After two disastrous games for the Washington State Cougars defense, the shake up to get things turned around begins at the top. Tracy Claeys resigned his position as defensive coordinator of the Cougs on Friday, first reported by Theo Lawson of the Spokesman Review and confirmed by the school minutes later.
Linebacker coach Roc Bellantoni has been named an interim co-defensive coordinator along with cornerbacks coach Darcel McBath while WSU looks for a full time replacement.
“We appreciate Tracy’s efforts the past year and a half and wish him the best going forward,” said Leach in the media release.
It is not yet clear whether Claeys resignation means that the school is on the hook for the remainder of his contract or if a buyout was negotiated.
Claeys’ first season after Alex Grinch left for a job with the Ohio State Buckeyes went well as the Cougs’ defense played better than expected on their way to a school record 11-win season. Following the 2018 season, Claeys was given a contract extension through the end of the 2021 season as a reward for a job better done than most anyone expected.
But things quickly went south in 2019. Washington State gave up 50 points to the UCLA Bruins in the final 20 minutes of their conference opener at Martin Stadium. The defense followed that performance with a terrible showing at Rice-Eccles Stadium; the Utah Utes scored 38 points even without all-conference running back Zach Moss and quarterback Tyler Huntley averaged over 11 yards per pass in the driving rain.
The Washington State defense’s fall was precipitous following what had been a good seven halves of football this season, giving up 52.5 points per game in conference play. Though the exact reason for their incredibly poor play is not known, it’s clear Claeys or his boss believed it had something to do with him.
UPDATE - 6:10 P.M.
Bruce Feldman of The Athletic has some more insight:
My understanding is WAZZU and Leach wanted Tracy Claeys to stay but he opted to resign for personal reasons. https://t.co/Qou4LxzRLx— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) October 5, 2019
UPDATE - 9 P.M.
Thank you Coach Leach for the opportunity. I didn’t resign for health or personal reasons. The defense has struggled and I am responsible. We couldn’t agree on solutions so the SPEED D is better with new leadership! I love the players and staff! They will finish strong! GO COUGS— Tracy Claeys (@t_claeys) October 5, 2019