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Grip on Sports: The middle of this week has a little more to offer than usual

Gonzaga forward Jill Barta is shooting 65 percent from the field in her last five games. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Jill Barta is shooting 65 percent from the field in her last five games. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • There is a check list of items that need to be covered today. There are the letter-of-intent signings from yesterday. And there are basketball games tonight. Just your typical middle of the week. Read on.


• Not really, though. Take what happened in Pullman yesterday. Not typical at all. There were eight new football recruits announced. That would be a low number for the first Wednesday in February – in the past. But with the NCAA splitting football signings in two this year, it felt rather mundane.

Heck, even Mike Leach seemed to be on board with the new rule and he’s not one of those guys who embrace change every five minutes.

But another change did occur in Pullman on Wednesday. The last of Leach’s original assistant coaches, offensive line guru Clay McGuire, left to head back to Lubbock, Texas. That’s where his alma mater is and the school that Leach hates the most resides.

And this development, the fourth assistant coach to leave since last season, didn’t seem to make Leach too happy. Whether it was because McGuire, who had played for and coached with Leach at TTU, was leaving the nest or it was more about where he was headed, it’s hard to be sure. After all, Leach is still in litigation against the school, so there’s that.

His advice to McGuire probably included some sort of admonition about getting all his money up front.

• There are two perspectives concerning signing day. There is the perspective of the schools, who are looking to improve their status, ensure their future and win the day in the media.

And then there is the student’s perspective. For each kid who signs a letter of intent, regardless of the sport or the school they are attending, the day is a culmination of a dream.

Maybe it’s a dream they’ve been having since they were young, when they fell asleep on Saturday night’s after having told their parents when they got to Faber, they were going to kick Pennbrook University’s behind every year. Or maybe it was just last week when they decided to sign with Grand Lakes University.

Either way, yesterday was the culmination of a lot of hard work. And the beginning of the most transformational years of their lives.

• The college basketball weekend begins today, with most of the local schools on the road. Gonzaga visits Pacific, with the showdown at Saint Mary’s looming Saturday. Washington State is at Oregon State, in one of their final chances to win a conference road game. (Mark down Feb. 22 as the other, best chance. That’s when the Cougars are at California.) Only Idaho is at home this weekend and that’s because the Vandals host Eastern on Friday.


WSU: There are three stories to pass along from Theo Lawson this morning. The first is about Leach and the second signing day, as the Cougars, you may be shocked to hear, inked their best class ever. Well, at least the best since Leach has been in town. And, actually, it might be true. … There is also the story concerning McGuire’s departure. … Finally, Theo previews the basketball weekend. … Oregon State wants more from its bench, starting tonight against the Cougars. … Signing day and the McGuire news are both covered by Stefanie Loh in the Times.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12, we have two tiers of links, with basketball up first than football. … UCLA is at Arizona tonight and there are still tickets available. What in the name of Lute Olson is happening? … Meanwhile, Arizona State’s attendance is the best it’s been in years. USC travels to the desert this weekend. … There was one game last night, with California coming close to upset at Colorado. … Utah hosts Stanford tonight, hoping to string together some wins. … Oregon and Washington are two of the biggest surprises in the conference’s basketball season. Guess which one is not positive. … On the football front, we have stories from Washington, which signed its best class ever, to Arizona State, which picked up a couple players, and everywhere in between. There are stories from Oregon and from up the road at Oregon State. Stanford’s best recruit is going on a mission. USC made a late surge. UCLA has Chip Kelly. Utah is filling in holes. Colorado needs help now. Arizona found another quarterback.

Gonzaga: As we said, the road beckons, with tonight’s game in Stockton kicking off a tough stretch for the Zags. Jim Meehan previews the tough next couple of weeks. … He also looks at Pacific’s biggest threat. … The women’s basketball team has won 14 consecutive games and gets to spend the weekend at home. Jim Allen has a preview. … The baseball team was picked fourth in the WCC preseason poll. … Around the WCC, San Diego is used to playing close games. … BYU needs to bounce back against the conference’s lower end.

EWU: Jim Allen has a story on Eastern’s football recruiting class. There were more players signed than expected.

Idaho: The Vandals rounded out their football recruiting with a class of 22 players. It is the first FCS group in a while and that made things different for Paul Petrino and his staff. Peter Harriman covers all that in this story.

Chiefs: Spokane picked up another road win, this one 3-1 in Kamloops.

Preps: It was a big night for hoops as the GSL teams began district play. We can pass along roundups for GSL boys and girls as well as girls and boys roundups from around the area. … Dave Nichols focused on the signing day ceremony at University High as a way of telling the day’s importance in one story. … Tom Clouse has a piece on the upcoming bond and levy elections in the area and how they might affect our local football facilities. … Back to signing day, the News Tribune has a story on East Valley’s Rodrick Fisher.

Seahawks: Russell Wilson forced a trade. From the Rangers to the Yankees. Why? What does it mean for the Hawks? … Seattle’s special teams have to get better.

Mariners: The bullpen should be solid. “Should be” being the operative phrase with all bullpens.


• Usually this is where I would be telling you to look for my TV Take tonight after the Gonzaga game. But I have to take the night off. So I will be watching the game via the DVR and won’t be writing. I may have some comments tomorrow in this space, however. Until then …

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