Conjecture abounds for WSU as year winds down

PULLMAN -- Monday arrived dark, wet and dreary in the Palouse. It only seemed appropriate as the Washington State Cougars prepared for one of the least compelling Apple Cups of the modern era. A couple of 4-7 teams trying to escape the Pac-10 cellar does not make for great theatre. Off the field, however, there's plenty of drama going on at Washington State.

Speculation rises hourly about the future of Bill Doba. You can find just about any scenario you want .... That he's all set to resign, but wants to keep the focus on the game and not make an announcement until next week ... That there will be staff changes but not one at the top ... That (fill in the blank) ...

Athletic director Jim Sterk is maintaining his season-long stance that Doba's status will not be determined -- at least publicly -- until the last game is played. Obviously, it is difficult to believe a decision has not been reached one way or another. The argument against Doba, who is 29-29 in his five seasons at the helm, is that this marks the fourth straight season with no winning record or bowl game.


If Doba does depart, on his own or otherwise, one name that you can bet the crimson faithful will be floating is Bob Gregory. California's defensive coordinator is a former WSU player from Spokane, so he understands the unique challenges and appeals of playing and coaching in Pullman. Despite the Bears' mysterious fadeaway this season, the Cal program has experienced an amazing turnaround since Gregory arrived with head coach Jeff Tedford five years ago.

Doba's shaky status appears to be behind the Cougars' slow start in recruiting. They were one of the last teams in all of Division I-A to secure a verbal commitment and they have just three total so far following the decision this weekend by Spokane's Dan Spitz.

OTHER THOUGHTS AS Apple Cup Week kicks off ...

* Booing was a prominent feature at the WSU-OSU game over the weekend. It begs the question: Why would a fan boo a top athlete, student and citizen (read: Alex Brink) who competes for a team the fan allegedly supports? "Allegedly" and "supports" being the key words here. If you're a fan, you want your team to do well, right? And if you boo an athlete, he or she theoretically will do worse, right? Booing an amateur athlete in particular seems so classless.

While we're on the subject of classless: Droves of WSU players headed straight to the locker room without shaking hands with Oregon State players after the game. One of the first deserters was a fifth-year senior who has done virtually nothing to justify the $100,000 of free education he has received. Another senior underachiever of note simply left the locker room at halftime to chat with some folks in a nearby lobby.

IT'S A GIVEN THAT coaches receive too much credit when things go right and too much blame when things go wrong. In the end, players win or lose games. Still, it is impossible to give Cougar coaches a free pass when WSU ranks first in the Pac-10 in passing and second in total offense, but stands eighth in red-zone scoring and ninth in overall scoring.

As for the defense ... well, what can be said for a unit that has given up more than 40 points in almost half the games (five), including 50-plus against both Oregon schools? When you're 118th in the nation (that's out of 119 teams, gang) at stopping teams on third down and 95th on fourth down, something isn't translating from the practice field to the playing field.

THE COUGARS MAY HAVE set a record for hallow accomplishments Saturday. Cory Evans had a school-record 6.5 tackles for loss; Brandon Gibson topped the 1,000-yard mark for receiving yards for the first time; Michael Bumpus hit a career high of 64 catches in one season; and Brink moved up to sixth in Pac-10 history in career passing yards with 10,514.

In case you missed it, blurry-fast freshman wide receiver Jeshua Anderson caught one pass Saturday. For 61 yards. Which boosts his average per catch to a glossy 31 yards. Even though he has caught just 11 balls. Which prompts one question: Why not more balls thrown his way?

Two seniors who displayed admirable courage Saturday were tight end Jed Collins and Brink. Collins hobbled through the opening series on a sprained left ankle encased in only slightly less tape than your basic mummy. Brink threw six interceptions, then showed up in the interview room to handle a barrage of painful questions in his customary polite, patient manner.

* The Apple Cup will mark the final game for Cougar eight starters, plus field-goal kicker Romeen Abdollmohammadi.

* Brink's heir apparent at quarterback, Gary Rogers, caused a firestorm of controversy last season in the only meaningful playing time of his career, when he was lights-out at Auburn. But his limited work this season would seem to leave the door open next year for Marshall Lobbestael, Kevin Lopina and Cole Morgan. Rogers has completed 4 of 16 passes for 18 yards, one pick and no TD's this fall.

* Oddsmakers have installed Washington a 5 1/2-point favorite for Saturday's Apple Cup, which will be the 100th meeting between the schools. Kickoff is at 4 pm PT. The game will be televised on FSN.

* The family friendly Apple Cup Anniversary Rally and BBQ is set for Friday from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm at the Qwest Field Events Center. Both teams, coaches, bands, cheer squads and mascots will be in attendance. The cost is $20 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and under. Register at or call the WSU Alumni Association at 1-800-ALUM-WSU.

Cougfan Top Stories