Washington State University finds itself in a bind right now, with an overpaid, overrated coach and a struggling football program that is not going to rise again any time soon. However, Head Coach Mike Leach has cultivated a mythos and cult status in Pullman that is unwarranted and erroneously based.
It’s time for WSU to fire Mike Leach, really. We get that the school is the smallest in the Pacific-12 Conference, and it’s hard to recruit kids to come to Pullman. But hey, if Alabama—with its notorious history of poverty, racism, and sexism—can attract the best student athletes, then the Cougars can, too.
Here are the facts: Since coming to the Palouse, Mike Leach’s overall record is 53-45, which is hardly stellar. Yes, it’s better than his predecessor’s mark (9-40), but a lot of coaches could rise above that level of ineptitude—and for less money. Leach has not done anything special at WSU, in truth.
His record against Power 5 schools is under .500 right now (37-41), and if it wasn’t for Leach’s ability to schedule and beat small schools (FBS teams like New Mexico State and FCS schools like Eastern Washington), his record with the Cougars would be under .500 as well. His 16-4 record against smaller schools is the primary reason Leach looks “good” to outside observers—until they break down his patterns as a head coach, which are easy to beat, really.
(The fact he even lost four games at WSU against smaller schools is another issue, but we will save that for a later day.)
Basically, Leach did the same thing at Texas Tech: mildly held his own against real competition while beating up on the little guys. In Lubbock from 2000-2009, Leach was 53-39 against Power 5 schools and a whopping 31-4 against small schools from the lesser FBS conferences and the FCS. Who schedules that many cupcake opponents out of conference, besides the SEC? Evidently, Leach does wherever he goes, to hide the warts.
Does that make the WSU coach a bully? In our book, yes, it does, and one of the worst magnitude. Let’s not forget his rant toward his players after the WSU loss to Utah this season, or his epic coaching meltdown against UCLA the week before that. What kind of coach can blow a 32-point lead at home against a winless opponent and then call his players “fat, lazy, happy, and entitled” after a blowout loss on the road against one of the conference’s best teams?
That’s not leadership: That’s blaming kids for your own shortcomings when you’re making millions of dollars at the taxpayers’ expense. It’s also projection, if anyone wants to just look at Leach himself: He’s not thin, and he’s clearly happy and lazy in Pullman with his unwarranted financial security there.
(We’re not even going to address the “education” issue of Leach’s ill-informed political opinions. He is clearly unfit to lead young student athletes into adulthood, and that’s what a college athletics coach should do—we know this from personal experience.)
Leach is an embarrassment to the university, a mediocre football coach, and a financial liability. So why do people love him in Pullman? Good question, because he should be fired immediately and replaced with someone like Alex Grinch, who was really responsible for the recent success (combined 20-6 in 2017 and 2018) at WSU because of his defensive acumen, recruiting, and teaching ability.
Without Grinch’s coaching or his game planning, the Cougars defense has fallen apart, and everyone is handling Leach’s one-trick offense at this point, since all it takes is some game-film study, a little speed, and good tackling to beat it. This is why Leach is 1-6 in Apple Cup matchups against Washington—and 0-5 against current Huskies Head Coach Chris Petersen.
Remember in 2017 when the Apple Cup would decide which Washington school won the North Division? Leach had two weeks to prep the Cougars for that game, and Washington busted out to a 24-0 lead in the first quarter and eventually took a 34-0 lead before Leach’s allegedly good offense even scored.
The next year at home, the WSU team had another chance to win the Apple Cup and advance to the Pacific-12 Conference Championship. However, Peterson once again out-coached Leach handily, limiting the “vaunted” Cougars offense to just 237 yards.
When you can’t beat your biggest rival on your home field with everything on the line, because your offense is too predictable and your defense is falling apart due to illogical coaching changes, well … you’re in trouble.
Chances are the Cougars will lose the Apple Cup again this year on the road and perhaps even miss a bowl game this season. The WSU athletic department has every reason to fire him, except perhaps financial ones. The Cougars can’t buy out a coach like Florida State can, after all. They may be stuck with this situation until 2023, unless some school like Tennessee makes a colossal blunder (and that almost happened—Leach didn’t even want to be in Pullman!).
Chances are that won’t occur, though. Sorry, WSU fans: You’re stuck with him. Perhaps you should email Pat Chun and fill him in on his massive error here. Here’s his Twitter handle, too, by the way: @pat_chun. The Cougars athletic director is clearly living in an reality-distortion bubble of his own.
Better smarts next hire, WSU. Your loyal alumni and fans deserve a lot better than this.