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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

WSU coach Mike Leach thinks his Cougars should have made the New Year’s Six. Here’s why his wallet agrees with him.

Mike Leach is a straight shooter. A media magnet. A lover of In-N-Out, no matter the setting, and a coach who lost out on several bonuses at the end of the 2018 regular season.

So it’s no surprise that last Wednesday, just a day after the College Football Playoff committee released its rankings putting the two-loss Washington State Cougars on the outside looking in following their sixth straight Apple Cup loss to the Washington Huskies, he and athletic director Pat Chun pleaded their case to USA Today.

“We have earned the right to be considered the best 10-2 team,” Leach told the news organization. After all, four 9-3 teams were ahead of them in the standings – No. 9 Florida, No. 10 LSU, No. 11 Washington and No. 12 Penn State, though Leach and Chun conceded they shouldn’t be placed ahead of the Huskies. To make a premium bowl game, a team must be ranked in the top 12.

“It doesn’t make any sense to us,” Chun said of their No. 13 ranking.

Before the snow-filled loss to the Huskies, the Cougars had only one loss and controlled their destiny as the eighth-ranked team in the nation. A win would have cemented a spot in the Pac-12 championship against then-No. 17 Utah, and had they won, a berth in a premium bowl game.

Instead, the Cougars (10-2) will head to the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 28 in San Antonio to face Iowa State (8-4). The bowl pairings were announced Sunday.

Leach is also a college football coach – a group of millionaires that get a little richer the more they win. The bigger the stage, the bigger the paycheck.

Similar to other coaches, Leach has hundreds of thousands of dollars in incentives wrapped up in his employment contract. In a story first reported by, had Leach won the Apple Cup and kept on winning, he could have been looking at an extra $400,000 – including $25,000 for winning the Apple Cup, a feat Leach has only reached once – on top of his $3.5 million salary.

Leach also could have earned a $100,000 bonus if selected to a premium New Year’s Six game: the Sugar, Rose, Orange, Cotton, Peach or Fiesta bowls. The Huskies clinched a Rose Bowl berth with a 10-3 victory against Utah on Friday night in the Pacific-12 Conference championship game.

Leach will received a $75,000 bonus for reaching the Alamo Bowl, a nonpremium bowl game.

Other incentives in Leach’s contract include:

    $200,000 for a College Football Playoff semifinal appearance. If he wins a playoff game, $300,000. Win the national championship and it’s $400,000 (these numbers do not stack).

    $50,000 for being Pac-12 North champions, or $100,000 if crowned Pac-12 Conference champions.

    $100,000 for making the top 10 in the national rankings, or $50,000 for being ranked in the top 25.

    $25,000 for being named the Pac-12 Coach of The Year, and an additional $50,000 for National Coach of the Year.

    $15,000 for a ranking in the top four in Pac-12 public school graduation rates, or $25,000 for taking the crown.

On the other side of the Cascades, Coach Chris Petersen has a similar set of incentives. His contract allows for $1,050,000 in bonuses – a handsome payday for a man that is already the highest earning state employee.

Leach, the second-highest-earning state employee, meanwhile, can make a maximum of $725,000 in incentives.