Bill Doba: Coach by day, stand-up comic by night

BETWEEN THE END of the 2004 season and the beginning of spring drills today, Washington State football coaches have spent plenty of evenings talking with boosters and others about the program. The tidbits of information that come out of these gathering is immense. Here's a sample from a recent confab in Lacey of the South Puget Sound Cougar Club.

Cougar head coach Bill Doba is pretty well known for his quick wit, and he didn't disappoint on this night. Some examples:

"Jerome Harrison said players should start dressing up more. He said ‘Players at schools like Stanford, Notre Dame and the UW dress up.' I said, ‘And every one of those coaches got fired.' He said maybe we'll just dress down again this year."

On star freshman receiver/return man Michael Bumpus having his scholarhsip offer from USC pulled a year ago and replaced with a grayshirt offer: "He was a USC reject. Thank God. I'll talk all their rejects."

On recapping the season: "They asked me to talk about the 2004 season. And I'd rather not, except for the Apple Cup."

While Doba joked about the Apple Cup, he emphasized there's no denying the importance of breaking the six-year losing streak to the Huskies. "That made the season, or at least made it bearable," he said. "That was huge as far as catapulting us into the off-season."

Just like in 2000, there were three games in 2004 the Cougs could have easily won (Colorado, Oregon, Stanford). Also like in 2000, there were three games in 2004 the Cougs were never truly in.

"That Oregon State game was a disappointment for me," Doba said. "That was my first time as head coach we had been out of a game early."

Doba is hopeful the team will use close wins late in the season over UCLA and UW as a springboard heading into spring drills and beyond. "It comes down to the kids," he said. "There are a lot of ifs and buts, and intangibles. We have to stay together as a team."

Doba sees solid leadership in players like Will Derting, Kyle Basler, Adam Braidwood and the quarterbacking duo of Josh Swogger and Alex Brink.

Swogger is expected to be the top quarterback heading into drills, but his spot isn't guaranteed. "We'll start with Josh," Doba said. "You can't take it away from him because of his injury. But we will let Alex challenge for it."

While eyes will likely be on the top-two, Doba noted Gary Rogers also has plenty of promise.

ASSISTANT HEAD COACH and recruiting coordinator Robin Pflugrad became familiar with Lacey as he and others on staff pursued Timberline's Jonathan Stewart. While Stewart ultimately selected Oregon, Pflugrad joked there was one positive aspect.

"Without Jonathan Stewart, I wouldn't have known where to go tonight," Pflugrad quipped.

Speaking of Oregon, Pflugrad grew up in Eugene and was an Oregon State booster. "When WSU came to Corvallis, it seemed they always played hard and had a will to win," he said. "When I took the job here with coach Mike Price, I was excited – I wanted to recruit players like that."

As a parent, Pflugrad has gained insight into what parents look for in recruiting. He and other coaches want to see more of what students see.

"We want to spend a whole day at a high school," he said. "That's what I want to do with our staff. I want to help them see what kids do in a day at high school, and hopefully understand them better."

Spending time at a high school is one step towards landing recruits. Another step is bringing them to Pullman. "I'm convinced if we can get them and their family to Pullman, our odds will go up," Pflugrad said. "And if we continue to win."

Consistent success is something coaches have tried to sell about the program, which is why Pflugrad was hoping the Cougs could squeak out one more win last season. "Winning got us some recruits we wouldn't have had otherwise," he said.

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