WSU recruiting coordinator maps unusual route

SHELTON -- He took an unconventional route to his position. Assistant coaches often played college football and then became graduate assistants if the NFL wasn't a possibility. But Rich Rasmussen did none of the above.

Washington State's 44-year-old tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator blazed a unique trail to the Pac-10 coaching ranks, he told CF.C on Wednesday at the "Night With Cougar Football" gathering at Little Creek Casino in Shelton.

Rasmussen postponed college after graduating from Lincoln High School in Tacoma in 1983, where his football career was undone by injuries.

Rasmussen had played at Lincoln under Jack Newhart, but it was Newhart's successor, Bill Milus, who recommended that Rasmussen get into coaching. Consequently, Rasmussen spent eight years with a whistle around his neck at Bellarmine Prep and Mount Tahoma before earning an associate degree in 1997 from Tacoma Community College.

With his eye on a teaching degree, Rasmussen headed to Eastern Washington as a 32-year-old in 1997. He ended up staying there for a decade.

Rasmussen earned his bachelor's in education at EWU and then his master's in athletic administration. During that time, he was a graduate assistant under coach Mike Kramer. When Kramer left for Montana State after the 1999 season, Paul Wulff gave Rasmussen a permanent staff position.

He spent time at Eastern as the director of football operations, which included coordinating the Eagles' travel schedule and their summer camp for high-school prospects. Rasmussen said those roles -- in addition to his previous coaching experience in Tacoma -- helped him build contacts throughout the state, which benefited him when he became a recruiting coordinator.

Rasmussen no longer is responsible for organizing summer camps, but said they are a critical portion of recruiting. He cited incoming WSU freshman John Fullington, who hails North Mason High in Belfair. Fullington is a rare prospect from the Olympic Peninsula that signs with a Pac-10 team.

"That (camp) gave us a great opportunity to evaluate him in a camp setting and an opportunity to work with him," Rasmussen said. "We saw what he could do down the road."

He said he hoped to boost WSU's camp numbers -- Eastern typically hosts more players than the Cougars because of its expansive practice space -- but Rasmussen said the number of participants has not changed dramatically in recent years.

"The economy really has had a big impact on that," said Rasmussen. "The cost of transportation has tripled in the last two years. High schools from western Washington that typically used to come over to eastern Washington -- both Eastern and WSU -- aren't doing it anymore. It's had a negative impact on us."

It means their recruiting efforts have to be that much better.

A common refrain among coaches is the foundation of a program begins with recruiting, and after working with Rasmussen at Eastern -- where the Eagles advanced to the Division 1-AA quarterfinal playoff game in 2007 -- Wulff knew he wanted Rasmussen on board when Wulff was hired to replace Bill Doba.

"He's one of the most organized people I ever have been around and he's a tireless worker," Wulff said. "He's overachieved because of his work ethic."

Work on the 2011 class began a few months before signing day last week. The Cougars already have secured verbal commitments from Gonzaga Prep running back Bishop Sankey and Curtis athlete Max Hersey. They are just two of 25 prospects Rasmussen expects to sign in the '11 class.

The Cougars will look to secure more during the summer before attention moves toward game preparation during the fall.

Rasmussen said game-week for the coaches begins with church services Sunday morning, then a review Saturday's game tape, then analysis of the next opponent. After dinner, they return Sunday night and develop a game plan.

Rasmussen said morning meetings throughout the week typically consist of 45 to 60 minutes of discussing recruits. In addition to frequently sending hand-written notes, Rasmussen said he usually reviews game tape on prospects for three to four hours per week. He also organizes which coaches will go head out and watch recruits on Friday nights.

There also is the matter of setting up official visits throughout the season. The Cougars typically secure verbal commitments from more than 60 percent of players who trip to Pullman.

"We just really try and show the university for what it is," Rasmussen said. "It's one of the largest residential universities west of the Mississippi River and we want kids to understand that. It's very unique and different from a school in Seattle or a school in Los Angeles. You're going to be surrounded by 18,000 people your own age compared with the distractions you have in a major metropolitan city."

And for Rasmussen, it always starts in Washington.

"Anytime you can recruit kids and bring them from in-state, there's going to be a little more passion at being a Coug," he said. "Those guys are really important to selling what a Coug is really all about."


  • Wulff said the Cougars still might add one or two players in the 2010 class. Without mentioning specific names or positions that might be targeted (though defensive tackle would seem a priority), Wulff noted that junior linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis, who signed in 2008, was not added to his class until six months after signing day. Hoffman-Ellis was fully qualified academically out of high school, but had limited football experience and elected to play at Moorpark College in California for a year.

  • WSU did not sign a player in 2010 from Hawaii, Idaho or Oregon, but Rasmussen said the Cougars will continue to recruit in those states and possibly others west of the Rocky Mountains. "Recruiting is really cyclical," he said. "Seven or eight years ago, the Tri-Cities was a great region for Division-1 student athletes. Things have moved more toward the Spokane area. You have to keep track of trends and where the guys are at. We can't be so stubborn that we say we're only going to recruit a specific area."

  • Five players in WSU's 23-member 2009 signing class did not qualify academically. One of them, defensive lineman Brandon Rankin from Butte College in California, just enrolled at WSU in January and could be in line for serious PT this fall. He might be the only one with a crimson outlook. Linebacker Terrel Thompson went to Glendale Community College in Arizona and could possibly be on the radar down the road. Quayshawne Buckley, who recently told CF.C he intends to become a Cougar, still has a academic hurdles to clear. WSU isn't thought to have continued interest in Chris Mastin of Spokane and Asi Hosea of Salt Lake City.

  • Cougfan Top Stories