Archive for the ‘John L. Smith’ Category

Price Bows Out

December 9, 2007
The Price is wrong b*tch.

From the following video link, old friend Mike Price has officially withdrawn his name from consideration for the head job at WSU. The Seattle Times has the story here. Surprised? Actually, no. Based on some things we have heard recently, it sounded like Price was further down the list than it initially appeared. We have also heard here through a reliable source that his wife Joyce wants to get back to the area, asap, and Price has purchased even more land recently as he sets up retirement plans. But clearly he has either seen the writing on the wall or was told flat-out that they were going in another direction. Price did say that he was a viable candidate and was interested, but he never actually interviewed for the job.

There is possibly an “ugly”, business-side to this story too, however. We wrote about this a few days ago, that maybe Price is kinda-sorta on the list in order to help him get a better contract at UTEP. Well, El Paso Times writer Joe Muench goes into detail that Price is pushing hard for a contract extension and/or a decent raise, but the turnip might be dry down there (Did you know Price’s base salary is only $260K!?!? That’s less than half of Doba’s salary! Wow. I know there are some incentives, but man, that’s super-cheap.) But the thing that struck me is reading some of the comments from UTEP fans. It appears that things aren’t as wonderful that Price says they are in El Paso??

Anyway, from a WSU angle, this is the strongest sign yet that they are close to pulling the trigger here. If this thing was going to drag out too much longer, I would tend to believe Price would remain on the interview list, but he wouldn’t publicly pull out like this unless he knew they were headed in a specific direction.

I’ve never been 100% behind the idea of Price returning, for reasons that have been brought up time and again. But I have to admit I’m a little sad about this. I’m a sentimental guy, and how can I ever forget what Price gave us? He did lead us to the highest of highs as a program, and for that I’ll always be thankful. The 10-win seasons and top-10 finishes, the Rose Bowls, the five bowl games with a 3-2 record in those bowls, QB’s drafted #1 and #2 in the entire NFL draft (think about that – that really is amazing for little ‘ol WAZZU!). The guy sold Pullman and WSU with all his heart, and was able to dig deep and find absolute gems in recruiting (the list is too long to go into right now, but you know the drill – Trufant, Long, Gesser, Derting, etc, all guys not with the flashy star ratings, yet all guys rating as some of the best in school history). Price won with fantastic offenses as his calling card, but he showed he could win with a fantastic defense as well. Price won with crappy facilities, a tiny donor base, and no TV coverage to speak of.

And to this day, he gave me the greatest WSU moment of my life – the 1997 Apple Cup. I will never, ever, ever forget everything about that day. I know time clouds the memory, but even coming into that game at 9-1, there were a lot of people that doubted we could stroll into that stadium with the Rose Bowl on the line and pull it off. But we did. I’ll never forget before the game, the energy in that stadium, the Leaf flag paraded around, just the buzz before that game was unreal. I remember in warmups Jason Chorak taunting Leaf right around midfield, yelling and pointing at him like it was before a WWF match, and Leaf pointing right back in a “bring it!” fashion. Unbelievable.

And of course, the 1998 Rose Bowl. When that team ran out of the tunnel, and looking at the 50,000+ crimson pom-poms waving, that was a moment that is burned on the brain. We looked so friggin’ big-time that day it’s hard to even put into words. So for all that, Mike Price, we at WSU Football Blog THANK YOU for all that you gave to WSU. The divorce was messy and I don’t want to get into that now, but again, Thank You! Thank you for making WSU relevant on the Pac-10 football landscape.

Moving on – The scary thing is this year’s recruiting class. 3 commits (and they are all holding firm, by the way, a very good thing!), but the dead period is coming where a coach cannot contact a recruit. It begins next Saturday and runs through the holidays, all the way up until 1/13. I don’t want to get down on Doba, but that whole late offer thing is really hurting us right now. Of course it’s likely that if we did go out and get like 10 kids to commit earlier this fall that some of them would be bailing out due to the coaching change, but still. The new coach has some serious heavy lifting ahead.

So, with that out of the way, where do we go from here? Who’s left on the interview list? Wulff, Smith and Sumlin are all on the books. The TNT has a good pro-con story on Wulff, with the pro’s outweighing the cons on this one. One source also claims that Bobby Hauck is on the list and may have already interviewed for the job(?). Another thing we’ve heard is that there still is a viable “mystery” candidate who’s team is preparing for a bowl game, so the contact hasn’t yet been made official. Still no word on Bob Gregory, Chip Kelly, Tim Lappano or any of the other top Pac-10 assistants making it past the preliminary list, but it’s not over yet. One thing that has been confirmed is that these interviews are NOT taking place in Pullman, but rather in Salt Lake City (looks like the Times was right on that one). So I guess we can forget about that web site to track flights in and out of Pullman-Moscow airport?? Stay tuned!

