COMMENTARY: Elson Floyd's fascinating gambit

IT'S BEEN FASCINATING to watch. And indications are it's another week away from closure. In trying to read the tea leaves of Washington State's dance with Bill Moos as athletic director an intriguing subplot has evolved. Has WSU President Elson Floyd, in making the Moos courtship so public, painted himself into a corner? Or has he seized a moment by the throat and squeezed it for maximum PR value?

Floyd's move to bring Moos in for two days of high-profile talks with WSU coaches and administrators was against the grain. The textbook for Athletic Director Searches 101 typically suggests a strict protocol -- announcement of a nationwide search, set up a search committee, under-the-radar feelers, and official interviews. Everything is kept close to the vest until finalists are in place and a decision forthcoming.

Floyd has instead proclaimed for all the world to hear that his clear intent is to hire Bill Moos.

Moos, a Cougar since birth, wants the job. And, by all accounts, he knocked it out of the park in every one of his meetings in Pullman, including the public forum Wednesday that felt more like a tent revival than a job interview.

The importance of this hire to the crimson faithful is probably best illustrated by a simple fact: Alumni interest in who would be picked to succeed V. Lane Rawlins as president of the school a few years back ranged from casual to nonexistent.

With the athletic director's job, on the other hand, we're talking all-hands-on-deck, heart-pumping levels of attention. Especially so when the focus is on someone who looks to be so uniquely perfect for the job.

THE NET RESULT IS THAT if Moos isn't the next WSU athletic director, Cougar Nation is going to be mighty disappointed.

The Moos Call has been so public, the mutual admiration so heartfelt, that anything less than culmination will be viewed as a colossal failure. Cougars will be angry. It would be as if Lucy yanked the football away from Charlie Brown just as he was set to knock the game-winner through the uprights.


So let's revisit the notion of the corner, the paint and Elson Floyd.

He is a CEO. And he's a very good one. He also has a background in political science and once worked in Olympia, where no word or wave of the hand goes by without a thorough analysis of what it could signal.

Good CEOs, like good politicians, always think multiple steps ahead and, as much as is possible, have their bases covered.

It is unfathomable that Floyd would bring Moos in for the two very public days of talks if he didn't already have the game plan largely crafted.

The only fly in the proverbial ointment appears to be a solution to Moos' non-compete agreement with Oregon. You remember, the $1.4 million Moos would forfeit over the next seven years by taking an AD job at a BCS school west of the Mississippi.

IT'S BEEN WIDELY REPORTED Floyd has told staffers that 1.4 million ($200,000 a year) is an issue between Moos and Oregon, not Washington State.

But it flies against all logic that a CEO as smart and savvy as Floyd would leave the lifting of the biggest roadblock in the hands of others. There's no way he would have allowed the Moos Love-In on Wednesday without a strong sense, a very strong sense, of the solution to the non-compete agreement.

Floyd knew that Moos was going to wow everyone he talked to during his Pullman tour. Why set yourself up for failure -- and why set up any AD not named Bill Moos up to look like stale leftovers -- if the outcome isn't predestined?

Sure, there may be more machinations to come. Some work behind and in front of the curtain may still remain. But Floyd knows he must get this done.

And the guess here is that, except for the dotting of some i's and the crossing of some t's, he already has.

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