By now, you know that Mike Leach accepted a job with the Tennessee Volunteers Mississippi State Bulldogs, departing Pullman after eight up-and-down (but mostly up!) seasons. While the timing for these things is never really ideal, it’s worse than normal in this instance, as the recruiting class has already signed and the musical chairs game that accompanies every offseason is pretty much finished.
But I’m not really sad or upset at the fact that Leach departed the fix (aviation term). No, I did not want him to leave. And no, I wasn’t mad that it looked like he stopped coaching after the 11th game of every season, or that he seemed to have one foot out the door as soon as the last few seasons ended. The big reason I’m not sad or upset is because this was about as well as we could’ve possibly hoped the Leach-WSU marriage would end. In almost every instance, splits between teams and their coaches are acrimonious. With a guy like Leach, the chances of an ugly split are ramped up exponentially.
Bruce Feldman said the other day that Leach is the most stubborn coach he knows, and I don’t think any of you would disagree. If you ask me (again, you didn’t) I don’t think there is any chance that Leach would ever walk away from a job, even if things careen south. If for some reason WSU’s football success gradually (or quickly) waned, there’s very little chance that he would voluntarily depart, which would necessitate a forced removal and all of the hard feelings that come with it.
I’m sure the wounds of his sudden (if not unexpected departure) may sting for a bit. Heck, I even had to console Mom Kendall a little!
Leave it to a mom to pitch the worst possible decision a school could make, Mora family excepted.
All that said, I’m confident that we will remember the good times much more than the bad as the years go by. Let’s take a look at some positives and negatives of this week’s events, both from Leach’s perspective and that of WSU and Cougar fans.
$$$$$$$$$$$ (for him and the staff)
I know Leach has had his struggles with FCS teams, but a quarter mil for winning the SoCon? That’s a brilliant agent.
Recruiting - Per 247, the class of 2019 in Mississippi produced three 5-star prospects and 13 4-star prospects. Mississippi State signed one of the 5-stars and two of the 4-stars. In that same year, Washington produced zero 5-stars and all of two 4-stars. While it remains to be seen whether Leach can recruit to the level necessary to compete, that’s a much better local crop of talent from which to draw.
Competition - Leach has never been shy about saying that the SEC isn’t as strong as its perception. The great part is now he will find out.
Reputation - I don’t think it’s a mystery that Leach’s rep was in need of some fixing when he came to WSU. In most areas, he succeeded immensely.
Rivalries - Maybe he can actually not get his ass kicked in the Egg Bowl every year!
About that Egg Bowl - Mandatory viewing.
Non-conference schedule - Yeah, there’s a Power Five team on there every season, but there are four non-con games, including the annual November weekend featuring the SEC-MEAC challenge. This year, Mississippi State draws Alabama...A&M.
Thanks in large part to Leach’s efforts, Pat Chun and Kirk Schulz are in a much better position when it comes to making the next hire. This is a program that can (and damn well better) shoot higher than the Big Sky or someone with baggage.
While not exactly inheriting a roster teeming with talent, the pieces are in place for the next guy to at least produce a potent offense in 2020.
Change for change’s sake is rarely productive, but a change at the top of the program is not necessarily a bad thing, and it gives us bloggers lots to talk about!
MAYBE THE NEXT GUY WILL RECRUIT IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON WHERE THE PLAYERS WILL CARE ABOUT WINNING THE APPLE CUP WHAT DO Y’ALL THINK I’LL HANG UP AND LISTEN
My Twitter account is no longer blocked by WSU’s football coach!
Despite all that money flowing through the SEC, Mississippi State is in the same position as WSU, relative to its conference partners. Though ranking 35th nationally in revenue for 2019, their $103,858,865 outpaced only Vanderbilt in the SEC. For reference, WSU’s revenue was just north of $65 million.
Despite MSU’s ranking among its peers, and despite a lack of historical success, do you think those fans will have much patience if the Bulldogs go 12-25 over Leach’s first three seasons? Me neither.
Then again, Dan Mullen could only muster a 33-39 SEC record, and he was universally revered down there.
When things start rough - and they absolutely will - Leach will not skate by with his postgame nonsense in that cauldron like he did in the northwest.
I was thinking back to when I learned that Leach was coming to WSU, and I was living in New Mexico at the time. Since then, my family has moved from there to NW Florida to Tampa to Europe. In other words, Leach was here a while! I remember a going-away party for a friend of mine who was moving, and my buddy’s wife said something that has always stuck with me. It’s easier to leave than to be left. Eight years may not seem like a long time, but in Leach years it felt like an eternity, and it’s going to be pretty weird to see someone else walking the sideline next season.
While the program is on much more solid footing (hell, any footing would’ve been an improvement in late 2011), the new guy really needs to improve the recruiting.
That means hiring a really good staff, which means WSU needs to loosen the purse strings on the assistant pool, and with the school president and AD trying like hell to balance the budget, that may be easier said than done.
I don’t know if it’s necessarily bad, but I didn’t know where else to put it, and it’s the reality of WSU’s place in the pecking order. While none of us want WSU to be viewed as a stepping stone to bigger things, the fact is that nearly every job in FBS is a stepping stone. For instance, there is one “destination” job in the Pac-12. There are two in the Big 12, four or five in the Big Ten and SEC, and two or three in the ACC. If you aren’t one of those schools, your coach will probably be on the lookout for bigger and better things.
There’s a pretty good chance that, for the first time, I will have been born before the next coach. Dammit.
Let’s have a look at October, 2020: Texas A&M, off week, at Alabama, at LSU, Auburn.
But at least Leach won’t be facing those teams again for a long ti...hang on, being told he gets to face them every season.
What happens to Pirates of the Palouse? A FAN BASE TEETERS ON THE BRINK.