Over a year ago, WSU decided to go in a different direction with their football team. They fired Paul Wulff and hired the very controversial Mike Leach. If you’re like me, you were so happy you probably cried for a couple of weeks and forgot to study for your finals. It was finally time for WSU to succeed after years of bad coaching and interesting recruiting decisions. People told me I couldn’t blame their record on Wulff because he inherited a team in shambles, but I did anyway because I am a fan and I can pretty much do whatever I want.
From the very beginning, I did not want Wulff. I even shouted “fire Paul Wulff” from the stands before the Cougars took the field for the first time under Wulff. I struggled that entire season, the blow out losses were almost too much to handle, but I endured. When it came to the Apple Cup in 2008, I knew the records didn’t matter because everybody who loves their Cougars knows “anything can happen in Pullman”. It wasn’t a great game, in fact, it was a very ugly game, but in the end, my fellow classmates and I stormed that field like we had just won a national championship.
When the dust settled, I was proud as always to be a Coug, but my opinion of Wulff did not change. For years, I watched that replay of his reaction to the win. I couldn’t escape it. He danced his way onto every single Pac-12 sporting event on TV and I, like most fans, was embarrassed to say he was the coach of the Cougs.
Fast forward to the 2010 season and not much had changed. The Cougars were starting to compete, but the win loss record did not change. I signed up to be on the WSU sports video team so I could desensitize myself from the Cougar defeats. Even getting yelled at over the headset for hours was better than watching the games from the stands. My skills with a Camera were suspect at best, I still had something else to focus on.
It’s now 2011, Wulff is entering his fourth season as a head coach. It was bowl game or bust for the first time in years. The Cougars were competing in almost every game and it was finally fun to watch. However, the Cougs failed to make a bowl game and after years of saying it was time for a change, I was finally right. Athletic Director Bill Moos made the final call to fire Wulff and the decision to hire Mike Leach almost immediately afterwards.
Leach brought more media attention to WSU than they had seen in years. Fans and the entire sporting world were buzzing about the hiring, but an off-season full of mistakes by some WSU student-athletes changed their season. Many players were kicked off the team for off the field incidents, some left and a season with so much expectation fizzled.
The Cougs started the 2012 season under Leach with a 2-1 record, but the Cougs rallied off eight straight losses and headed into an Apple Cup against the UW Huskies. They were a ranked No. 25 in the country and nobody gave the Cougs a chance, but once again the game was at home and “anything can happen in Pullman”. The Cougs pulled off an improbable upset in OT just like in 2008, and the students stormed the field once again. This time we didn’t see Paul Wulff dance onto the field like some sort of donkey. We saw Leach with a stone cold look in his eyes, as if to say “I’ve been here before, I’ll be here again”.
I will never forget the four years leading up to the firing of Paul Wulff. I’d even thank Wulff for toeing the line between rebuilding and terribleness for four years because it brought Cougar Nation Mike Leach. By celebrating the future of Mike Leach and Cougar football, we indirectly celebrate the firing of Wulff (Side note: I actually directly celebrate the firing of Wulff everyday).
There is once again excitement for Cougar football and everyday Leach builds the program towards greatness. He doesn’t have the resources or the facilities other coaches in the Pac-12 have, but he does have a Nation of Cougars behind him knowing the future will bring success.
Follow Kase Brammer on Twitter @KBlive33