WSU Football: Would Mike Leach Ever Pull a ‘Sark/Petersen’?


With news slowing to a crawl now that school is out and we’re into the slowest time of the Summer, it’s time to start thinking out of the box a little bit. We’ve had lots of quotable Mike Leach moments in the past couple of weeks and in one of those interviews he was asked the question how long he was planning on being at Washington State.

His answer “as long as this great institution will have me” shouldn’t have surprised anybody, but it was pointed out to me that I may have taken it a little more positively than perhaps I should have. What I said was that based on the quote, the idea was that he’d be here indefinitely and possibly end his coaching career at WSU.

Now, everybody has their “perfect situation” or “dream job” that they would be forced to take for themselves if they were offered. For Steve Sarkisian it was the USC-gig, even just weeks after saying that he was committed to Washington for the long haul and couldn’t see himself anywhere else. As fallout would have it, Boise State’s Chris Petersen then left the job he couldn’t see himself being away from because of that perfect sitch. This happens all over the country on a regular basis, because what else are coaches going to say, “yes I’d leave in a heart-beat for so and so University if they just asked”?

And heck, WSU has had this happen before… we all remember Mike Price, right? He was the last “lifer”. After 15 years at Wazzu and two Rose Bowls in five years, he had made this place a national powerhouse and a true “home”. The Cougs had been as high as No. 3 that year, everybody thought he was gonna be here another decade. Yeah, Alabama and their checkbook came calling and he was outsies.

Times are different now, but would Leach do the same if the right sorta thing came up? Here’s my thought on this situation and it’s subject to change and/or updating if something unknown comes up.

First, I’m really not sure what Mike Leach’s perfect situation is, none of us do. He may be in it already, you know what I mean? The coach was completely happy in Lubbock until the James situation and Bill Moos lured him out of retirement by selling that this was the perfect fit for he and his personality. He’s a Cowboy and Indians type guy, writing books on Geronimo and such. People like that don’t work just anywhere.

When talking football, Leach is the king here at WSU. Moos backs his every play and he basically runs as a co-chair in every major decision for football that the school makes. There are few other places where he’ll get almost total control of the program and I believe he needs that to be successful which is why Texas Tech worked so well.

Still, with a summer home down in Florida, if the Gators, Canes, Seminoles, Bulls or Knights came calling in the near future, could he pass it up regardless of having to move to the big city? Or there’s the fact that he loves Wyoming and claims Cody as his hometown. If the Cowboys were ever able to put together a similar package to what WSU is giving him (though that’s not going to happen), I think he’d at least have to seriously consider it. After all, if Lubbock and Pullman work… Again I’m just saying everybody has their ideal situation, their “dream job”.

Then again, perhaps he’s already in that idealistic situation for himself? We sometimes forget that Washington State is a very good school in a top conference that has been nationally competitive for a few years at a time with much less than it has today. With Leach and Ernie Kent at the helm of the two top sports, this program is primed to make a push at annual national viability, not just an every-once-in-a-great-while competitive spot on the map.

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

Another perk at Washington State that you won’t find at any of those FL schools, for example, is reasonable expectation within the program. Do the Cougs want to compete for the North and get back to that level that Jason Gesser quarterbacked them to in the early 2000’s? Absolutely they would like to get back to that 10-win per year stature and the ultimate goal is to become an annual contender, but the coaching staff certainly doesn’t have to do that to keep Moos or the alums happy.

This could change, but Cougar fans are sometimes even a little too short-sided in their view of how competitive their school could or should be. Part of that is understandable though, because the last decade has beaten us down so much as fans that sometimes its impossible to see our team competing on a national level, where we’re looking at that “#25 Wash. St.” rolling across the ESPN scroller on Saturday’s.

So reasonably, to keep everybody happy, the Cougars just need to be competitive enough, keep going to bowls and once every five to seven year make a run at a Rose Bowl. That’s something totally doable for this coaching staff, especially with the help of a completely revamped Martin Stadium behind them. We’ve already seen the returns of some of that in recruiting.

Also, Leach’s family is happy in Pullman and he’s getting paid at on a competitive scale thanks to all of the Pac-12 money WSU is receiving now. He’s said many times that this is his type of place, family-atmosphere, full control (or at least a say in everything), not overly exasperating expectations, a practically-new stadium with some of the best facilities in the nation moving forward… you get the picture.

While things change and everyone has their price, I can’t see Leach up-and-leaving for the remainder of at least what his rollover contract has extended to, so in the next five years. I’m hoping it’s even longer than that.