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UPDATE – Kevin Sumlin Interviewed today; So Who’s REALLY on the List?

December 7, 2007

Updated 12/7/07, 2:30 PM – As reported by the Spokesman, Oklahoma assistant Kevin Sumlin has interviewed today for the job. So the ball is officially rolling. John L will get an audience, we know that. But what about Wulff??

At this point, I wouldn’t even doubt that these guys were contacted by Moos. I don’t know if they’d work in Pullman though, but with the writers strike, you never know. I don’t think coach McConaughey would be ok with the “shirts must be worn at all times” rules for a head coach though, so it’s probably a pipe dream. And the other guy, I think he’s still stranded on an island somewhere.

Ok, bad joke. But you get the idea. Who the heck is really on the list? Who’s been contacted? Who’s yet to speak with the team? And why is it that we’re two weeks in and there’s not even an known interview yet? Is Sterk up to his Bennett-like tricks??

First, here are four of the most prominent names that we know of who have admitted to being contacted about the job:

1) Paul Wulff
I don’t know if you caught his interview last night, but give it a listen here if you dare. I’ve heard him talk before in small shots, but this is the longest I’ve heard him. He’s definitely got the passion for the job. He’s confident, yet not overly arrogant and he certainly doesn’t talk in “coach speak” filled with cliche’s, etc. He’s a Coug, there’s no doubt about it, and that could sell really well. He pushes the whole underdog mentality and he totally understands what Pullman is all about. And, no, there will be no coordinator deal while he’s biding his time to be the head guy. In fact, in the interview he admits that WSU has approached him in the past about being an assistant or a coordinator and he turned them down. He is a HEAD COACH, and don’t forget it.

Here’s the thing though. In his interview he says flat-out he’s been contacted, but, still no interview. We’re almost two weeks into this thing and no interview? And he’s just 75 miles up the road? That seems a little odd. Or is it?

First of all, Wulff said publicly that last week he was interested but didn’t want to talk about it as he was getting ready to play a playoff game. So he wouldn’t even be ready to talk until this week. Then, Jim Sterk was in NYC for the first part of this week to attend an awards presentation. So, Sterk has only just got back into the office. There’s literally like 1 or 2 days, tops, that they could even meet. So I really think he’s going to get his shot at this thing, but the timing has to be just right. And, based on what we’ve been told around here, you can lean heavily towards the idea that as far as some people know, he IS very close if not the #1 guy on the list right now.

Here’s a Youtube video by Wulff, asking fans to help raise funds for an EWU football program that is on the rise, but definitely needs money:

2) John L Smith
We’ve joked that John L has set up a campaign headquarters and wants to get this job so bad he can taste it. He’s a former WSU assistant and had a lot of BCS experience, so he does fit the bill to a certain degree about what some people are looking for. But I don’t know. Age is against him, 59 right now and not getting any younger. We already know we’ve been beat up in recruiting circles this year based on age, so do we want to go back there for a guy who is known for kind of “losing it” at Michigan State??

And who could forget “the slap”?

Is that the guy Sterk wants to hire? Hmmm. We do know that it’s likely that Smith will be meeting with Sterk, potentially even today or some time this weekend.

3) DeWayne Walker

He’s got the reputation at UCLA for being an excellent position coach and a fantastic recruiter. He’s young and has a lot of energy, something that is going to be required for this job. He’s African-American, and that’s something that is considered in this. The downside is the UCLA situation itself, and Walker is very much a viable candidate for that job as the head coach. So if we want him, there’s going to be some stiff competition. Plus he’s never been a head coach, and that could be an issue with Sterk.

4) Mike Price
He’s been contacted, admits interest, yet that’s as far as it’s gone. He’s said as recently as Wednesday that WSU is “his school” and he’s interested. But then in the next breath says he’s working on an extension for UTEP? Maybe this is a case of “Mike, we’re going in another direction but we’ll do you a favor. This thing is going to take a while, so, we’ll float your name as someone we’re interested in. You can use that as a hammer in your contract extension talks with UTEP and you can get that one last big extension.” It sounds like a dirty trick, but look around the country. It happens EVERY DAY with college coaches! The latest is Grobe from Wake Forest, who was all but done and was going to take the job at Arkansas yesterday, only to suddenly get a great contract extension! Wouldn’t be the first time – nor the last time – something like that went down. I do think that there’s a shot Price could come back, but from what we hear, it’s not likely.

