PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC

Every once in a while, there comes a piece of writing across my eyes that is truly worthy of picking apart. Worthy of further breakdown and snide remarks. Worthy of: the FJM treatment. Normally, in Coug Nation, it's a Howie Stalwick piece, as Howie seems to be of the journalistic type that lumps bloggers into one universal category of uninformed, over-emotional losers. OK, we'll give him the "loser" part. That we are. But in the meantime Stalwick has been making quite a lot of sense lately, so it's hard to ridicule that. So who are we going after? Ted Miller? Nick Daschel? Bill "Robbie Cowgill looks like he fell off a Greenpeace boat" Simmons?

Nope. Today's literary gem comes from none other than the Daily Evergreen letters to the editor. And, of course, no one has ever ever ever said anything outlandish or controversial in there. Normally, the flames are fanned by politics, racial issues, politics, religion or (and this may surprise you) politics. Today's subject du jour is Paul Wulff. And a Cougar Alum is not sold on the rebuilding process.

Let's dive in!

It is time for Wulff to leave WSU football

Embarrassing is not a strong enough word to describe the feeling my dad and I had while watching the WSU versus Notre Dame game on Halloween.

Translation: I watched WSU/Notre Dame because it was on NBC, and since I haven't seen the Cougs in person or on TV any other time this year I was not expecting them to get torn apart by a mediocre football team that probably wouldn't even be in the top 25 if they hadn't invented the forward pass and weren't God's gift to football [literally].

And let's rewind to the start. What words are stronger than embarrassed? Let's make a list:

Abashed
Ashamed
Disconcerted
Willingham'd
Flustered
Facepalmed
1998-2003 Apple Cup'd
Sean Salisburied

There was no real reason for doing that. I just wanted to.

Anyhoo, there's a big point I want to make here: This football team was embarrassed Week 1 against Stanford. Week 2 against Hawai'i. During the first half of Week 3 against SMU. Week 4 against USC (not really by the outcome, but by letting the Trojans recover an onside kick, up 13-0). Week 5 against Oregon. Week 6 against Arizona State, where we didn't lose big, but still lost despite forcing six turnovers. Week 8 against Cal.

So... how was Notre Dame the game that burst the dam of embarrassment? Hasn't that already been blown up, with the golden ship that is the U.S.S. Shame sailing down the gorge below on a raging flood of embarrassment water? Why ND? A team, that despite the fact I dissed it earlier, is still a top 25 team with quality recruiting classes and enough prestige to host a home game several states away? I mean, if your program is so big they can still sucker a once-proud network's sports department into becoming their 'official' station, they might also have better players than WSU.

Moving on...

It was certainly a fun evening of trick-or-treating for Notre Dame. There were sweets strewn all over the field in the form of the Cougar defense.

Food metaphors Yeah!

By far the best part of this letter.

Whether passing or running, Notre Dame could do no wrong and chomped off huge amounts of yardage on nearly every play. The Fighting Irish held the football for more than 40 minutes and made 33 first downs.

Teams that have also done this sort of thing to us in the last two years:

Stanford
Hawai'i
Oregon
California
Arizona
Stanford
USC
Oregon State
Oregon
Baylor
California
Oklahoma State

And those are just the big blowouts - I haven't even mentioned the other losses. Granted, this whole list is one of the better arguments against Paul Wulff, and we'll revisit it later. Still, though: can you really be embarrassed when you see the embarrassment coming a mile away? Let's say a friend of yours says he's going to pull down your pants in a crowded restaurant exactly one year from today. Wouldn't you be less shocked when it didn't come out of nowhere? Or at least have the time to prepare, by making sure you don't go commando, or even throw on a second pair of pants underneath to avoid the situation altogether?

Weird example, I know. It's just that we've had time to prep ourselves: joke about our team, take bets on whether or not we cover the spread, and play the whole 'we were worse last year and somehow we still beat you' card to Husky fans. And those Huskies, who are supposed to be embarrassment-free with Sark in the house? Gave up an uncontested 50 yard game winning touchdown pass with time expiring against Arizona State. All teams have embarrassing moments. USC just did against Oregon. It's all about expectations.

The Cougar backfield played just as advertised – one of the worst in the nation.

