PULLMAN – One of the most robust pipelines in the college football coaching world is the one that exists between the golden wheat fields of the Palouse and the evergreen forests of the Willamette Valley.
Not since 2015 has Mike Leach made it through the offseason without seeing one of his assistant coaches swap crimson Washington State polo shirts and caps for the green – and not just the apparel – that Oregon has to offer.
Jan. 13, 2016: Washington State inside receivers coach David Yost is hired by Mark Helfrich as Oregon’s new quarterback coach and passing game coordinator.
Jan. 12, 2017: Defensive line coach Joe Saleve’a leaves Pullman to coach the same position in Eugene for Willie Taggart.
Jan. 21, 2018: Reports surface that longtime Cougar running backs coach Jim Mastro has accepted an offer from Mario Cristobal to work as Oregon’s run game coordinator and running backs coach.
Jan. 23, 2019: Linebackers coach Ken Wilson, another one of the longest-tenured members of Leach’s staff, joins Cristobal’s staff in the same capacity.
If the situation was different, Oregon’s constant pilfering of WSU coaches might be considered an epidemic. But because the Cougars have stacked up four consecutive wins against Oregon dating back to 2015, and have done an admirable job of filling the vacancies left by the assistant coaches who’ve jumped ship, most fans have gotten a kick out of the Ducks – known for their pageantry and deep pockets – picking off Leach’s assistants year after year.
“If you can’t beat them, buy them,” one fan offered on Twitter Monday afternoon.
The 11th-ranked Ducks (6-1, 4-0) are 15-point favorites to beat the unranked Cougars (4-3, 1-3) Saturday night at Autzen Stadium, and this seems to be Oregon’s best chance in recent memory to end the skid against WSU.
Yost left Oregon when Helfrich was fired and has had two stops since, but the three other ex-WSU assistants – Salave’a, Mastro and Wilson – will be on hand when the Pac-12 North foes clash in Eugene. Since he joined the Ducks, Salave’a has been elevated to associate head coach, co-defensive coordinator and defensive run-game coordinator, while retaining his defensive line coaching duties.
“They have brought on quite a few. I don’t know, they ought to just call me up and I’ll see if I can help them with anything they need,” Leach quipped Monday, finding some of the same humor in Oregon’s trend of hiring his assistant coaches as the fans have.
“‘Oregon, what are you looking for?’” Leach said, imitating an imaginary conversation between he and Cristobal. “‘Yeah, well, I’ll see if I can help you.’ That’s what I need to do.”
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