man now. I fear for the future of WSU athletics. Just protect Leach, that’s all I can say.

Kevin Arthur Penrod, a 1981 graduate of Washington State University, lives in Omaha, Neb.

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