WSU Football: Mike Leach, the Rise Up Board and Motivating a Team Past the Scoreboard


Oct 31, 2013; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars coach Mike Leach reacts during the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Leach has come to Washington State with what is a “massive under-taking” to some and a “huge rebuilding project” to others. While actually not entirely true, the common consensus when Mike Leach took over a 23 months ago was that the roster was a bare cupboard, full of low level FBS players or high level D-II kids.

I think it’s pretty clear that the aforementioned consensus is a lot off-base, but at the same time it’s also clear that the talent level at Washington State is not on the overall level of the upper echelon of the Pac-12. Still, fans are demanding more than the “progress” that is being shown by one of the youngest rosters in the entire nation (still).

Some are going off their rocker and saying that Mike Leach needs to change his approach to the game! Thank you, all of you mini- Marquess Wilson’s, for your valuable input on how to run a successful football program.

The point is, three straight blowout losses have a lot of WSU people on edge and fair or not, the fan base is for some reason becoming impatient. Yesterday, this article by Jeff Nusser of Coug Center sparked a somewhat heated debate (which you can see in the comments) about the use of the “Rise Up Board” employed by the Leach coaching staff.

Nusser’s frustration with the board is that he is not a fan of the implied “moral victories” that it represents. He even points out that he thought the Cougs were “over” this kind of rouse to get the kids ready to play and apparently feels that the board is a way to help the kids feel better about themselves without actually accomplishing anything.

First, the Rise Up Board (RUB) is not a rouse, but rather reflects real plays, real effort and good football. While it is great for morale in the face of whatever is happening on the scoreboard, it is more than a moral victory tracker. There is no reason the team should be “over” this sort of thing. No team should be over this sort of thing, but every coach does it differently.

The board charts things in all phases of the game, including kickoff returns past the 25, 3-and-outs, plays of so many yards, at least 1 first down in the offensive drive, punt returns of more than 15 yards, etc. Of course it also goes up if you make big plays, such as ints or touchdowns, but gets erased to zero for bad plays and penalties as well.

In a nutshell, it tracks the amount of good football you have put together consecutively, which is far more important than anything else in football. Momentum is a very real thing, this is a good way to chart how much momentum you have accumulated at any given time.

To me, for anyone to point this out as a negative thing is just ignorant and calls question to your “football IQ” or intelligence as a football fan in general. When the board got up to 6 against ASU, the Cougs were in the process of reeling off 14 straight points and were playing good football without hurting themselves. I’m guessing the board got up to 8 or 9 as the Cougs would get another first down and scored a touchdown after the board was shown on tv.

The fake punts erased all of the momentum eventually, but the idea is to make your team compete for more than just the score. In the past, that has been a major problem and Leach harped on that very thing all of last season.

The RUB is a positive response by the coaching staff to help their team focus on the next play and the next opportunity to increase that number by just doing your job as a person and as a unit. I think it’s important that this team understands that a 3-and-out is just as important as a turnover, or that a return across the 25 is a positive thing, creating field position for the offense. It’s also supposed to keep the players from trying too hard to hit the home run on every play and to just do the job necessary to increase the momentum on your own sideline.

The final score is definitely important, but not as important as improving your play as a team. We’re not a top team in our conference and every coach has their way of motivating their players regardless of what the scoreboard says. The RUB isn’t for us, it’s for the players. It’s another motivator to play the best football you can play, regardless of what the opponent is doing. It’s a symbol that a bunch of small things add up quickly for your side and that it’s a long game so keep playing.

If the board is high, you’re playing good football as a group, which means it’s also a reminder for playing as a team and that all three phases of the game are important. As a Cougar fan, why would you knock that?