'Great job, tough profession'

PULLMAN – Washington State defensive coordinator Chris Ball, his world turned upside down only minutes before, managed to plant a smile on his face as he headed to the final coaches meeting of Paul Wulff's tenure.

"Great job, tough profession," Ball said Tuesday morning.

Athletic director Bill Moos had just announced through a news release that Wulff, WSU's head coach the past four years, had been fired. An assistant coach, who did not want his name used, said all assistant's contracts expire at the end of March.

Wulff has one year left on his original five-year contract, which pays $600,000 annually.

Wulff finishes with a 9-40. Wulff's teams went 4-32 (.111) in the Pacific-10/12 Conference.

The Cougars posted 4-8 overall and 2-7 conference records this year. Both win totals doubled Wulff's previous bests. WSU has finished last three straight years since beating Washington in double overtime in 2008 to finish one notch ahead of the last-place Huskies, who finished 0-12 overall.

Wulff was an honorable mention All-American center at WSU in 1989. The Davis, Calif., native began his coaching career as a volunteer assistant at Eastern Washington in 1993. He became a full-time assistant in 1994, then served as head coach from 2000-07.

After compiling a 53-40 record at Eastern, including 9-4 in his final season, Wulff was hired to replace Bill Doba in December 2007. Doba followed a 10-3 season in his first year (2003) with four straight non-winning seasons, including 6-6 in 2006.

Wulff, introduced at his first press conference at WSU, said coaching the Cougars was his "dream" job. The dream soon grew into a nightmare.

Wulff made it abundantly clear that he believed academics, character, discipline and training had slipped significantly at Wazzu. Only three recruits had made verbal commitments to WSU for 2008 when Wulff arrived – the Cougars presently have 19 known commits according to Cougfan.com – and the NCAA took away eight scholarships due to academic issues under Bill Doba's reign.

Wulff brought in a no-nonsense manner, some players didn't get on board and departures followed. The 2008 Cougars finished 2-11 and suffered some of the most lopsided losses in school history, including 66-3 to California, 69-0 to USC and 58-0 to Stanford.

"I saw the team getting off the bus, and I thought they were a high school team," a former WSU player said after watching the smallish Cougars play at Stanford.

The Cougars have made substantial progress since 2008. Washington State opened this season with a 64-21 win over Idaho State and a 59-7 romp against UNLV. However, the Cougars won just two more games during a season in which star quarterback Jeff Tuel was limited to three games by collar bone injuries.

Wulff said Monday that he believes Tuel's injury cost the Cougars their first trip to a bowl game since 2003.

"I'm confident," Wulff said, "Cougar football has a very bright future."

Unfortunately for Wulff, that future will not include him.

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