In the time since I graduated from Washington State University and the toils of COM 300, I've allowed my skill at crafting a compelling introduction paragraph to wane. So, I'm not gonna stress about it!
You know why we're all here. Nick Rolovich was terminated from his position as the 33rd coach in our beloved school's history. But I'm not here to talk about Rolovich, vaccines, or mandates. Quite frankly, I'm sick of discussing those particular items. What's done is done, and it's time for our program, university, and fan base to look to the future.
Director of Athletics Pat Chun has the responsibility of selecting our next head coach. But because I'm a gigantic college football nerd, I'm gonna put on my A.D. hat and run through the qualities and qualifications I believe our next head coach should possess, as well the men who do and don't fit those specifications. My only hope is to spark some discussion about some exciting candidates and help us turn the page on an incredibly divisive chapter for our fandom. As scary as coaching searches can be (especially for a school like WSU), I always find myself giddy about the new possibilities ahead. It's my sincere hope that you do too!
Let's begin first with the qualifications that I deem a necessity for success in Pullman. Our next coach should...
- Be an offensively-minded individual. For years now, the most successful Coug coaches are men with a background in dynamic, pass-centric schemes. While I'm not totally opposed to a defensive coach taking the reins, the ongoing struggles of Justin Wilcox at Cal and Jimmy Lake at UW have led me to feel a bit pessimistic about the odds of success for such a hire.
- Have geographic ties to the Pac-12 footprint. I don't take as much of a hard stance on this as some others might, but I recognize the importance of having connections throughout WSU's recruiting ground. I need to know our coach won't be completely lost attempting to recruit players in California, Arizona, Nevada, and so on.
- Have a wide range of experience at the FBS level, ideally as a head coach. A bit of an obvious qualification, perhaps. But we've seen what happens when our coaches aren't able to match up with those of the opposition: they adjust and then we wilt. Ideally, for me, our next head coach will have head honcho experience at either the Power Five or Group of Five level, along with experience as an assistant on multiple Power Five staffs. At this juncture, we do not need somebody who is in over his head.
- Possess values that align with those of Washington State University. This isn't meant as a criticism of Nick Rolovich or Mike Leach, but I'd love to have a coach with a less zany personality who doesn't make himself the headline, for better or worse. The off-field distractions that our past two head coaches have created and perpetuated at various points have been exhausting for this Coug. Admittedly, this is the toughest trait to judge, seeing as I don't have a damn clue what these dudes are like in real life.
- Jay Norvell, Head Coach at Nevada: Coach Norvell is my A+ hire. He owns a 30-23 record with the Wolf Pack, including a 12-3 mark since the start of the 2020 season. Norvell has navigated a rebuild, runs a variation of the Air Raid, and has coached everywhere. As an assistant, he cut his teeth at blue bloods like Texas and Oklahoma, with stints in the NFL to boot. He's paid a mere $625,000 per year in Reno, so WSU would not have a difficult time giving him a well-earned salary boost.
- Kalen DeBoer, Head Coach at Fresno State: A coach on the rise who has the Bulldogs playing well in his second year, beating UCLA and nearly taking down Oregon earlier this season. DeBoer cut his teeth as an OC at Indiana and he had an insanely impressive run as coach of NAIA Sioux Falls (for whatever its worth). He's not really a West Coast guy, but is likely to be a popular name for any and all Pac-12 openings this offseason.
- Blake Anderson, Head Coach at Utah State: Another guy with limited West Coast ties (aside from his current role and time in New Mexico early in his career), but a resume that gleams with consistency and stability. His time at Arkansas State resulted in a 51-37 record and six bowl appearances in seven years, and he currently has the Aggies sitting at 4-2 (including a defeat of our Cougs) after they only managed one win in 2020. If we want a stable, high-character presence, Anderson is a name worthy of consideration.
- Brent Brennan, Head Coach at San Jose State: A hot name in coaching circles last season, Brennan has admittedly lost some of his luster due to a poor start to this season. Nonetheless, he guided the Spartans to a breakout 7-1 season and a Top-25 finish after a lengthy rebuild just a year ago. San Jose State is a challenging gig and there's no question he'd be leaving the team in a better place than where he found it. I believe he's well-worth our consideration, but would understand any hesitation.
- Joe Moorhead, Offensive Coordinator at Oregon: A creative offensive mind with experience at the highest levels of college football. His tenure as head coach at Mississippi State obviously ended in less-than-ideal fashion, but there are few coaches who I'd fault for some struggles in the SEC West. His work at Oregon and Penn State alone as an OC is incredibly impressive.
- Jake Dickert, Interim Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator at WSU: I reserve the right to move Dickert out of this category in either direction, but if we end the season playing winning football, it'll be a miracle that should earn him some serious consideration. I've enjoyed his presence and I think the defense is steadily improving under his guidance. Hell, his pressers alone are a breath of fresh air after eight years of Mike Leach and two of Nick Rolovich. He'd be a risky pick, but I think he has "future head coach" written all over him.
- Sonny Dykes, Head Coach at SMU: I think there’s basically zero chance he leaves the Big 12 footprint after how his Cal tenure went, but I’m impressed with his work with the Mustangs and he fits the profile as an offense guy. Probably the only "Mike Leach guy" I have any level of interest in. He strikes me as a bit of an odd dude, but his time at SMU has proved he can thrive in the right environment. I'd be hugely concerned about the defense under him, but hey, we'd score a ton of touchdowns!
- Jeff Banks, Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams/Tight Ends at Texas: A Coug alum with a massive range of experience at some major programs, he'd certainly bring some impressive connections and recruiting chops to Pullman. Banks spent three seasons learning from the best of the best at Alabama, as well as stops at Texas A&M and now Texas. I'm just not 100% into the idea of hiring a lifetime TE/ST guy to lead a program. But worth exploring due to the Coug connection and his winning background.
- Alex Grinch/Graham Harrell/Jim Mastro/Ken Wilson/etc.: At this point, hiring somebody just because "hey, we were good when Mike Leach was here and they were here when he was!" seems like a poor idea. As much as we loved him, I'd really rather forge our own identify beyond Leach. Also, if Alex Grinch wanted or gave two shits about our job, he'd probably be our head coach right now.
- Jim Mora Jr./Rick Neuheisel/Jeff Tedford/*Insert Pac-12 Retread Here*: Bleh. These are the types of safe, unimaginative hires that eventually just lead to ADs and coaches being fired. I'd literally rather suck after making a bold hire than plod along with one of these dudes. Hard pass.
- Jim McElwain, Head Coach at Central Michigan: He's a PNW guy and that's pretty much all I give him credit for. Dude came off like an ass during his Florida tenure and he's not nearly good enough to justify it. I'll also never forgive him for the 2013 New Mexico Bowl.
- Troy Calhoun, Head Coach at Air Force: If Pat Chun wants to murder our recruiting and my enthusiasm for Cougar football at the same time, hire a triple-option guy!
- Jeff Choate, Co-Defensive Coordinator at Texas: I thought about putting him in the tier above, but I really can't get myself exciting about Choate. Credit to him for the job he did at MSU, but I got lifelong trauma from the last head coach we had who was pretty good in the FCS. Seems like a great dude, but this hire screams low-ceiling/low-floor to me.
- Craig Bohl, Head Coach at Wyoming: I don’t think his style of football would play or recruit well in Pullman. At 63, he’s probably older than what we should be aiming for. I respect his work at NDSU, but I'm really not that impressed with his Wyoming work.
- Urban Meyer/Bob Stoops/Chris Petersen/etc.: Let's just get you into bed.