Moos, Washington State’s athletic director, fired Wulff on Tuesday morning. A few hours later, Moos said Leach and Houston coach Kevin Sumlin are two men on his “short list” of candidates to replace Wulff as WSU’s football coach.
“I leave with a heavy heart,” Wulff said in a prepared statement he read at a press conference that followed one held by Moos.
MOOS SEEMED TO speak about Leach with added zeal. Asked if he has a leading candidate in mind, Moos said, “I do, but I’m not going to mention anybody.”
Leach compiled an 84-43 record at Texas Tech from 2000-09. Moos noted that Leach guided the Red Raiders to bowl games all 10 years he coached in Lubbock, though Leach was fired before the 2010 Alamo Bowl after a dispute with the school.
“He’s a pretty good football coach,” Moos said. “Just look at his record.”
Sumlin, who has guided Houston to a 12-0 record and No. 7 national ranking, is a former WSU graduate assistant coach. Moos, prior to his hiring as WSU’s athletic director last year, was part of the search committee that interviewed Sumlin before Wulff was hired in December 2007, and Sumlin was a finalist for the job.
“I think he’s on everybody’s short list,” Moos said of Sumlin.
Like Sumlin, Leach has been connected with several job openings. Sumlin and Leach are known as offensive gurus who coach explosive, crowd-pleasing passing attacks. Both men have been highly successful at schools that, like Washington State, have excelled with under the radar recruits.
Wulff, 9-40 in four years at his alma mater, has one year left on a contract that pays him $600,000 per year. Moos said Wulff is owed approximately $800,000, including deferred compensation.
Moos said the Cougars “may have to” double Wulff’s annual salary to bring in the type of “established head coach” he wants to hire. Moos, a former WSU football star, said he hopes to have a new coach “within two or three weeks.” He later said that a hiring could come sooner, as long as he felt "comfortable" with the choice.
Moos said no WSU assistants, whose contracts run through March, are candidates to replace Wulff, nor are they guaranteed jobs with the new coach.
Moos identified former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti as part of his short list of approximately “six, seven” coaches. Moos said Bellotti, who coached the Ducks when Moos was AD at Oregon, is only on his list “in a soft way” because Moos said he does not believe Bellotti is “really serious” about coaching again.
Moos said former WSU coach Dennis Erickson, fired Monday at Arizona State, is not on his short list. Moos also said his list does not include Montana coach Robin Pflugrad, a former WSU assistant coach, ot Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, a former Oregon assistant and Arizona State and Boise State head coach.
MOOS SAID declining attendance and fan apathy in WSU football played a prominent role in his decision to fire Wulff.
“It was not an easy thing to do,” Moos said. “I’ve got to say, in the 30 years I’ve been in this business, I’ve met no finer man than Paul Wulff.
“Cougars everywhere should be thankful and appreciative for what he has done for our university and this football program.”
The Cougars finished 4-8 this season, with six losses in their last seven games. WSU, 2-7 in the Pacific-12 Conference, came in last for the third straight year.
Moos praised Wulff and his coaching staff for significantly improving the Cougars’ talent level during their four-year run. Moos said the Cougars still need more talent and depth, but he said, “Our talent level is good enough to win.”
Phone messages left for Leach, Sumlin and Bellotti were not immediately returned. A WSU player said a sports information department employee told players not to discuss Wulff’s firing with the media.