It's been said in a number of places that when a man has to make a hard choice that "sometimes you just gotta roll the hard six." Often times it is something that indicates that you have two options and neither is appealing or going to be easy. Today we saw Bill Moos have to do it, bringing to an end the Paul Wulff era of Cougar Football. What we should all appreciate is that four years ago Paul Wulff made the same decision for the benefit of our football program.
Four years ago Paul Wulff was a successful coach with a winning record in an increasingly prolific program. Eastern Washington was on the rise during his time in Cheney and continued to rise in the wake of his departure. Unfortunately it seems the same will likely be said of his tenure in Pullman. While the growth, and the winning, were never fully apparent on the field it can be said that his efforts have begun to pay off. Four years ago our Cougars would not have been able to stand toe to toe with anyone in the Pac 10, and while there were issues this year they proved they could at least trade blows with the best in the Pac 12 even if they couldn't stay in the fight through all four rounds. There's something to be said for that. It is a marker of progress, and while our Cougars lost in dismal fashion to Cal and Oregon State it can not be said that they packed it in and gave up on the season.
We saw the beginnings of the talent shining through. Jeff Tuel was injured essentially all year and the Cougars were still ranked near the top of the nation as a prolific passing offense. Sacks were down, though still an issue, and productivity on the scoreboard was up. A backup and the backup's backup were the leaders of the offense and we saw an astounding victory over Arizona State, and a gutty fearless effort against Utah with a scary injury ignored. The kind of character the team showed down the stretch is the kind of character that can only be instilled by coaches that have successfully gotten through to their players and inspired growth be it physical or mental.
When the Cougars take the practice field next year for spring ball and we all get our first glimpses of the Air Raid, the Spread Option, or the Texas Two-step the fact is we'll be looking at the guys that Wulff brought in running it. Anyone that attended the Spring game this last year saw what this offense could look like, and with a big-name guru head coach I'm sure the talent present can be made to perform, even in new packages, as though they have been doing it for years. The reason for that is maturity. Jeff Tuel is a good enough talent to make the throws and reads that the new coach will ask, and as a senior he'll be stepping into a leadership role that he has been groomed for and was prepared to take on this season. Wilson will be a junior and can step up just as Karstetter has the last couple of years. Mizell and Kaufusi will both be in their third years and their backups have plenty of practical experience.
The fact is that everything Paul Wulff has preached for years is set to pay off in a big way next year. The only piece that will be missing is the architect of it all and that's unfortunate. Paul Wulff rolled the hard six when he made the decision to leave a program on the rise and to take on a rebuilding job bigger than even he had imagined. He did it because it was his "dream" job and because he honestly and truly loves Pullman, Washington State University, and being a Cougar. That shouldn't be forgotten or overlooked as he leaves, hopefully to re-establish himself as a quality head coach with a winning record. His name may never be on a building, or grace a wing of the hall of fame, but for whatever success this program has moving forward it should be acknowledged that he is the coach that poured the foundation it is built upon.
As it regards Bill Moos and his decision today it is completely understandable. He had two choices, roll with a coach that is 9-40 over the last four years or roll with a new guy that will inherit a sizable core of talented football players with a mind toward winning and doing so now. Obviously it doesn't seem like much of a choice, but if you have watched his press conference it is clear that he meant what he said when he said "In 30 years in this business I have met no finer man than Paul Wulff." It was not easy for him to pull the trigger on the decision to end Paul Wulff's tenure as head coach. Moos is to be commended for being up front when asked some tough questions, whether about coach Wulff or about what led to this. He is to be further commended for laying it on the line and calling on the fans to get going or give up.
The leadership of the Cougar Football program is not simply restricted to the head coach, but is tied to the Athletic Director's leadership as well. Moos brings a dynamic which has sorely lacked at WSU throughout it's history. Today he essentially said he's making the move that will define his legacy at WSU, the move which will shape how the school and its athletics are perceived. It can not be over-stated how important this move will be, because either the fans will pick up the gauntlet thrown by Moos to put up, or the fans and program will forever be satisfied with being mired in mediocrity. The firing of Wulff is not simply a hard choice because of the people involved but because of the people that are NOT involved, namely Cougar alumni that have no problem complaining but a severe problem contributing whether athletics is successful or not.
Today Paul Wulff was fired and as an avid supporter of his it hurt to see. However, today Bill Moos staked his reputation on his plan just as Wulff did four years ago. This is the start of a new era of Cougar Athletics because two men decided, independently of each other, to make a stand and roll the hard six. One gamble, despite the loss of Wulff, is set to pay off. It must become the imperative of Cougars everywhere to see to it that the second one does as well, otherwise it's game over for all of us.