PULLMAN – On a mercifully mild December late afternoon, in the glare of Martin Stadium lights, Washington State’s football players got to keep practicing football.
The Cougars started preparing for a bowl destination they won’t learn until Sunday. The work probably helped them put the Apple Cup defeat a little farther in the rear-view mirror.
“They better. You have to move on,” WSU coach Mike Leach said.
For football players, there are few places they would rather be than on a field full of teammates.
“We worked the older guys, kept them sharp, and we worked to develop the younger guys,” Leach said.
“We worked on a lot of base stuff,” Leach said of the two-hour session.
Game planning for a specific opponent will begin Sunday.
This being the waiting season, ancillary aspects of college football shared the spotlight with the activity on the turf – recruiting, for instance.
“We had to scramble today. Everybody came off the road,” Leach said of assistant coaches who returned to Pullman for the start of practice after spending the past week wooing the next generation of Cougars.
WSU announced Thursday that Leach had agreed to a contract extension. WSU added a year to his existing deal that pays him $4 million annually through 2024.
In addition, it includes a one-time retention bonus of $750,000 following next season.
Although WSU is barely bowl eligible this year at 6-6, the Cougars are going to their fifth straight bowl under Leach. He is 55-46 with the Cougars since his first season (2012).
It is the kind of résumé that gets him mentioned at the conclusion of every season as schools jettison coaches and look for new leadership. This year, speculation connected Leach to openings at Arkansas and Missouri, and a phony social media post had him taking over at Mississippi.
His contract with WSU rolls over annually, Leach pointed out, and adding a fifth year basically covers an entire recruiting cycle. That gives WSU coaches credibility when they assure recruits Leach will be their coach through their entire college career.
“I do think it does help,” Leach said. “(My contract) is always at five years.”
WSU came out of the Apple Cup without losing anyone to injury. Beginning with Friday’s practice the Cougars have an opportunity to regain the momentum to end the year on a high note.
“I’ve never been to a bad bowl game,” Leach said. “They’re all good.”
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