Looks like Doba has a say in his fate

HERE IN THE AFTERGLOW of WSU's dramatic Apple Cup victory, a $2.8 million question hangs over the football program: Does Bill Doba stay or go? WSU says it will issue a statement on the matter this afternoon. That tells me Elson Floyd, Jim Sterk and Bill Doba are having frank discussions about the program -- and that Doba's future is as much in his own hands as the boss's.


Floyd and Sterk are men of action. If they were set on firing Doba, they would have made the decision before the Apple Cup and then hit the ground this morning with the announcement and the start of the candidate search.

But that didn't happen and now WSU says a statement of some sort is coming out later today. I don't believe that statement has been written yet.

I think Floyd and Sterk are giving Doba their critical assessment of the program and asking Doba for his plan and ideas for getting the Cougars back to bowl games on a regular basis.

If all sides agree on the course of action, Doba will remain as head coach. If they don't agree, Doba will be let go.

Floyd and Sterk are business people. That means they look at the world from the standpoint of management controls, organizational structure, priorities and personnel.

My guess is that they're suggesting organizational changes to Doba's program. They'll tell him he needs to appoint an assistant head coach –- a post that was never refilled after Robin Pflugrad moved to Oregon -– to spread the administrative workload and keep critical success factors front and center every day. I think they'll tell him some new blood needs to replace old on the staff. Whether it's one or more assistants remains to be seen and whether Doba, a true loyalist, will be agreeable remains to be seen. If he's not, then he'll be out himself.

The reasons why Floyd and Sterk would want to retain Doba are several. The $2.8 million it would require to buy out his contract and the existing staff is relevant, but not overriding. Doba has been with WSU 19 years, helping build some of the finest teams the school has ever known. His 30-29 record as head coach -– a 51 percent winning record –- ties him with Mike Price on the all-time list. Since the legendary Babe Hollingbery left in 1942, that rate of winning is unsurpassed by any Cougar head coach with four or more seasons at the helm.

Moreover, Doba's work against the Huskies is unequaled. He has three wins in five games. Price had three wins in 14 seasons; Jim Walden three in nine; and Jim Sweeney three in eight years.

While the tea leaves might indicate Doba's return, not all signs point that way. A rumor -- one that's been circulating since last summer and even fueled by The Sporting News -- is that Mike Price would return to the Palouse after this season. One variation on the theme had Doba staying at WSU under Price as the defensive coordinator, a position he held from 1994 through 2002 before taking over the head coaching duties in '03.

Curiously, Sterk stoked this notion over the weekend when he told Craig Smith of The Seattle Times, following the Apple Cup, that if a change at the top was made Mike Price would be among the potential candidates.

"He would be somebody on a list of coaches that I would obviously consider but by no means is he the guy," Sterk said.

Sterk went on to say he would "seriously doubt" Doba would stay on under Price if that were the case.

My sense is that Sterk played the interview that way for two reasons. First, because he may still need a head coach if Doba doesn't agree to organizational changes. But second, and more important, because Price was a great Cougar who deserves that nod of respect.

If Doba doesn't return, though, I'd be shocked to see Price back in Pullman. For one, he has no history with President Floyd. In addition, his return wouldn't be greeted warmly by a significant faction of boosters who didn't like the way he left for Alabama on the eve of the Rose Bowl. And third, he's not getting any younger, well into the backside of his career.

WSU will issue a statement later today. If Doba, Sterk and Floyd agree in principal on the changes that need to be made to get the program heading back to the post season, Doba will be back.

If opinions diverge, even slightly, he'll be gone.

Cougfan.com will bring you the announcement, whatever it may be, when released later today.

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