Now, rumors:

June Jones was floated over the last few days, and in particular last night the rumors started to percolate. KRKO 1380’s Jeff Aaron said on the air that he heard yesterday that Jones is the new hot rumor floating around the WSU athletic department offices. It kind of makes you wonder, is it realistic? Well, as our good friend Kaddy points out, Jones only makes $800K at Hawaii. I believe we could match that, if not exceed it. He’s the king of the world over there, sure, but it is a WAC school and there’s always the lure of BCS competition. He’s from Portland so he does have some NW ties, although nothing directly related to WSU. Still, there are some strange things about Jones. One rumor is that he’s very friendly with the female coeds. Even one rumor had him so friendly with one notable Hawaii volleyball player that she ended up suddenly transfering all the way to Alabama. The talk was that she “with child”. Hmm, screwing the students might not go over well with Jim?!?

There was someone named “Bucky” who floated a Barry Alvarez rumor last week. It sort of makes some sense if you think about the Bennett connection. Retired guy with great success recently is brought in to get the program to another level, maybe even a succession plan behind him. Sterk was in Madison this fall of course, for the opener, so you know their paths have crossed. And I would imagine that if “Dick Bennett is on line 1 Barry” happened on a regular day in Madison, that Barry would pick up the phone. And, Alvarez has been in rumor mills since he retired, so stranger things have happened (like Bennett to WSU??). But Alvarez is a Wisconsin guy, he’s their AD right now so why would he even want to get back into the grind?

Other names floating include Turner Gill, for obvious reasons and rumored to have talked with Sterk already, although no confirmation there. Gill says he isn’t really looking for anything new at this time after striking out with Nebraska. Brady Hoke of Ball State is on the radar, but it might not be a match. In fact, Hoke is showing up in other rumor mills, including Michigan where he was a former assistant. Bob Gregory admitted he got a call about it, but nothing has happened there.

So, that’s where we are. With Sterk’s statement of “no more comments!” in regards to this search, well, rumors are going to fester. Someone is going to go online at a message board or (gasp!) a blog and say, “I’ve heard so-and-so is interested!” This is what happens when there’s no communication. Like it or not, the rumors are only going to get hotter as things roll forward.

Meanwhile, hats of to UW. I’m not kidding either. Have you seen their latest commits??? Fogerson from O’Dea, the kid who ran for 297 and 4 TD’s in the state title game last weekend, finishing with over 2500 yards and 36 TD’s this year (wow!). He actually committed to Ohio State, but now says he’s going to be a Husky? And then the number one fish in the state, Ta’amu of Rainier Beach, now says he’s going to UW? They are looking at a top-15 class in the nation, at least. Not that we were going to compete with these guys on the recruiting trail, and we usually pursue a different kind of kid, but they are flat-out killing right now. Willingham has set up a fence around the state and right now, he’s keeping ’em home. That’s HUGE.

Meanwhile we have 3 commits, and probably half our assistants are working the phones on trying to land a new job when they are still on our payroll. Come on Jim, this thing could turn out to be a total mess if you don’t get moving. Please, MAKE A GREAT HIRE HERE. The heat is on!

The Fantastic Seven?

December 1, 2007

So today, sources have told the Spokesman that the list is now down to seven candidates. Without further adieu, first, the obvious five:

1) Mike Price (Really???)

2) John L. Smith

3) Paul Wulff

4) Bob Gregory

5) Dave Christensen

The usual suspects and names that have been bandied about. John L has been a quote machine of late. I seriously wonder if he’s set up a campaign headquarters with a bunch of staffers running around making calls on behalf of the candidacy of the next head coach of the WSU Cougars, John L. Smith! OK John, OK, we get it – you want the job.

But two other names have been leaked, and they are head-scratchers.

First up, Brady Hoke, head coach of Ball State. Hoke is an interesting guy with a strong background with ties to Michigan, spending eight years there under Lloyd Carr on the defensive staff. His NW ties go all the way back to Oregon State, where he coached there from 1989-1994.

It seems a bit odd to tell the truth. Hoke played his college ball at Ball State and is a Ball State guy all the way. His wife went to Ball State, and their only daughter is a student there as well. But when a BCS program comes calling you at least have to listen. On the plus side, he’s got some great BCS assistant experience, at OSU and Michigan. But the downside, well, Hoke’s record isn’t what you would call flattering. 22-36 at Ball State? OK, he’s got them at 7 wins this year so they are going bowling, but still.

