If the interviews had been reversed, Sumlin would be out of a job today rather than being rumored for multiple head jobs around the country.
Don’t think so?
You talk to anyone with intimate knowledge about the state of the WSU program four years ago and the conclusion is obvious: Knute Rockne himself would have needed a mountain of time to rebuild.
As our old pal Paul Sorensen likes to say, the difference between the outhouse and the penthouse ain't all that far.
Here’s another irony that binds Wulff and Sumlin. Just one year ago, when Sumlin’s star quarterback went down with injury, his team limped home with three wins in their last 10 games. No one was circulating his name for anything after that.
This season, that star quarterback, Case Keenum, was healthy and the team’s 12-0 record speaks for itself.
Wulff loses his star quarterback in the first game of this season and he gets fired 14 weeks later, while Moos holds up Sumlin as the greatest prospect this side of Mike Leach.
Understand, I think Bill Moos is a tremendous talent. Where he leads I will dutifully follow, but I have questions. (And in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I’ve been in Paul Wulff’s camp since Day One and that Paul is a very close and long-time friend of my brother-in-law’s, so I take the news this week very much to heart.)
SO HERE'S WHY I’m scratching my head a bit right now.
First, Jeff Tuel’s injury aside, Moos’ department is the one that built what had to be the worst schedule in major-college football this season. Forget about the non-conference games, what's more important is that in one stretch, the Cougars were on the road for six out of seven weeks. Between September 17, when they were at San Diego State, and November 5, when they were at Cal, the Cougars played in Pullman exactly one time.
That’s terrible, especially for a young team trying to get its footing. I love ya Bill, but you have complicity in the fact the Cougars aren’t going bowling this season and I think you need to own up to it.
Bill also said yesterday when he dumped Wulff that he was concerned there weren’t more fans in the stands. Seriously? You’re going to hang Wulff in part because of too few fans? During a daunting rebuild?
That’s grasping at straws in my book, because history shows us that Cougar fans don’t go to games even when the team is good. In 2004, following an unprecedented three straight 10-win seasons, WSU averaged 33,000 at home. This season, even with the Utah game scheduled when all the students were out of town for Thanksgiving break, the average was around 24,000.
HERE'S ANOTHER THING about Bill that puzzles me.
He talks in reverential terms about his old coach at WSU, Jim Sweeney. Guess how many games Jim won in the fourth year of the rebuild he undertook at WSU? Four, the same as Paul Wulff this season, but Jim had the benefit of his starting quarterback for the entire year. In his fifth year, Moos’ senior season of 1972, Sweeney and the Cougs finally broke through, going 7-4 and finishing in the top 20.
Now here we are with Bill depriving Paul and the kids he recruited and nurtured the chance at the same satisfaction next season that Moos enjoyed in ’72 and still talks about in hushed tones today.
As Jim Walden has mentioned, Wulff was brought in to “clear the swamp” in football just like Dick Bennett was in basketball. Like Dick, Paul found players he could lose with, i.e. hard-working kids who would not lose faith in the rough times and then would shine once they matured. Because of the roster size, rebuilding in football is a heck of a lot harder than rebuilding in basketball and not letting Paul complete the process just isn’t right.
Here’s a final thing that has me scratching my head. Bill said this past off-season that, barring major injuries, the Cougs could win six or seven games this season. If Tuel was healthy, that prediction would have been right on target. Looking at next season, Wulff has said the team has eight- or even nine-win potential.
So if my calculator is working right, Bill is about to spend around $4 million for that extra win I believe he would get whether the team was coached by Wulff, Leach or Sumlin. Here’s how the math works: $1.5 million for the new coach, $600,000 in Paul’s remaining contract, new staff salaries, and three months of old staff salaries. For a guy who needs to raise money for new facilities, that’s a pretty curious use of $4 million.
I’m glad Bill Moos is WSU’s athletic director. I honestly can’t think of another person on the planet I’d rather have in that position. But I like Paul Wulff and the work he's done, so I have questions whose answers don't all add up for me.