Thiel: UW passed on Leach, now he will pass on UW

Thiel: UW passed on Leach, now he will pass on UW

Thiel: UW passed on Leach, now he will pass on UW


by Art Thiel


Posted on December 1, 2011 at 8:49 AM

Updated Thursday, Dec 1 at 10:01 AM

In the long run, it was probably just as well that Scott Woodward did not hire Mike Leach to replace Tyrone Willingham as University of Washington football coach in 2008.

Woodward interviewed Leach, who was still under contract to Texas Tech. The coach needed a little leverage, and the Huskies' opening gave it to him, producing a five-year, $12.7 million deal.

Woodward  moved on to hire Steve Sarkisian. A good move, and low-maintenance.

Not only has Sarkisian mostly succeeded, the contrast between Willingham and Leach probably would have caused a rip in the time-space continuum, and the universe may have collapsed upon itself.

The world has enough trouble without losing the house too.

Besides, Leach is the soul-brother coaching successor to George Raveling, Jim Sweeney, Jim Walden, John Chaplin and Mike Price. They share the majestic Washington State sports tradition of being street-rat crazy.

That is indescribably cool for WSU.

Leach will end up being equal parts triumph and trouble. But when a team is 9-40 over four years, including four conference wins, the school will take the triumph and deal with the trouble when it comes.  By then, who knows? By then, President Gingrich will have agreed to make the U.S. the easternmost province of China, and no one will be concerned that Leach was the guy who won his lawsuit against ESPN and shut down the network.

Ah, the lawsuit. It's always difficult to get a job in an industry once you've sued a company in it. But college football is like no other industry because it never thinks with its head. It is driven exclusively by other things. So after 10 successful seasons at Texas Tech that ended poorly, Leach is back in bidness despite still pursuing a grievance in court against his former employer and the empire that underwrites it, ESPN.

Because of the litigation, Leach might be constrained in talking about it. Or, knowing Leach, not. In any event, Leach did do an interview with the New Times 23 months ago that you can read here for some of the dorky details of that saga that caused his firing.

The story is not necessarily the whole truth, but after reading it, I buy Leach's explanation of the episode involving Aaron James and his celebrity father, Craig James. Because to not buy it is to believe that Leach is an idiot for punishing a player because of a father who is overbearing. Makes no sense.

Now, there may be other reasons that Leach was fired about which Tech officials have kept mum. And Leach may well have chosen a course of litigation that is unwise. But the Tech trauma today amounts to Leach's hobby, not his vocation.  And at $2.25 million per year from WSU, Leach will be sufficiently compensated to pay lawyers to tend to his hobby while he teaches the joys of the spread offense to Connor Halliday and eager friends.

In the newly wealthy world of the Pac-12, the hire of Leach by its most downtrodden member is a game-changer at least as much as the hire of Chip Kelly at Oregon. Probably more so, because Leach has a 10-year record of proof at a major college that he can teach his football to just about any group of athletic kids just about anywhere and bunch the drawers of any opponent.

Lubbock, Texas? Makes Pullman look like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

I mean, the guy beat Nebraska 70-10. He was losing to Kansas State 13-10 late in the second quarter and won 59-20. Trailing 14-10 at halftime to Texas A&M, he won 56-17.

This guy has a law degree from Pepperdine and loves the lore and legend of high-seas piracy. WSU has just hired the demon spawn of Johnny Cochran and Jack Sparrow.

Dunno what it all means. But I mean to watch it.