If Wulff is out, who could be in?

THERE'S AN ADAGE that for insight on a college coaching search, look first and foremost at the direct and indirect personal ties to the athletic director. In the case of Bill Moos, who has said a decision will come within the next 24 hours, and who is thinking about parting ways with Paul Wulff, that trail leads in a number of directions.

For Mike Leach fans, that doesn't bode well because there doesn't appear to be any solid connections between he and Moos.

Some phone calls and a dinner or two can change that, but looking at the closest degrees of separation from Moos suggests there's some intrigue to sort through before getting outside that circle if and when WSU needs to find a new coach.

From Moos' Oregon days, there's Mike Belotti, of course, but also Boise State head man Chris Peterson, who was a Duck assistant when Moos was AD there, and Montana head coach Robin Pflugrad, the 2011 Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year who was an assistant at both Oregon and Montana when Moos was AD at those schools.

From Moos' time at WSU in the 1980s, there's naturally Mike Price, as well as former Michigan State, Louisville and Idaho head coach John L. Smith, who was the defensive coordinator at WSU under Dennis Erickson. And from the Smith coaching tree there's Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who is a Northwest native.

There's also Moos' time as a WSU player in the early '70s that could weigh into a potential search. One of the great influences on Moos' life was his former line coach at WSU, Joe Tiller. Tiller went on to great things as head coach at Wyoming and Purdue before retiring a few years ago, but his coaching tree could offer clues to whom Moos may consider. Foremost on that list would be Kevin Sumlin, a Tiller disciple who is now the head coach at Houston.

And then there's just plain old geography and availability that could frame who's in and who's out when it comes to building a short list.

Here's the run down of some names CF.C believes may surface in one form or another for the WSU job if it opens up:

Chris Petersen/Age: 47
CURRENT POSITION: Boise State head coach
RESUME: Holds a 71-6 record in six seasons at BSU. Has never won fewer than 10 games in a season. Was Broncs' offensive coodinator before taking over for Dan Hawkins as head coach. An Oregon and Portland State assistant before that.
CF.C's TAKE: Petersen has turned down a number of overtures, ostensibly because he likes BSU and living in Boise, so why would he now head to WSU if the job opens? The college football landscape is changing fast and Boise State looks to be in an odd spot that would be made even more odd by a move to the Big East. Is there really any more he can accomplish at BSU with the competition slated to get tougher? Petersen and Moos are old friends from their time at Oregon, and with the new Pac-12 TV contract maybe WSU would be willing to match Petersen's $1.6 million-per-year contract at BSU. One notable downside: Neither of his two predecessors at BSU successfully made the jump to a BCS conference, perhaps due to the academic requirements that constrain recruiting at many major-conference schools.

Kevin Sumlin/Age: 47
CURRENT POSITION: Houston head coach
RESUME: A finalist for the WSU job when Wulff was picked. Houston is 12-0 this season and will play in its third bowl game under Sumlin. Runs an offense that airs it out early and often. Developed a reputation for offensive creativity while O-coordinator at Oklahoma. Also said to be a top recruiter. Played and coached under Joe Tiller at Purdue, and also coached at Texas A&M under R.C. Slocum and Minnesota under Glen Mason. Was a graduate assistant at WSU for Mike Price when Tiller was on staff in 1989-90.
CF.C's TAKE: Why leave Houston where you're flying high? Simple: Conference USA is not the Pac-12. Houston was 10-0 and still couldn't crack the Top 10. That's an impossible standard and a source of frustration for a coach. With his success at Houston, in a state where the regional competition alone for talent runs a good 12 schools deep, he's likely to have a number of suitors. Is WSU where he wants to be? Rumor mill says he could be headed for Arizona State now that Dennis Erickson has been terminated. Sumlin's current salary is $1.13 million.

Mike Bellotti/Age: 60
CURRENT POSITION: ESPN analyst; former Oregon head coach
RESUME: Longtime coach at Oregon, first as offensive coordinator and then from 1995-2008 as head coach. Posted a 116–55 record there and went to 12 bowl games. Best season was 11-1 and No. 2 national ranking 2001. Speculative reports had him pushed out first as coach to become AD, and then again at AD just nine months later.
CF.C's TAKE: At 60, Bellotti probably needs to get back into the game soon before his age becomes and issue. He and Moos go way back, and he certainly would be a "name" hire, but does he still have the fire for the daily grind?

John L. Smith/Age: 63
CURRENT POSITION: Arkansas assistant coach
RESUME: After outstanding success as head coach at Idaho, Utah State and Louisville, Smith took the helm at Michigan State in 2003 and compiled a 22-26 mark in four seasons before being let go after the 2006 campaign. He joined Bobby Petrino's staff at Arkansas in 2009, handling special teams and outside linebackers. Moos has high regard for Smith after watching his work up close as defensive coordinator at Idaho and WSU in the 1980s and as head coach at Idaho from 1989-94. Between Utah State, Louisville and Michigan State, he guided his teams to seven straight bowl games.
CF.C's TAKE: He worked wonders at Louisville but couldn't turn the corner at Michigan State, where the resources are greater and the tradition richer. If age is an issue for Belotti, it's even more so for Smith, who turned 63 earlier this month. If he's a serious contender, why not just go with the old guy who's already traveled the roads in Pullman, 65-year-old Mike Price?

Jim McElwain/Age: 49
CURRENT POSITION: Alabama offensive coordinator
RESUME: He comes from the John L. Smith coaching tree and is a local product, growing up in Missoula and then playing his college ball at Eastern Washington. Has been the OC at Bama for the last four seasons under Nick Saban. A one-time quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders, he was Smith's assistant head coach and receivers coach at Michigan State and also worked for Smith at Louisville. Also has been OC and QB coach at Fresno State and Montana State, and QB coach at EWU.
CF.C's TAKE: His connection to Smith could be a big boost in Moos' eyes and his place next to the throne of Saban enhances his shimmer. Downside is that he's never been a head coach and offense in the SEC is a different, more basic brand than in the Pac-12.