Wait, what? That has to be the defensive backfield, right? Even though our running backs have struggled this year, they have had absolutely no support from their offensive line - not to mention James Montgomery suffering his freak case of compartment syndrome. And Tardy improbably went for 9 yards per carry Saturday, with a team-high 72 yards over eight attempts. Winston looks promising as back-of-the-future, and Mitz is showing flashes of his 2008 Apple Cup performance.

The defensive backfield certainly did play as advertised, against a marquee quarterback and a receiver that catches just about every single object thrown at him. I'm just not sure what this has to do with Wulff, who was given very little talent or depth to begin with in that unit.

And the offense was not much better. Losing 40-14 exemplifies what we have come to expect under the Paul Wulff regime.

Exactly. We've come to expect blowouts, losing, etc. We've also mostly agreed as a fanbase that Wulff should be given enough time to see if he can make a difference. So why fire him now?

It is time for Wulff to stand up and face the music. He is not cut out to be a head coach.

Whoa whoa whoa. I know it's FCS level stuff, but I think just about anyone at Eastern would disagree with that. Wulff's years at EWU, per Wikipedia (yeah, I know):

2000 Eastern Washington 6–5 5–2 5th
2001 Eastern Washington 7–4 3–4 5th
2002 Eastern Washington 6–5 3–4 4th
2003 Eastern Washington 6–5 3–4 6th
2004 Eastern Washington 9–4 6–1 T–1st L Division I-AA Quarterfinal
2005 Eastern Washington 7–5 5–2 T–1st L Division I-AA 1st round
2006 Eastern Washington 3–8 2–5 T–6th
2007 Eastern Washington 9–4 5–2 2nd L Division I FCS Quarterfinal

 

He wasn't exactly a world beater, but after four fairly mediocre seasons with the Eagles, Wulff put together a three-out-of-four year stretch that was pretty impressive. Two Big Sky co-championships, a second place finish, and a bad year in 2006 that we'll just write off. Overall, though, it's a solid resume, and proof he can run a football team.

The situation is comparable to WSU, even though Wulff's detractors say it isn't. Cheney is a moderately sized farm city in Eastern Washington. The Big Sky is one of the better conferences in the FCS; the Pac-10 is one of the better in the FBS. The Big Sky is run at the top by perennial national championship contender Montana; the Pac-10 is run by USC. It's not a perfect analogy, and there's a chance Wulff's success doesn't translate to a higher level. Nevertheless, it's a pretty comparable situation in terms of money, fan support, facilities, etc. It's like WSU Jr.

I don't think anyone can deny the fact that Wulff was at least an well-informed hiring decision. Based on the fact he ran a successful program for the better part of a decade, has strong ties to WSU, and knows how to recruit good athletes to Eastern Washington.

He has built a team that most certainly does not belong in the Pac-10. I thought that WSU Athletic Director Jim Sterk was attempting to take the football program in the right direction when he released Bill Doba. But what was Sterk thinking when he hired a replacement who only won half of his games?

If by half, you mean 57% (53-40 overall, 32-20 in conference) of his games, you'd be right. So let me propose you this choice: a successful lower division coach with strong ties to the University, or an unproven defensive coordinator with a worse W/L track record and strong ties to the University.

The latter of course is Robb Akey, whom Idaho took a positive gamble on. While it seems like he would have been the better hire for WSU, he wasn't available at the time (having just gotten off the ground at Idaho), and Wulff was far and away the most obvious selection for the program. That doesn't guarantee success, it just guarantees the best chance at it. Time will tell.

I am a graduate of WSU and proud to be a Cougar.

Cool. So maybe you could not slam our head coach in a publication that players, students and quite possibly even future recruits read?

But it is hard to maintain this Cougar pride in athletics with the direction the football program is headed – a direction that I hope is rectified in the near future.

Yeah, we know. The team is awful. That's not reason alone to fire a coach. When it's obvious the program is better off without the coach than with him, that's when you pull the plug. When you've had enough time to evaluate the recruits, the performance on and off the field and the direction the program is headed.

With two years of experience and only one full recruiting class enrolled, you don't think that there's a least a chance - a slight chance - that Wulff could be the one to rectify it? Or should we blow it up and rebuild it with a brand new coach that has the same odds of success that Wulff had when he took over? It's rough now, but we owe it to ourselves to see it through. Otherwise we turn into just another win-at-all-costs program that can't even attract the kind of coach we really need.

The debate rages on...

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