I’m sitting here watching UCLA at 6-6, and likely to end up 6-7 in a few days. The program has had one really good season in the past decade — a 10-2 year in 2005 when they were paced by future Pro Bowlers Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcedes Lewis. The Bruins have been an average team the past nine years, all of which were under the guidance of Karl Dorrell or Rick Neuheisel. Both hires were made by current athletic director Dan Guerrero, who reportedly had no interest in hiring Mike Leach to fill the head coaching vacancy in 2008.
Now, four years later, UCLA had a chance hire Leach, but they let someone else get him. While the Bruins are sitting here without a coach, Arizona snatched Rich Rodriguez and Washington State landed Leach.
Dread pirate Leach agreed to a five-year deal worth a reported $11 million to rebuild the program in the Palouse. It’s a great hire for Washington State, and one I wish UCLA would have made.
Leach’s teams at Texas Tech averaged more than 33 points per game in nine of his 10 years as head coach. They never had a losing season, and they went to a bowl every year. He’s used to recruiting players to Lubbock, Texas, so convincing players to play in Pullman shouldn’t be a problem. It won’t take long for Leach to turn Washington State, which had three 10-win seasons under Mike Price, into a winning program again.
For the record, in 2007, I said that Leach was not the answer for UCLA. I complained that he constantly topped out at 8 wins a year, and that his teams never could stop anyone. His lack of attention to defense is a fault, but had I been told the alternative was Rick Neuheisel, I would have begged for Leach.
Washington State likely won’t dominate the Pac-12 each year the way USC and Oregon have been, but just having an exciting offense and winning 7-8 games a season should please their fans. Things have become so bad at UCLA, that’s really all I’m asking for.