Washington State University

Pullman proving a powerful draw for football coaches with young families

IF THE PULLMAN Chamber of Commerce ever launches an advertising campaign built around the town’s appeal to young families, Exhibit A can be found just up the hill in the Cougar Football Complex.

New Washington State inside receiver coach JaMarcus Shephard is just the latest member of Mike Leach’s staff who comes to town with a young family in tow.

Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who arrived at WSU from Missouri a year ago, says Leach told him his young family would flourish in the Palouse. “Pullman absolutely was a selling point during discussions with Coach Leach about joining his staff,” Grinch recently told CF.C. “When you have kids and school is at least on the horizon ... that’s a big piece of the puzzle.”

Offensive line coach Clay McGuire, who played and coached for Leach at Texas Tech, said he and his wife Jeri did their due diligence on Pullman before making the move from East Carolina when Leach was hired following the 2011 season.

“We were bummed about leaving (Greenville) because we had such good neighbors and it was a great place for our kids, but it’s been exactly the same here,” he says. “Everywhere you go in Pullman, there’s going to be five to ten kids in the neighborhood playing outside during the day. Even when there’s snow, there’ll be ten or fifteen kids out there doing something.”

Special teams coach Eric Mele said he was very cautious about relocating his wife and daughters nearly 3,000 miles away from family and friends in 2011 when he joined Leach’s staff as a quality control coordinator.

Mele had a checklist of things necessary to make Pullman their new home. “One of the first things you look for are schools. The schools here are great,” he says with enthusiasm. Also on his list was a safe environment and a good hospital (his wife Melissa was pregnant with their fourth daughter at the time).

“Those are three big check marks right out of the gate,” he says.

BECAUSE OF ITS RURAL LOCATION, Pullman isn’t familiar territory to people outside the region. “At first I was a little worried for my wife and family moving here and how they’d take to it,” concedes McGuire. “I tell you it’s just been a blessing. It’s been one of the best places we’ve ever lived. We really love it here. We built a home here.”

Mele echoes those thoughts.

“There’s so many activities for the kids. Snake River in the summertime ... the girls love going down there. All the parks that are around here in town. There are so many sports programs. The girls have been in soccer, karate, volleyball, learning to swim, dancing, gymnastics, you name it.” He added that in the spring his wife enjoys being able to pick fresh fruit and fresh flowers.

Mele, who grew up in New Jersey, also notes that the winter months are “pretty nice” in comparison.

Grinch says one of the great advantages of Pullman is the commute to work.

“The fact that you’re not dealing with traffic on a daily basis,” he says, joking that “If you get stopped at a traffic light here, it completely inconveniences you!

“The ability to run home in five minutes and get back to work just as fast, it’s easy living that way.”

All of the attributes that make Pullman such a draw for coaches with young families also make it an attraction to the parents of prospective student-athletes.

“I tell recruits’ families that you don’t have the bright lights of the big city or the stress that comes along with that. Little crime. You don’t have those worries here in Pullman,” says Grinch. “They get to focus on school and playing Pac-12 football. Trouble is not going to find them.

“This is our fourth time zone (in the coaching profession). You learn to appreciate the ease of living that is provided for us in Pullman. It’s a good quality of life for my wife and kids.”

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