This past July, I published a piece at my previous employment titled Washington State football fans are delusional. The headline, mostly compromised to draw attention, was only a minor exaggeration.
If you think seventh-year head coach Mike Leach is anywhere near the hot seat, please stick around and give this a read. Some perspective will do you well.
The following article is something I have wanted to say for a long time. I guess it just took me a while to find the words.
“Washington State football fans are delusional
Yes, you read that correctly. Of course, I am not talking about the entire fan base; however, I am talking about the spate of fans who have called for Mike Leach’s head since his tenure began on the Palouse. This subset of fans is nothing more than laughable. I usually do not bother giving them my time in an argument, but it seems that I can no longer withhold myself.
The anti-Leach crusade is charged by three prongs:
1.) Mike Leach is not producing enough wins
2.) Mike Leach struggles to compete with cross-state rival Washington
3.) Mike Leach is too outspoken politically
One: Mike Leach is not producing enough wins
I am going to say this once, and I will make it clear: Washington State is not a storied college football program. Not by any stretch of the imagination. WSU has an all-time record below .500 and has only played in the post-season 10 times (omitting the Leach era) in well over 100 seasons. In fact, the Cougs only have one Rose Bowl victory to their name from 1915. WSU may have been the team to beat back in World War One, but the significance of this title is dismally low and borderline comical. Since 1915, what success can Washington State claim on the gridiron? Three conference championships that all resulted in devastation at Pasadena.
Mike Price, who lead WSU to multiple Pac-10 Championships in 1997 and 2002, is the only head coach at Wazzu to create long term success in Pullman since the Great Depression. Why is this context important? Because I often see discontent fans comparing Leach to Mike Price.
Demanding Leach gets canned because it is believed that he is secondary to the most successful head coach in program history in the past 80 years might be the most ridiculous standard to uphold. However, I am open to play the game: how does Leach compared to Price? Closer than most would believe.
- Mike Price through six seasons with the Cougars
- 35-33 overall record
- 22-27 conference record
- Three winning seasons
- 2-0 in bowl games
- 2-4 against Washington
- Inherited the No. 16 ranked team in the country from Pac-10 legend Dennis Erickson
- Mike Leach through six seasons with the Cougars
- 38-38 overall record
- 26-28 conference record
- Three winning seasons
- 1-3 in bowl games
- 1-5 against Washington
- 1x Pac-12 Coach of the Year
- Inherited the worst Power Five conference team in the nation from Paul Wulff who carded a 9-40 record over the previous four seasons.
The Pirate was dealt junk and still stacks up. Leach falls below zero benchmarks set by his predecessors. It is time we put this narrative to rest.
Two: Mike Leach struggles to compete with cross-state rival Washington
The biggest problem with this assessment is that it evaluates the picture from a completely skewed point of view. Leach does not struggle with UW; Leach struggles with Chris Petersen. Frankly, who does not? Petersen has an all-time head coaching record of 129-29. He is an expert of the game and paralleled by few.
Of all active college football coaches, I firmly believe that no more than five (Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh, Jimbo Fisher and David Shaw) can outcoach Chris Petersen. It is also worth noting that none of whom have shown any interest to coach in Pullman.
In essence, declaring mutiny on the Pirate simply due to his inability to take down a top-10 foe is beyond illogical. The likelihood of the coaching carousel landing Washington State a head coach that will consistently pummel Petersen and Huskies is by no means feasible.
Three: Mike Leach is too outspoken politically
Mike Leach is very open and upfront about his long-standing friendship with President Donald Trump. In 2016, Leach introduced the President at a rally held in Spokane, Washington during the campaign trail. The issue at hand? Pullman, located in Whitman County, was the only region in eastern Washington to vote blue.
It is no secret that bringing up politics and religion is a quick way to disconnect from half of an audience. Evidently, the man at the helm of Washington State Football missed the memo. While I understand the distaste some folks may have, demanding a man lose his job over political affiliation seems preposterous especially when his professional body of work remains unaffected. The man was hired to coach football, not to make friends and create bipartisan legislation.
Just remember, Mike Leach took the job in Pullman when no one else would even return a call. Through Bill Doba and the Paul Wulff era, more colloquially known as a dumpster fire, I grew up watching this team live in the Pac-10/12 cellar for what felt like an eternity. WSU went from the conference’s extra bye week to a legitimate contender in just a handful of years. Mike Leach leading that charge was no coincidence.
If you still are not convinced, I ask you this: where would Washington State be right now had Mike Leach not taken the job? What other head coach did the Cougs have a realistic shot at in 2012 that could resurrect the sunken titanic?
The Pirate steering his ship toward the rolling hills of the Palouse and dropping anchor is a blessing, and it is time the Wazzu faithful acknowledge that. After all, when the university and head coach inevitably break up, it will be Washington State, not Mike Leach, playing back old voice mails just to hear the other’s voice.”