Before we start treating Coach Mike Leach like Coach Nickerson of Ampipe High, we as Cougar fans need to slow our expectations and recall exactly where we have been in the years since Mike Price departed in what may be the most embarrassing Cougar experience ever. Expecting perfection or even consistency this early is akin to showing him a beat up ’65 Mustang discovered in a barn out in La Crosse and having it restored in a week.
Bill Doba and Paul Wulff, while beloved Cougs prior to taking the helm, brought the WSU Football program well below the line of mediocrity from a place of tentative prominence. Doba was able to take Price’s success and players out for one more joy ride in 2003, but failed to continue the build, watching the program grow agonizingly stagnant. Wulff took over giving hope to Cougs everywhere, but basically drove the proverbial Mustang into the Latah.
So that is where we brought Mike Leach in. Expectations have been guarded, but upon the most limited breath of success we forget that the journey has merely commenced. Even had the bowl turned out differently, the program is still on a steep incline from where we were.
Logically, we can examine how Leach arrived in Pullman. He was not an up and coming FCS coach nor truly a retread. He stood up for himself against a backlash of entitlement that only a Texas football player can expect. When entitlement meets national prominence of a meddling father and limited athletic ability, Leach seems to hit his limit with a player. We are not likely to run into that situation in Pullman, which is why he can succeed here.
Leach took over at Texas Tech after long time coach Spike Dykes retired, not on the heals of nine wins in four years. He took the reigns of a program that had seen recent success and bowls. When he arrived in Pullman, all we heard was that he took TT to ten straight bowls, and hushed optimism around town said that he would provide the same success immediately. We forgot to talk about the Gallery Furniture and Alamo Bowls that were lost in his first two years.
Well, the cupboards were not completely bare, but some significant culling of the roster was required at Wazzu. The Wulff recruits that remained have been the ones who bought in to CML, to the climate that he brought from Key West, and they have played in a manner that could not have been expected from the same players under Wulff.
More than anything we forget where we were in August, where every Cougar fan looked up and down the schedule, trying to count six wins and not really finding them with confidence. If we had been offered the New Mexico Bowl at any point in the season, we would have taken it, if you disagree, well, you are overly optimistic or a fool. Leach can only rebuild if his parts are there, and largely speaking, and to conclude the analogy, he has been rebuilding his Mustang with parts from a Studebaker, it can be done, but expectations should not for an optimal product.
The Cougs are on track, and though we saw hubris when we wanted consolation from our coach, well, he is the one who brought you. Leach is unique. His eccentricities are what will lead the Cougs to success, so have patience, Cougar fans. We have waited a decade for a bowl win, we have waited six decades previously, so though the wounds are still raw from Saturday, it is time to heal and enjoy the holidays. Keep a thick skin when the Husky cousins give you grief, and remind them that we are not in danger of NCAA or Pac-12 sanctions, but more importantly that we are proud of who we are and the progress we have made.