Happy Football Friday to you, Followers. Hope you are managing to stay focused through this whirlwind Friday. (I am completely out to lunch!)
I wanted to take a few quick minutes to provide my two cents about the events of the past 24 hours surrounding Mike Leach, Alex Grinch, and our AD search. I want to emphasize that my takes are not supported through primary sources. But, I feel like I have enough so-called “contacts” out there to provide a semi-educated stance on what the hell is going on in the College Football/Cougar Sports universe.
To begin, I wrote on these here pages a few weeks back that when the President of WSU offered his support to Mike Leach following Bill Moos’ resignation that it meant that a contract extension was quickly forthcoming. And so in light of that, the question was not “if” Leach would be given an extension, instead the question was “what are the terms?”
Regarding the latter question, if you take at face value that Bill Moos was a *BIG TIME* spender and knew that he needed to pay Mike Leach in order to keep him happy, then you know that the nearly 3 million we’ve been giving him is probably about 300-500k more than we can reasonably afford. And the reason for that is simple: We have a comparatively weak donor base (meaning that we lack multiple WHALES which is always what funds Athletic Departments—that along with 100k seat Stadiums), and we also have media contract that has yielded TENS of million dollars less than it was supposed to.
Moreover, that same media contract that limits our financial coffers PALES in comparison to the multi-million dollar revenue streams enjoyed by our competitors in the ACC, B1G, and SEC conferences. This is why a school like Mississippi State was able to pay Dan Mullens $4.5 million a year for his services, while a cash rich Pac12 school like Oregon just offered Willie Taggart about $4 million a year as their pre-emptive counter to what Florida State is going to offer him within the hour (my guess, about 6.2 million per).
Anyhow, if you take at face value that we were already stretching for Leach, then it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to infer that a contract extension wasn’t going to raise Leach’s salary/package more than 500k per—and that includes additional money for staff. So, given all that, my thought was that AD Johnson and President Shultz probably put together a package for Leach that averaged around 3.3 million per year (plus some incentives), and they probably threw about 200k into that deal for staff retention for the likes of Manning, Phelps, and especially ALEX GRINCH!
Now, in contrary to what some in the Twitter verse are thinking, both our Interim AD and President are pretty experienced and smart guys. So, when they decided to offer an extension that might not “stand up” on the open market, the only way that could sweeten that deal is to provide better job security. And so, as I have noted before, I would bet the farm that the proposed offer to Leach from WSU was somewhere in the ball part of 7 years, 23 million.
Mind you, that ain’t SEC money. But if you’re living in Pullman Washington and want to continue to build something at WSU because you love the place then that is one high quality standard of living. Memo to Cougar Prez: I’d welcome the opportunity to do ANY KIND OF work for 5 years at 3.3 million (TOTAL) in Pullman!
So, when reports surfaced this morning that Leach scoffed at—or was disappointed by—WSU’s offer for an extension, that might have been the practical end to Leach’s incredible 6 year run at WSU. Because unlike Tech, there are not the resources to continue to add seats to Martin Stadium. There are no emergent JR Ewing oil tycoons that are “out there” in the waiting to throw down a 5 million dollar gift that would allow WSU to keep up with the SEC/ACC/B1G Joneses that are out there.
Moreover, since Leach and his folks reportedly took the initiative themselves to draft an MOU to present to the Tennessee Chancellor (which by the way would have been a MAJOR tactical error given the KNOWN instability of that situation), his camp has now sent the CLARION signal to the college football world that Leach is on the market and wants to get out of Pullman. And whether that damages recruiting in this cycle or the next, you can bet your bottom dollar that EVERY Pac-12 coach out there right now is texting those kids and telling them: Why sign with WSU when Leach has shown he may not want to be there in the next couple of years.
So, where do we go from here?
Here are a few thoughts about what I think will happen as well as what I think should happen. Regarding the former, the fact that Leach (reportedly) accepted the Tennessee job means that any school looking to nail down something quick will have him on their radar. The most obvious candidate to grab up Leach in the quick is Arkansas, but you can bet that there will be some sort of chain reaction that follows the Jimbo-Taggart domino train that will be in full force by Saturday night. In short, I would be VERY surprised if Mike Leach is the coach of WSU on December 17th. In fact, I would be very surprised if Alex Grinch isn’t coaching his first game as the Head Man when we hit the field in the Chicken Bowl at the end of the month.
Second: The fact that the press has reported Alex Grinch as the presumed successor to Leach means that Grinch is going NOWHERE: I think he’ll be at WSU next year either as DC or HC. And that’s good news for next year and beyond since Grinch’s ability to play defense at WSU with undersized guys is a known—whereas for bigger name coaches like Todd Graham or Greg Schiano it’s a complete hypothetical.
Third: In the event that the coaching carousel passes Leach this time around, then Leach and his agent might think about a pre-emptive move that involves quickly signing what should be labeled as a “Game Changing” contract extension with WSU, together with a really mushy press conference to glow and gush about it. Because until such time that Leach announces his undying love and support for all things Crimson and Grey, he is going to get BLUDGEONED by the press, by social media, and ultimately on the recruiting trail about why he was looking for other jobs and is not committing to WSU for the long term.
So, while I would expect to hear a whole bunch more garbage from him like “I’m just trying to figure out how to get the next first down” over the next few days while Arkansas and others iron out their searchers, Leach probably should start rehearsing the “I’ve decided to spend the rest of my career” at WSU speech in time for the bowl presser that will occur sometime in the middle of next week.
I want to offer three more thoughts before I sign off in time for my afternoon meetings. First, I have good sources down here in Dixie that have told me that Currie is an INCREDIBLE Athletic Director and that the stuff that has gone on at Tennessee represents one of the more painful and shameful screw jobs of recent memory. Moreover, Currie is known as a FANTASTIC fundraiser, had a previous relationship with our President at Kansas State, and is known as a fabulous human being in professional and media circles. So, if he winds up taking the AD job at Washington State, we will have REALLY lucked out according to my sources (which to be clear are friends of friends…).
There are two additional emergent developments that bear mentioning and watching. First, it was noteworthy to me that Chip Kelly hired CAL’s defensive line coach yesterday as his defensive coordinator and not Alex Grinch. To me, that hire seems to solidify Grinch’s status at WSU next year, be it as Head Coach or as Defensive Coordinator. And that is AWESOME for our recruiting on that side of the ball.
Second: Oregon’s suddenly unstable situation calls into question the status of Jim Leavitt as well as someone named Joe Salvae who might come back on the market. As we all know, Coach Joe was instrumental in recruiting several of our primary players on defense and his prowess recruiting the Islands could provide a huge boon for competitors like CAL and Oregon State.
That’s all the time I have for today.
I’ll be back in the coming days as new developments warrant.
All for now. Go Cougs!