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Does Mike Leach have the hardest job in the Pac-12?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It's no secret building a winning football program at Washington State isn't an easy task. If it was, the Cougars would certainly have a better winning percentage than they do during the last decade. It's tough to build and sustain a top program, but WSU does have some inherent challenges.

Those challenges and overcoming the recent lack of success were enough for Kyle Bonagura of ESPN to pick WSU as the toughest coaching job in the Pac-12. Here is a little bit of his reasoning:

So without much of a local talent base to pull from, Washington State -- which also has the conference's smallest athletic budget -- can only compete for the second- and third-tier recruits. There's the occasional blue-chipper looking for a college-town atmosphere who determines Pullman is the right place for him, but it's usually a hard sell -- especially because of the program's lack of success following the string of three straight 10-win seasons from 2001 to 2003.

There is no denying WSU's remoteness and recruiting challenges. Washington isn't exactly the most-fertile recruiting territory and the Cougars haven't had much success landing the prospects that do come along. The Cougars are forced to mine California, Texas and anywhere else they can to pull in a recruiting class. All of that is true.

But, I'm not so sure that makes WSU the toughest job in the conference. Toughest place to recruit? Probably. However, Mike Leach also operates with more autonomy and lower expectations than most coaches in the Pac-12. He doesn't have media or an athletic director breathing down his neck. The fanbase isn't going to storm Pullman with pitchforks and torches -- mostly because that would actually require going to Pullman (kidding, sort of). Instead, Leach is free to run his program how he sees fit and will be given plenty of time to build it his way. There may be an angry email or two and a few upset Internet commenters (or blog authors), but Leach is free of the expectations and pressure the majority of Pac-12 coaches face.

WSU certainly isn't the easiest coaching job in the conference, but with time and the full support of the athletic department, I'd argue it isn't the hardest either.

What's your pick for the toughest coaching job in the Pac-12?



Toughest coaching job in the Pac-12 - NCF Nation Blog - ESPN
But even those who cringe at the thought of Southern California traffic have to admit it's much easier to win football games there than places like Washington State or Oregon State. That's not debatable. Roughly 90 years of data bear it out.

Ernie Kent & Alex Grinch Speak at Cougar Athletic Fund Social - Washington State University Official Athletic Site

Prior to Sunday's men's basketball game against Washington, Cougar Athletic Fund members enjoyed a pre-game social inside the Rankich Club Room at Martin Stadium.

Night with Cougar Football Friday in Seattle - Washington State University Official Athletic Site

Washington State University Athletics concludes its four-night tour celebrating the Cougars’ 2015 Football Signing Class with "A Night with Cougar Football," Friday, Feb. 27, in Seattle.

Men's basketball:

Pac-12 power rankings: ASU men’s basketball keeps on winning | ASU News | The State Press | Arizona State University
The Cougars ended up splitting the season series with rival Washington and have lost two games in a row. Washington State has played better in Pac-12 play than it did in out of conference, despite having a worse record, and could sneak in a win or two before Las Vegas.

WSU Heads South for Final Road Trip of the Season - Washington State University Official Athletic Site
WSU HITS ROAD FOR FINAL ROAD TRIP OF SEASON AT LOS ANGELES: Washington State University men’s basketball (11-15, 5-9) returns to the road for the first time in two weeks as it heads to Los Angeles to take on USC (10-17, 2-13), Wednesday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. at the Galen Center.