No fifth-year finish for what Wulff started

PULLMAN – Paul Wulff said he will always remain a proud alum of Washington State, but Wulff was clearly not proud of school officials after he was fired Tuesday with one year left on his five-year contract.

"The great thing about Washington State University, and being a Coug, is that we don't do it like everybody else," Paul Wulff said in a prepared statement he read at his afternoon press conference. "We stick together, and we don't eat our own.

"I believe the innocence of Wazzu has been lost today. I leave with a heavy heart, but excited to watch the fruits of our labor ripen over the next few years."

Various media reports have said WSU president Elson Floyd was not supportive of Wulff. However, athletic director Bill Moos said, "President Elson puts all these decisions (on hiring and firing coaches) on my plate."

Moos said Wulff was "crushed" when the AD told him Tuesday morning that he was fired with one year left on his five-year contract.

"He's put a lot of his heart and soul into his job," Moos said.

MOOS HAD BEEN publicly supportive of Wulff. Asked if that made his dismissal more of a shock, Wulff simply replied, "Yes."

Wulff met with the team Tuesday afternoon. A WSU player said a sports information department employee told players not to discuss Wulff's firing with the media.

Moos spoke at length about the need for the Cougars to substantially increase booster donations and improve facilities in order for WSU to "compete for championships." He said Wulff's firing was partly related to declining football attendance and "apathy in our fan base."

Asked about Moos' statement that he hopes to "bring some energy" to the football program by hiring a new coach, Wulff paused a long time before saying, "Yeah, I don't know. I think that winning games generates fans and excitement, and there is a process to getting to win football games."

Wulff won only nine of 49 games as WSU's coach during a rebuilding cycle. The Cougars' final home game, a Senior Day contest held in the snow against Utah with WSU still clinging to bowl hopes, but with the students having already left for Thanksgiving Break, drew just 16,419.

"I'm really excited to watch the next few years of Cougar football," Wulff said, "because all of us are going to watch these players bring us back to a bowl and great excitement to Martin Stadium and to contend for championships."

Wulff said he believes the Cougars can go to a bowl game next year, and might have done so this year without key injuries. Starting quarterback Jeff Tuel played only one full game and parts of two others due to collar bone injuries.

WULFF SAID HE hopes to become a head coach again, but does not rule out taking an assistant's job. Wulff said he has not decided whether he wants to coach next season.

Wulff has often been the subject of scathing criticism from some fans, but he received a standing ovation at a WSU boosters luncheon in Spokane on Monday.

"He felt the love of the fans," Moos said. "There's a lot of people that like Paul Wulff."

Moos estimated 80 percent of WSU's fans supported Wulff.

"The 80 percent is fine," Moos said, "but we need 80 percent of a larger fan base."

"Myself and my family thank all the supporters from the bottom of my heart," Wulff said.

Asked to name Wulff's "greatest accomplishment" as WSU's coach, Moos said, "I would think cleaning up the mess." Moos was referring to the lengthy list of police run-ins and academic problems the Cougars experienced prior to Wulff's arrival, though he could have also just as easily been referring to the smallish size and sub Pac-10 talent level Wulff inherited when he arrived.

Wulff was asked to cite his favorite memory as the Cougars coach.

"Recruiting and getting to know the parents and players," Wulff said. "Having the parents and players in my home Sunday mornings after getting our butts whipped the first couple years and telling them, ‘That's why you're here; we're changing that.'"

Wulff said he "would not hesitate" to return WSU in some capacity in the future. He opened his press conference by thanking everyone from secretaries to trainers to academic aides to compliance people to assistant coaches to players and beyond.

"I love this place," he said.

When Wulff was asked if he has any regrets about his work at WSU, he replied, "I really don't think so … I really don't think there's anything we could have done a whole lot different than we did."

Wulff did say "Yes" when asked if he now looks back on the rebuilding job he faced as a situation one media member termed "unwinnable." At one point, Wulff said he "would never have not taken" the WSU job. Later, he backed off that statement when asked if he would have taken the job if he had known about all the hurdles he would encounter.

"Hmm," Wulff began. "Not unless I was guaranteed ‘X' amount of years coaching.

"Like, five."

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