After spending the past two seasons with the San Francisco 49’ers, Paul Wulff is returning to college football as offensive coordinator for the University of South Florida Bulls. Whether coach Wille Taggert knows it or not, USF hired a quality man who brings a wealth of coaching experience and integrity to the Bulls football program.
Wulff will always be a Coug.
Highly recruited out of high school, he was a standout player at Washington State lettering four years from 1986-89, graduating in the spring of 1990. Paul was in Pullman during the coaching carousel days, meaning he played for three different head coaches (Jim Walden, Dennis Erickson and Mike Price).
The Cougs won the Aloha Bowl in 1988, a season where he earned honorable mention All Pac-10 as the center for that team. He followed that up with a senior campaign which earned him second team All Pac-10 and honorable mention as a Sporting News All-American. Paul was both center and long snapper for the Cougs during his playing career.
Injuries during the pre-season ended Wulff’s shot at the NFL with the Jets. He would go on to play in the World League for a couple of seasons before hanging up his cleats.
When a committee was formed in 2007 to begin the process of finding new leadership for Cougar football, Wulff was tapped to take on rebuilding from top to bottom.
Paul took over as the Washington State head coach in 2008, his “dream” job, only to discover the rebuilding process might better be termed complete reconstruction. Cougar football lacked Pac-10 caliber athletes and the character expected from WSU student-athletes.
The foundation set in place by Paul Wulff made it possible for a turnaround to begin. He was forced to start with scholarship sanctions by the NCAA because of unacceptable academic performance by student-athletes. Paul worked with his players to improve their classroom performance and conduct themselves appropriately on and off the field.
During his four-year stint in Pullman, Wulff was not able to produce a winning season going 9-40 including an abysmal 4-32 in conference play.
WSU athletic director Bill Moos pulled the plug on the Wulff era, seizing the opportunity to bring in Mike Leach for both coaching and marquis value.
This writer will always hold Paul Wulff in high regard because of a number of reasons.
First and foremost, Paul is a Coug. Beyond that, he brought passion back to his players and everyone associated with Cougar football. You never would have known he failed to gain fan support, primarily because of four consecutive losing seasons.
The man who was the face of Cougar football conducted himself admirably at all times.
Wulff always was available to media regardless of the situation. He would even take conference calls on a Sunday night to provide information from the previous week and preview upcoming opponents. The manner in which he conducted himself during each and every session was respectful, though that courtesy wasn’t always returned in kind.
If you’re a Monday morning quarterback, it isn’t tough to argue the Cougs would have won more football games in 2012 had Wulff remained in the fold rather than changing direction to first-year coach Mike Leach. That’s part of the charm of the college game. Talking “what if” is contagious and an entertainment form in and of itself.
So after two years of NFL coaching experience Paul Wulff will be back in the college game…a place where he has flourished in the past. During his eight seasons at Eastern Washington, the Eagles won two Big Sky Conference championships, named conference coach of the year in 2001, 2004, and 2005 while advancing to post season play three times. His record at Eastern was 53-40 and had winning seasons seven of the eight years.
Turning 44 next month, there is a lot of coaching left in Paul Wulff. He will be asked to breath life back into a USF offense that was just plain awful last year ranking 121st out of 123 Division I teams.
One thing is certain, he won’t hesitate to call a play-action from the 1-yard line if there’s a good chance of beating a defense. And his work ethic should inspire young men to perform beyond expectations.
As Coach would say time and time again, “GO COUGS!!!”