Robin Pflugrad/Age: 53
CURRENT POSITION: Montana head coach
RESUME: Spent 13 seasons as an assistant in the Pac-10 at Arizona State, Washington State and Oregon before joining Bobby Hauck's Montana staff in 2009 and then taking over as head man last season. Was just named Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year after compiling 9-2 regular season record and earning No. 4 seed in FCS playoffs. Runs an up-tempo offense. He was the assistant head coach under Don Read at Montana in the early 1990s when Moos was the Grizzlies' AD.
CF.C's TAKE: He would be coming from an FCS school and that will eliminate some good candidates because the last guy would have been from the FCS. But the difference with Pflugrad is he's no stranger to the big time with more than a dozen seasons in the Pac-10 as an assistant. Coached at WSU under Mike Price and Bill Doba, so knows well what it takes to win on the Palouse in terms of talent and recruiting.

Dave Christiansen/Age: 50
CURRENT POSITION: Wyoming head coach
RESUME: No Moos connections that we know of, but a guy with local roots and a national reputation. An Everett native who once played for Don James and has bachelor's and master's degrees from Western Washington and Eastern Washington, respectively. This season he will take Wyoming to its second bowl game in his three seasons at the helm. Was the offensive coordinator Missouri under Gary Pinkel when they were among the national leaders in offense. A disciple of the no-huddle spread. Also an assistant at Toledo and Idaho State. Played ball at Washington for three seasons and was a graduate assistant there.
CF.C's TAKE: Christiansen's star is on the rise, but it would seem tough to overcome his Husky roots. He's also thought to be rough around the edges when dealing with players. Missouri's rise offensively coincided with his tenure there as O-coordinator. The last time Wyoming went to bowls two of three seasons was in 1993-96. An innovator, Christiansen's name wouldn't make as big a splash as some others but he's highly thought of in some coaching circles.

June Jones/Age: 58
RESUME: A West Coast guy known for his great passing attacks. At Hawaii from 1999-2007, seven of his nine teams posted 8 wins or more. He was 11-3 and 12-1 in his final two seasons there. His four years at SMU have seen a turnaround, with SMU going to bowl games each of the last three seasons. A former Portland State star, he was a long-time player and coach in the NFL before taking over at Hawaii.
CF.C's TAKE: He currently makes $2 million a year at SMU. WSU might be willing to go that high but for Jones? His biggest challenge at SMU has been trying to get Polynesian talent, a cornerstone of his Hawaii teams, to come to Texas. If an opening happens at WSU and he were to jump at it, he would clearly be in far better position to tap that talent pipeline. The Cougar job, whether Wulff stays or not, is no longer a reclamation project, unlike his two previous stops, with the intrigue then residing in what Jones could do from the jump with a well-stocked cupboard.

Mike Leach/Age:50
CURRENT POSITION: Former Texas Tech head coach RESUME: Leach took over Tech in 2000 and never had a losing season in 10 years, compiling an 84-43 mark with his wildly successful "Air Raid" passing offense. High water marks came when he led the Red Raiders to 9-win seasons in ‘02, ‘05 and '07, and an 11-win season in ‘08. Was suspended and then fired in late 2009 after what some called either a disciplinary incident that went too far, or an opportunity Tech leapt at in order to get rid of an outspoken coach who had become a thorn in the administration's side.
CF.C's TAKE: He's colorful, which fits WSU well. He's combative, which doesn't fit WSU at all. He clearly has a great offensive football mind, which fits WSU well. He's a Pepperdine grad, but doesn't appear to have geographic recruiting ties to the West Coast, which doesn't fit WSU at all. He's a big name, but it's hard to see WSU going after him with a career spent in locations east and south.

Robb Akey/Age:45
CURRENT POSITION: Idaho head coach
RESUME: Stepped into a tough situation at Idaho when he became the head man in 2007 and won just three games combined his first two seasons after doing major house cleaning. In 2009 the Vandals went a head-turning 8-5 that included a win over Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl. That was followed up with a 6-7 record in 2010 but a 2-9 mark this past season. He was a WSU assistant from 1999-2006, first as D-line coach under Mike Price and then as defensive coordinator under Bill Doba. Played and coached under Price at Weber State.
CF.C's TAKE: Those yearning for a Sweeney-Walden-Price type of personality at the helm won't find a more gregarious guy. If this were 2009, when the Vandals really clicked, he'd no doubt be top of mind. But going 2-9 this past season, his fifth at the helm, pretty well takes all the bloom off.

Chris Tormey/Age:55
CURRENT POSITION: WSU assistant coach
RESUME: A nine-year head coaching veteran who did great things at Idaho in the 1990s, transitioning them form Division I-AA to Division I-A, before moving on to Nevada to shepherd their move from the Big West to the WAC. He appeared to be building Nevada steadily when AD Chris Ault, a one-time head coach of the Pack, didn't renew his contract in a surprise move after the 2003 season and took the job himself. Tormey's career record as a head coach is 49-54. Prior to that he spent 11 years as an assistant for Don James at Washington. He's a Spokane native and former player at Idaho.
CF.C's TAKE: A long shot, but he does have a number of things going for him. Already being on staff, he would provide continuity for the players. He also knows what it takes to be a head coach and he's a long-time veteran of the Pac-12 wars. An outstanding recruiter with a winning personality, he would be both a surprising, yet logical, possibility.

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