The other new name in the mix is Ray Sherman. Sherman has a long, varied background in coaching. Sherman played his college football at Fresno State, then began a 14-year college coaching career, including as an assistant at San Jose State in 1974 and jobs at Cal, Michigan State, Wake, Purdue and Georgia. But it’s his NFL experience that opens your eyes. He started in Houston, and went on to San Francisco, Atlanta, the New York Jets, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Green Bay and Tennessee before joining the Cowboys this season. He was the OC for Pete Carroll in 1994 at the Jets, and then in 1998 for the Steelers and 1999 at Minnesota.
The obvious plus here is a huge variety in experiences on both levels. He’s likely seen everything there is to see, and he’s coached under some outstanding head coaches. He gets a lot of credit for coaching up Green Bay’s WR’s in his time there, including Donald Driver and Javon Walker. He also gets some credit for the run-n-shoot offense under Jerry Glanville back in his Houston days.
The downside? Well, age for one. He’s now 56 years old, not exactly a spring chicken and/or the young, up-and-comer that some speculate will end up with this job. He’s got no real ties to the NW. Cal is his closest job he’s had to the area, so he would be coming in with very little knowledge of the lay of the land.
Oh, and no mention of Barry Alvarez (Bucky, where are you??).
A few other quickies today:
  • To get this out of the way, our friends at Montlake might be in for a VERY long night. My brother-in-law, who shall remain nameless, is a prominent booster over there and actually traveled with the team. Well guess what? They were scheduled to leave SeaTac at 11:15. He called me at 4:30 to say they were STILL SITTING AT THE AIRPORT. No joke. The plane was delayed out of Baltimore. Then, it finally gets there. Guess what?? It’s delayed due to mechanical problems!! Finally, at 3:15 AM PST, he e-mailed me from his mobile to say they were finally there but still hadn’t checked in to the hotel. It should be an interesting game tonight, after all the travel BS and then oh yeah, that’s Colt Brennan and the top passing offense in the galaxy on the other side of the field, rested and ready to try and get a BCS bowl in the biggest game in the history of Hawaii! Over/under on Brennan’s passing yards of 500? I’d lean heavily on the over!
  • Next, Mike Price again talked about the job on Friday to the El Paso Times. Price did say that things are still very preliminary, and he’s off to California to scout a JC game today, and that’s the extent of it. A writer for the El Paso Times blogs that he believes Price wants out ot El Paso (what a shock!). And, YES, I feel hard for the FAA website that showed a plane mysteriously traveling from Lubbock, TX to Pullman yesterday…..until I saw that the Lady Red Raiders of Texas Tech were battling June Daughtery’s gals today. DUH. Oh well, I admit it.
“We will make no public statement regarding the hiring process or the candidates we are considering,” said Sterk. “We are currently screening and researching potential candidates and are hopeful to have a new head coach in place by the first of the year.”
  • Finally, congrats to Chima and Hannam for making the Sporting News All-Pac-10 Freshman team! Hannam was a nice surprise on the line and looks like he could be a starter for years to come. Chima meanwhile grew up fast, going from an utter disaster early on to being a player that you can really see potential once he gets some more meat on those skinny bones (did you know Chima quietly logged 73 tackles?? Not bad for a true frosh!). I still say that the first time I saw Chima against Idaho, he was raw, no question, but he had really good feet and showed athleticism. I was impressed by both Chima and Giles and I think I got it as to why they were starting. The growing pains were rough, but the future is pretty bright for both Chima and Giles.

This May Take a While

November 29, 2007

If you are on the edge of your seat, waiting for what you think is a foregone conclusion that Mike Price is the next head coach? You might want to cool it. Jim Sterk went on KJR last night with Elise and Ian, and he did in fact acknowledge that Bill Moos has talked to Mike. But Sterk said that he himself had not yet talked to Mike, at all. When asked if Price was interested in the job, Sterk wouldn’t elaborate, saying that was up to Price on however he wanted to talk about the situation. But Sterk did say that Price was NOT THE GO-TO-GUY ON THE LIST, and this search is not about Mike Price.

Here’s the link to the interview. It’s a really interesting listen, and I encourage you all to check it out.

