A little over a week ago, I was writing about Bill Moos' press conference announcing the firing of Paul Wulff. Except it wasn't quite a press conference. I called it a sales job -- to donors, to curious observers and to coaching candidates. It turns out the head coaching position at Washington State never needed to be sold. It had already been bought by Mike Leach, one of the premier coaching candidates in the nation.
Since last Monday, Bill Moos and the Washington State athletic department have set about executing a very specific plan. The centerpiece, we found out, was already in place. Mike Leach had already agreed to the job, and all that was left was to figure out the best way to parlay the new head coach into something more.
We saw it in the way Leach was initially announced. The buzz began building in the morning and hit a crescendo before Washington State made the official announcement. It continued with Bill Moos' own press tour, where he talked up Leach, challenged donors and laid out how the whole process unfolded. The message was clear and continues to be so: "I opened my wallet for you. Now it's time for you to do the same for me."
Everything done on Tuesday was done with a purpose. Leach's motions were carefully scripted, from his arrivals in Spokane and Pullman to his press conferences on campus and in Seattle. His words, of course, were not scripted, and that was the best part. The goal was to blow things out and draw a reaction; To inspire pride, draw attention to the Cougs and to provide the sizzle Moos always speaks of.
To say it worked would be an understatement. While writing this, Leach's "The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker" quote played in the background on my television. On SportsCenter. During the lead-in to the show. Consider that for a moment and let it sink in. When's the last time Washington State was part of the lead-in video package on SportsCenter in such a significant way?
As I talked to friends, family and random people on Tuesday, there was a sense of pride and curiosity. Washington State fans and alums were wearing their colors, and their smiles, proudly. They were skipping out on work to sneak a peek at Leach's press conference and celebrating a hire that had to be considered a coup.
The sense of curiosity come from outside observers and fans of college football in general. Mike Leach is a revered figure, and I'm not sure anyone expected him to emerge from his Key West retreat by accepting a job in Pullman. The Cougar football program -- the one that's been an afterthought not only nationally, but in its own conference -- is on just about everyone's radar, before Leach even conducts a practice.
As Leach held court in Pullman and Seattle, he did so in front of captive, excited audiences, with some 1,400 people packing the CUB Ballroom just to listen to the man speak. WSU did its part, taking care of each and every detail, all the way down to the subtle branding elements at the press conferences. This wasn't a small-time, "Meet Mike" day. It was a full-scale push to put Washington State at the forefront of everyone's mind. Here we are, you have to pay attention to us.
Along the way, the message stayed the same: This is your coach, we have the buzz, but now we need you to pitch in. A season ticket table was present in Pullman, the push for donations always evident. In Seattle, in front of the media and high-dollar donors, renderings of the football operations building and stadium renovation were noticeable in the room. Moos delivered Leach, and he intends to capitalize on his high-profile, highly-capable head coach.
The contrast between Tuesday and big days in the Cougars' past is incredible. It's night and day. With Moos at the helm, the Washington State athletic department refuses to do things in a ho-hum way. Everything is about the brand, the exposure and drawing attention to the great things going on in Pullman. Mike Leach is one of those great things now, and will be going forward.
If you're a Washington State fan, you probably felt an immense amount of pride today. And you should. Tuesday was as big a day as I can remember for the Cougs, and the long-term outlook, with Moos at the helm continuing to push for bigger and better things, is outstanding. We saw it in the way Leach was introduced to the world and we've seen it in everything Moos has done.
Now hopefully Coach Leach and his family can get some rest after a whirlwind day. The show is over, and Leach has plenty of work to do in the next few weeks. If Tuesday was any indication, he'll hit the ground running and continue to hold the attention of not just Washington State fans, but casual observers nationwide.