Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Brief History of Washington Sports: Washington State Cougars Football

This is the first post of many that will briefly cover the history of a Washington sports team. In this post, I will cover the Washington State Cougars Football team. I recently attended a fall football scrimmage for the 2012 team and my impression of this team is quite different than those of the fans here in Pullman. From what I gathered after listening in on a few Cougs fans' conversations, it seems as though Wazzu expects great things from this season, mostly due to the arrival of head coach Mike Leach. A hire like Leach is a huge deal for this school considering all of his accolades and what he brings to the table; however, fans everywhere will be blinded by hype. These fans expect a bowl bid and a 6-6 or 7-5 record in Leach's first season; however, we must look at history to see what the future holds for Cougars football.
Martin Stadium: 2012 will be the 40th year in which the Washington State Cougars have played in Martin Stadium. Named after former governor of Washington, Clarence D. Martin, Martin Stadium held its first game on September 30, 1972. The stadium originally had a capacity of 26,500 and is currently the smallest stadium in the Pac-12 with a capacity of 35,117. I've been to some of the world's nicest and largest sporting venues and I must say, I was unimpressed. Washington State is currently working on adding a press box which makes the stadium look nicer and more 21st century; however, it is just way too small. It now looks as though they added a press box to a Texas high school football stadium. The lack of size gives this stadium almost no intimidation factor, but Martin Stadium does make for a tough playing field during the winter time due to snow.

Three Straight Ten Win Seasons: In 1997, the Cougs made it to the Rose Bowl under QB Ryan Leaf and Head Coach Mike Price; however, they lost to the Michigan Wolverines and finished 10-2 with an AP Ranking of #9. Leaf left for the NFL, leaving Price with a promising group of players. In 2001, the Cougars would reach the ten-win mark once again, finishing with a 10-2 record and #10 in the AP poll after defeating the Purdue Boilermakers in the Sun Bowl. The following year, the Cougars would become co-champions of the Pac-10 with a 10-3 record and a trip to the Rose Bowl. The Cougars would lose the Rose Bowl to the Oklahoma Sooners and finish at #10 once again in the AP Poll. The following season, Price would leave for a coaching job at Alabama, which lead to the promotion of Bill Doba to Head Coach. Doba would take the Cougs to the Holiday Bowl, where they beat the Texas Longhorns and finished the season with a 10-3 record and an AP Poll ranking of #9. However, the following season was a great dissapointment as the Cougars finished with a 5-6 record, ending their streak of ten-win seasons.

Bill Doba

Paul Wulff
Recent History: Following their ten-win 2003 season, the Cougars haven't had a single winning season. Doba proved that he could not make a new winning team with a new batch of young players; however, in 2006, he led the team to a 6-6 mark but they were not invited to a bowl game. After a 5-7, 2007 campaign, Doba was fired. He was replaced by Paul Wulff. He was awful. The team had a 9-40 record with him at the helm and finished at the bottom of the Pac-10/12 twice. Wulff was fired after a 4-8, 2011 campaign. Washington State hired Mike Leach as head coach during the offseason. Leach brings an 84-43 record to Pullman and a reputation as the best head coach for the spread offense passing attack. This system should fit nicely with the current group of players. I doubt the team will make it to a bowl in 2012, but they are headed in the right direction after a 7-year stretch of mediocrity and poor football. 
Mike Leach