** WSU made the decision to fire Paul Wulff at the end of the 2011 season. I felt like he deserved another year, even after the shit-show season we’d had. Read why. **
Originally published November 20th, 2011
Yesterday’s Coug loss was gutwrenching. Down 10 twice, coming back twice, only to lose in OT. It was our chance to stay bowl eligible in a year filled with expectations, but not the results anyone wanted. Hindsight is always 20/20. I’m not going to question a single call from yesterday. The game is in the books, there isn’t anything we can do about yesterday. Today’s post is about tomorrow and the future of the WSU Cougar program. A future that should include Paul Wulff.
I’m not a Paul Wulff apologist. I was ready to see him fired after our loss to Oregon State. The loss in Cal was entirely unacceptable. I’m an emotional fan. We’re all emotional fans. It comes with loving a program and being so passionate that it hurts to lose. I’m sick and tired of losing. I’m sick and tired of not making bowl games. I’m sick and tired of being happy when we beat teams like Colorado. You would think that would mean I would be sick and tired of Paul Wulff too, but I think he deserves one more year.
I know what a lot of you are thinking? Why?! I’m going to give you some specific and compelling reasons to keep Coach Wulff:
#1 — Candidates. It’s easy for fans to look out there and say “Mike Leach! Mike Belotti! Mike Price!” That’s a whole lotta Mikes. But here’s the thing. Arizona is open. UCLA will almost certainly be open (could Slick Rick be the first coach to take his team to the Rose Bowl and be fired? Don’t laugh, it could happen). What about Arizona State? Erickson has struggled to get ASU to a prominent bowl, and this was his best class of thugs… er, players. If those 3 Pac 12 schools are open, and then WSU, where will “name” coaches want to go? Of those three, we could probably get Coach Price back (which I was OK with 4 years ago), but is a 65yr old coach moving forward with a program?
#2 — Improvement. Yes, I’m going with the improvement argument. Yes, I know that Coach Wulff has the worst winning percentage in WSU history. No, I’m not going with the cupboard was bare when he got there. I’m going strictly off of record improvement and quality wins. Consecutive years of win improvement. One quality win in 2010 against Oregon State (I was there, what a great game!). Two quality wins in 2011 w/one game to go. Character building win in Colorado. Great win against ASU. Playing Stanford close for a half. Losing close to UCLA and Utah. This season could have been very different w/wins in UCLA or beating Utah, but it’s hard to argue against the significant improvement we’ve shown the last two years specifically. Look at quality of play and margin of wins/losses.
#3 — Culture. I talked about culture after last week’s win against ASU. This team is playing for Coach Wulff. They look like a team that believes in the system and believes in the coaching staff. Find me quotes from current players — Are any of them spouting off? Everything I hear or read is about competing and improving every day. I have a job where I manage people every day. I’ve taken over “programs” that were completely broken. Any time I’ve gone in I focus on players and the culture. Get the right people in place, get the people you have believing in your system, results follow. This is the first year where you can really see things pulling together, Coach Wulff deserves the credit. He also certainly deserves the blame.
#4 — He wants to be here. Go back to #1. Give me a name coach that’s going to come to Pullman over UCLA, or over Arizona, or Arizona State. Paul Wulff is a guy that wants to be here. I think that’s something we need to remember. If you’re one of those guys reading that and saying “So what?!” I give you Exhibit A: Coach Erickson wanted to be in Oregon State… before he left to the NFL again. Coach Erickson wanted to be in IDAHO… until he bailed to ASU, the first “name” job that was out there. Closer to home? What about Tony Bennett? At the end of the day, WSU is a low profile job. The minute we hire a name coach you can start the clock for when that coach is going to leave to another program — Maybe even a Pac 12 rival.
I thought Wulff should have been fired last year. I was going with what my heart said. My heart said, and says today, that I am sick and tired of not winning. I’m spoiled. My first year at WSU was 1992. Cougar Football to me started with Drew Bledsoe. My first year ended walking the snow covered field in complete euphoria after our win in the Snow Bowl. I wanted to throw up last night after the loss. But I see a light at the end of the tunnel. For as frustrated as I am with our record and not making a bowl, I can’t deny the improvement. My head says that Paul Wulff should get one more year.
Let’s hope that light at the end of the tunnel isn’t another train.