The Washington State Cougars have lost their athletic director Bill Moos to Nebraska in a stunning move that leaves one big lingering question: Will Moos take WSU head football coach Mike Leach with him to Nebraska? It’s a fair question, because from the outside it is apparent that Nebraska is hiring Moos specifically for what he did in building the WSU football program back to relevance, and hiring Leach was the spark.
The prospect of Leach leaving extends beyond Nebraska at this point, but for now let’s examine whether or not Lincoln will be Leach’s next landing spot. First, let’s get the obvious point that has WSU fans worried out there:
AD support is important for Mike Leach, and the man that brought him to Pullman and let him run his own ship is now at Nebraska.
This is a fair concern—Leach was burned by leadership at Texas Tech. His relationship with Moos is important. When there have been rumors of Leach leaving, we often pointed to AD support as why Leach would stay. It’s fair to assume Moos would offer that same support at Nebraska.
However, this is Nebraska we are talking about—one of the most storied programs with the highest expectations in all of college football.
Leach has never been much for all the peripheral responsibilities of a college football coach—schmoozing donors, being a public face of the university. At Nebraska, the spotlight will shine much brighter.
His “quirky” personality fits at WSU, and it fit for a while at Texas Tech. These are outposts of major college football with nowhere close to the tradition of Nebraska, where the media and fan scrutiny pales in comparison to Lincoln (remember, we are talking football here).
But he eventually wore down the more traditional Texas football types at Texas Tech, and those same types have influence at Nebraska. Leach might just see Nebraska as a poor cultural fit.
But Nebraska has the money, the prestige and the support to go well beyond what Leach might be able to achieve at WSU. That could be appealing.
Don’t let Leach’s goofy press conferences fool you—the man is competitive as hell. Any competitor wants to succeed at the highest level, and rebuilding a winner at Nebraska would mean doing just that—and he’d be paid more handsomely while doing it (Let’s not ignore that Nebraska just lured Moos away by doubling his WSU salary).
Still, would Nebraska fans embrace the Air Raid?
Nebraska built its history on defense and the triple option. Does Nebraska AD Moos believe he can convince his donor base that throwing the ball 55 times a game is the path forward?
From 1000 feet, it looks like Nebraska fans, to a level beyond other fan bases, value strong defense and a sound running game above all else. This isn’t like selling the Air Raid at a school like WSU that already had a long history of spread offenses and hucking the ball around.
And Leach hasn’t really won at the level that Nebraska desires—his best season was 11-2 at Texas Tech. Nebraska fans want to compete for championships.
Is it possible that Leach could leave WSU for Nebraska? Sure, there’s an obvious link there. Are there legitimate reasons why Leach wouldn’t want to go to Nebraska, and why Nebraska wouldn’t want Leach? Yep, and that’s why the move might not be as automatic as some may believe.