COMMENTARY: From my chair, Leach had it right

A BAD SEASON turned atrocious last Saturday when Utah – 3-5 coming into the game – battered the Cougars to the tune of 49-6. Afterwards, many fans seemed more upset with Leach's harsh public criticism of his players than they were with the loss itself. I have a different take.

For starters, I'm a journalist and I have zero interest in whether the Cougars win, lose or tie in football, basketball or underwater lacrosse. It's my job not to care about who wins or loses, so I don't.

I'm also different from many fans in that I have no objection whatsoever with 99 percent of what Mike Leach has said when publicly criticizing players on Saturday or any other day.

The truth is, far too many WSU players this season have not played with the grit, intensity and focus required to win at the Pac-12 level. If Pac-12 athletes can't handle tough words, what are the chances they'll be able to handle tough opponents?

Are the Cougars quitters? No. The vast majority, anyway. But not quitting and not knowing how to win – and doing what is necessary to make winning not only possible, but highly probable – are two different animals.

Obviously, only the most pathetic of human beings belittles another person only for the sake of belittling. Leach has never ripped into WSU players for lacking talent or intelligence, but he has questioned their effort and passion level, and there is no question that both were lacking at Utah.

WHY A TEAM on the verge of being eliminated from bowl eligibility would play so listlessly, one can only guess. Hell, I'm still trying to figure out why the Cougars – after nine months of brave talk about the exciting new world of WSU football – performed their walking dead impression in the season opener at BYU.

Leach was clearly shocked at the lack of tenacity his team demonstrated at BYU. Like many of us, he underestimated the mental toll that 40 losses in four years under Paul Wulff took on some players.

Now, it's 47 losses in 4 3-4 seasons at WSU, and fans are sick and tired of it. Sometimes, it seems, more sick and tired of it than some players.

FANS AND MEDIA will never fully appreciate how hard the Cougars worked in the off-season, since most workouts are off limits to the public. Playing big-time college football is a job, plain and simple. It's not for everyone.

Leach, too, is not for everyone. He's flamboyant and loud and stubborn.

He's also passionate and bright and proud. More importantly, he's won, and won big.

WHEN MIKE LEACH walked to the podium of the packed ballroom at his introductory press conference as Washington State's football coach last December, he was greeted like a returning war hero.

Little did anyone in that ballroom realize that Leach's first Cougars team would lose so many football wars this autumn.

Let's not forget: Leach guided Texas Tech to bowl games all 10 seasons he coached the Red Raiders. The Cougars have gone to 10 bowl games in 117 seasons.

The Cougars will win under Leach. Many of us thought it would start this year but it has not. Eventually, however, Leach will be surrounded with his type of players – talented, passionate, winning players.

And when it happens, Leach will once again be hailed as a hero.

Cougfan Top Stories