I’ve probably been remiss in not publishing an entry allowing for comment on the Mike Leach firing today, especially considering that less than 13 months ago he was a candidate for the head coaching job at UW.
Leach was one of three persons known to have had in-person interviews with UW officials about replacing the fired Tyrone Willingham — eventual hire Steve Sarkisian and Fresno State’s Pat Hill were the others. There were certainly scores of others who were at least talked to on the phone, or more informally (Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, for instance, was definitely approached about the job and would have been a choice far above Leach for all the obvious reasons, but apparently was simply not interested in wanting to get into another rebuilding situation, and there’s lots of reason to think that Brian Kelly, recently hired at Notre Dame but then at Cincinnati, was also approached, as was Jim Mora).
PROGRAMMING NOTE — Just wanted to alert that with some other commitments at hand during the day Thursday, not sure when I will post on here next, but I’ll try to get some stuff up at some point over the next few days.
But while Leach was definitely among those the school talked to, I think it’s far too simplistic to say he was UW’s No. 1 choice, or was ever even offered the job. In fact, what I’ve heard is that the second interview he was supposed to have was scotched after UW wouldn’t commit to hiring him if he came, that Leach wanted something of a promise that he was the choice since word had gotten out of his first interview. While understandably intrigued by his success, UW was apparently a little skittish of Leach’s eccentricities, especially having just dealt with a coach in Willingham who had skittish relations with boosters and media (and these are things I was told at the time, not in the wake of all of this news).
Leach was confirmed to have flown to Seattle to meet with UW officials three days before the school eventually hired Sarkisian. Sarkisian had been interviewed the previous week, and Hill in between, so of those three, Leach was the last to get an interview.
E-mails that were made public today by the Dallas Morning News detailing the contentious contract negotiations between Leach and Texas Tech last year include several mentions of his interview with UW. One has Jim Sowell, chairman of the school’s Board of Regents, writing that Leach’s agent “begged” Washington for an interview. Another has him noting that the UW interview was the only one Leach had in nine years at UW and that Washington then hired another coach within 24 hours (that timeline doesn’t jibe exactly with the timeline I know, but Sarkisian was hired within hours of the time when Leach let it be known he was no longer a candidate).
Regardless of how close Leach may or may not have been to ever becoming UW’s coach, there seems little question today that the Huskies are better off with the direction they eventually headed.
STANFORD WAVES BANNER FOR PAC-10 THURSDAY — But it’s a limp one at the moment with the conference at 2-3 after Arizona turned in one of the worst bowl performances in recent Pac-10 memory Wednesday night against Nebraska.
Stanford allows the Pac-10 another shot at a Big 12 foe, taking on Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl.
The Huskies will host Stanford next Oct. 30 — a fortuitous date for UW as it was on that date in 1999 that Marques Tuiasosopo had his famed 300-200 game.
That’ll be a Cardinal team that figures to look a little different than the one you’ll see today, if mostly because it will almost certainly be without TB and Heisman Trophy finalist Toby Gerhart, who is listed as a senior but could return for another season but has given indications he will instead depart for the NFL.
Stanford will start three other seniors on offense Thursday (here’s the team’s depth chart for the Sun Bowl), and four on defense, though that includes backup QB Tavita Pritchard, who will step in for injured true freshman Andrew Luck.
But seven starters returning on each side of the ball obviously means that the Cardinal will return the bulk of the players who began the turn around of Stanford football this season, including four members of an offensive line that other than Gerhart may have been the biggest key to the whole thing. The return of that line, a talented young QB in Luck, and the continued maturation of what have been some good recruiting classes the last few years, means the Cardinal is likely to be right in the thick of things again in the Pac-10 next season.
Here’s a good story from Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News detailing how it wasn’t just the hiring of Harbaugh that led to the resurgence, but also a renewed commitment from the administration to make football a success.
Here, also, is a preview of the game from Ted Miller, as well as the pick of Jim Moore who needs a little rally after losing the last two (though, uh, so did I). I have Stanford in all the picks I did before the bowl season, but I’m way more hesitant now given the way the Pac-10’s bowl season is going and the Cardinal having to play without Luck. But in Toby I Trust, I guess, so I’ll stick with the Cardinal.