If you heard Sterk last night, you might want to dig in for the long haul. The impression he gave was that this is, in no way, going to be a rush job. Despite what you may have heard from whatever sources you may have, Sterk flat-out said that this is going to be a thorough, detailed process leaving no stone unturned. He even mentioned that they won’t set a true deadline, but that the end of the year the new coach should be in place (!?!). End of the year?? I don’t think we like the sound of that, not when December is such an important month for all recruiting efforts, but especially one that Doba had stead-fastly decided that we would be different and we would wait things out, jumping in late on a lot of kids. Not such a swell idea now, is it??

And one more thing from Sterk on Price. Let’s just say if Sterk wanted Price and he was the clear-cut #1 choice. Would there be talk of this long process with Moos and Floyd all actively involved? Sterk also said that there is really a committee, including a few team captains, and they are all going to have input on what they are hoping for in a new coach. Sterk admitted himself that he loves to get input from many different people before he makes the decision, so it’s not as if he’s sprinting to the podium with his arm around Price. But if they wanted Price that badly, this thing would already be over, ala Houston Nutt at Ole Miss. This is not going to be a quick process.

Maybe that’s actually the best news of all. Moos and Sterk and Floyd are extremely confident in their situation, and it was hard not to listen to Sterk and feel nothing but good feelings that they are going to do EVERYTHING THEY CAN to get us the perfect fit. They are smart guys who know what they are looking for, and Sterk himself has shown he can think “outside the box”. To this day, nobody saw the Bennett’s coming, yet here we are #6 in the country and a team with legit Final Four aspirations. The June Daugherty hire is still considered a major get, and in a few years they could be a factor in the conference. So let’s just see what they come up with. Maybe it will be a name that nobody saw and we’ll be absolutely blindsided. But I know this. We should feel great about the guys leading this search, because I don’t think we could be in better hands.

Price did speak to (who else) Howie Stalwick, and more or less danced around the topic. Moos said they talked but it was a “feeling out” process and that was the extent of the details. In the same article, John L. Smith said he was interested and Moos had contacted him already as well. And the Cal guys, Gregory and Michalzcik, both admitted interest as well. Again, not a surprise.

Meanwhile, Moos does say that things are moving fast. At least as far as the preliminary call list, Moos is basically done according to the TNT. I imagine that he’s been glued to the phone the last couple of days, and that they are ready to dig deeper after the initial contact phase.

For the rumor-monger, Pat Hill at Fresno State is mentioned in Howie’s article. While he didn’t come out and say he wants the job, a “source with Fresno State ties” admitted that Hill is very interested in WSU, but Hill said Wednesday that he hadn’t talked to anyone. And if you really want to dig rumors, how about the one that said Rick Neuheisel had been spotted in Pullman Wednesday?? Nah. I don’t think we can fathom going there, even if the Go-2-Guy sure can.

Finally, Jim Walden – if anyone thinks he is cool with Price returning??? Think again. He went out of his way to push Wulff in the P-I yesterday, and he was just getting started. He also went out of his way to piss on Price’s candidacy, both in print and on the radio. I heard him last night with Jeff Aaron, and he said Price “won’t happen”, for many reasons, including age, the circumstances with how he left and his poor record the last couple of years which shows that he really hasn’t built much of anything at UTEP. Here’s a link to the story, although you may have trouble getting to it. Reading some of these quotes from Walden, and hearing him last night, I don’t think he’ll go out of his way to buy Price a beer if he returns to Pullman:

“If they’re beating up Doba (in recruiting) because of his age now,” said Jim Walden, one of Price’s predecessors and now the Cougars’ extremely colorful commentator on radio, “why wouldn’t they beat up Price for the same thing?”

“I don’t think a coach that leaves a school when he’s got them in the Rose Bowl and goes to another place is what you want,” said Walden, as usual holding back not at all. “I’m not thinking that’s a serious move for a school.

“We didn’t divorce him. He left us. The Cougar in me says, ‘No.’ Maybe it’s emotional. Or maybe I have a deeper feel for the school that says we’ve got to get better.”

“What is he doing for UTEP that we would get excited about?” Walden said. “Has he been to four bowls in four years? Won 50 games? What makes us think he’s a great prospect? I’m not trying to knock the guy, but let’s move on.”

Finally, on the air last night, Walden said not only “it won’t happen” but that he doesn’t think Price wants the job or really cares to get it. According to Walden, the only reason he would do it is if he can get Eric the head coaching job down the line, just like everyone has speculated. And that Price doesn’t need the money or the new challenge at his age, and that he’d likely just take the job and spend more time at his lake place than out on the road recruiting or doing the extra work it’s going to take to get this thing back to where we want it to be. Safe to say, Walden IS NOT IN THE PRICE CAMP!