COMMENTARY: Torture in Eugene speaks volumes

IT'S TOUGH TO BUST a loyal soldier, a True Coug who has shared with us the highest highs. The Rose Bowl trips. The improbable win over Vince Young and Texas. Back to backs over Washington. Glory days. History. But I'm having a crisis of confidence. Has the Bill Doba Show run its course? Sixty minutes of sheer torture at Oregon Saturday say that maybe the time has come.

A Wazzu offense so inept that it had to get better just to go three and out says so. A defense so worn out that Cougs were literally dropping in their tracks says so.

Over the course of the first 30 minutes of the bad scene in Eugene, Oregon scored a point every --what? -- 45 seconds? You'd get stiffer resistance in a haunted house. A skeleton popping out of a closet would do a better job of running down Ducks QB Dennis Dixon.


The Cougs simply had no answer for the no-huddle. When you think about it, and Oregon coach Mike Bellotti has, who needs a huddle, anyway? What's the boring part of a football game, besides every second of a 46-point loss? The huddle. Oregon's done away with it. It seemed to keep their offense on its toes and our defense on its heels, cliche-ridden for sure but the tempo strikes the desired effect.

With all of the speed and quickness on his side, Bellotti turned this into a track and field meet. His offense was on track and our defense was stuck on the field.

There was no TV -- perfectly understandable in a society that frowns on public execution.

Say this for the Cougs. The kicking game didn't look as bad this week. And how 'bout that kickoff return team? They'll be razor-sharp for the next 53-7 blowout.

It was homecoming for Coug quarterback Alex Brink. No wonder they say you can't go home again. Once you leave it's never the same. It'll be no picnic back home in Pullman this week, where the Cougs have an extra week to think about their roles in one of the worst efforts in modern WSU history.

No kid should have to go through that. Alex Brink seems like a great young man, just as Doba is one of the country's rare gentlemen. It occurs to me the reason why Doba's proved to be not much of a recruiter is that he's not very good at lying and cheating. But the record is there: Recruiting on his watch hasn't worked out.

Saturday he didn't look like much of an X's and O's guy, either. That doesn't take away all the good his commitment to Washington State means. It just reminds us that all things must pass.


The worst is yet to come. WSU has yet to play Cal, which beat Oregon in the ultra-hostile setting that is Autzen Stadium, where Brink, an Oregon kid, grew up. When Brink threw a pair of interceptions and fumbled away a third possession, his quest for a happy homecoming in Autzen was pre-empted by his own short-comings.

WSU's idea of a quarterback rotation is this: from Brink to Abyss. Brink's performance was horrible but then Washington State wasn't going to beat Oregon with Peyton Manning at the helm. Oregon is simply in a higher league. So is USC. And Wisconsin. And Arizona. Arizona? Arizona is way better. Man.

I'm sure Doba and his staff will have the Cougs ready for UCLA in a couple of weeks but will that change anything? Would a win at Washington change anything?

The future of Cougar football looks 10 yards shy of a first down.

So maybe it's time.

Make it as painless as possible. Give the loyal soldier a final request. Honor him and his contract with a generous buyout. Keep him in the family if at all possible. I think he'd make a great low-pressure fund-raiser. Maybe he'd fit in as a consultant to the new guy.

Bill Doba, as fine a man as you'll ever meet, has earned every consideration. But in 30 minutes of playing time Saturday his career as a head coach in the Pac-10 went from skating on thin ice to going way down under.

Even the broadcasters gave up.

Cougars often dwell on how tough their football coach's job is. They're right. It is tough, but it's also one of the best jobs in the world.

Compare Bill Doba's compensation to that of the working stiffs who grind out a degree at WSU. His package is lavish. Expectations are reasonable. There is travel to sports exotica and a fairly nice off-season that makes up for a dozen weeks of hard work

It is a dream job that will attract dozens -- make that hundreds -- of qualified candidates. Somewhere out there is the perfect fit.

There is a catch, of course, even at Wazzu. You don't have to win 'em all but you do have to win your share. Doba has dropped to someplace below even that modest bar. Everybody knows what Bill Doba has been to WSU football.

Still, what jumps out in that last sentence of praise is about the past, what he has meant to the the program. Guys get fired every day. Old guys. Young guys. Humanity and the past aside, this is strictly about performance.

Pollsters ask, are we better off than we were four years ago?

The answer is painfully obvious: Not even close.

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