The past few days have been filled with good news for Washington State Cougar football fans.
Topping the list of reasons joy has returned to Pullman would be the hard fought road win earned last Saturday over Arizona down in the desert.
Preceding the customary weekly media session held by WSU head coach Mike Leach, a very meaningful reason for Cougs everywhere to rejoice was a significant announcement by Bill Moos, athletic director.
Mike Leach will remain on board as captain of Cougar football clearly on a course toward becoming relevant in both the Pac-12 and on a national vista.
“I’m excited about Washington State and Pullman. Glad I’m going to be here. Planned to be here to begin with from the beginning.”
– WSU Coach Mike Leach
Perhaps part of the previous quote reads a bit awkwardly, but there’s nothing clumsy about the methods Leach is implementing.
With the extension of Leach’s contract for another 5-years, the program will be on solid ground through 2018. That fact is a real plus when battling with other schools for top prospects.
WSU has one of the elite coaches in all of college football at the helm. Bill Moos has aggressively upgraded facilities to catch up with the rest of the Pac-12. Martin Stadium has been tweaked into a special place to enjoy a football game. The team will have a new home very soon with the completion of a new Football Operations Building.
And recruiting is riding this wave of favorable components intended to raise up Cougar football.
“Excited to have a bunch of good recruits with me as we break in that brand new building. We’re getting better all the time so we’re excited about it,” beamed Leach.
Leach took the opportunity during his press conference to expand on what factors are contributing to the resurrection of Cougar football.
Anyone following the Cougs is fully aware that it’s been a tumultuous transition from the days of Mike Price and 10-win seasons. For those who have remained on board for the long haul, jubilant moments are becoming more and more characteristic of the Leach era.
For the Washington State senior class, this Saturday will be their last opportunity to play the game they love in front of fans filling Martin Stadium.
Coach Leach talked about his senior class citing their contribution to the team. “Instrumental for building the foundation of what we have going which is going to improve as we go on throughout the future. They are very key to helping lift this off. We’re really excited to have the opportunity to play a couple more games with them.”
In the very next breath, the ever-steady coach and mentor adroitly placed the final home game for his seniors in perspective. “This isn’t really a milestone time. It’s a time to focus on the next play in practice which will be Tuesday. That’s what they need to focus on. All this good old day stuff, they can do it in the good old days…not now.”
The vision Leach brings to the football program is not intended to be for everyone simply because they are great athletes and good guys. Since arriving in Pullman, there have been a number of players who have left the program due to changes they couldn’t abide by.
“There’s a way and a philosophy that I believe in,” Leach explains. “There’s certain rules that can’t be violated, in my opinion. Academics (are) important in my opinion. Along with that, on the field, and doing the right thing, academics accountability is a part of that… otherwise (it’s all) just words.”
Though Leach and his staff have a history of providing tremendous support to every student-athlete on his roster, there is a price to pay. Whether on scholarship or a walk on, his guys must be accountable.
“Accountability is a positive. It’s important in a lot of things. If a guy wants to improve as a player he has to hold himself accountable. If he wants to be a better player his coaches and teammates need to hold him accountable to improve. You need to keep raising the bar over and over. I think it’s just part of the process. It’s just something that’s important to exist in any level of competition or achievement.”
“We’ve got some guys that aren’t here…they didn’t buy in. They didn’t want to commit. They didn’t want to work that hard. The felt like the demands of the program were too much. (They) felt like being a guy their teammates could count on was too high of a price to pay. If they feel like that, they don’t belong here. You start to hone in on the guys that do belong. They’re committed and they think the same thing. On “60 Minutes” Nick Saban (said) mediocre people don’t like high achievers and high achievers don’t like mediocre people. High achievers want change. Mediocre people don’t want the pressure of accountability and change. At some point you have to get rid of mediocre people and get high achievers. That’s where we’re headed towards.”
Sure, Mike Leach touched on the upcoming opponent this week because that’s how he operates. One game a week. One practice session at a time. One play at a time.
For this writer, all that was overshadowed by the nuggets Leach offered which can inspire not just his team, but anyone pausing to reflect on tried and true ways to be successful.
Not only will Utah have a battle on their hands this Saturday afternoon beginning at 12:30pm PST in Pullman, coaches in the Pac-12 will be contending with a bona fide football program incorporating high expectations for years to come.