How The Grinch Left The Palouse

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When programs lose coaches, it’s usually a good sign of a program’s success. A football program develops clout alongside a coach by winning games and sustaining a recruiting base that will ensure success for years to come.

In many respects, you can see this with the football program at the universities in Washington and Oregon. On one hand, Washington’s Chris Petersen has brought in his own cohort of coordinators for the Husky rebuild in the post-Sarkisian era. During this process, the likes of Jonathan Smith have developed successfully, and have left the Huskies to continue growing their career. In Smith’s case, his success as a coordinator has set him up as the leader of the Oregon State program.

Smith’s replacement is Bush Hamdan, the current quarterbacks coach for the Atlanta Falcons. It’s a big statement for Petersen’s reputation, since a coach is leaving the NFL to coach college football in the PAC-12.

The Oregon Ducks have also enjoyed sustained success for the better part of this past decade. Although these past two seasons have been somewhat lackluster, I don’t believe fans have ever really felt that a lengthy rebuild was on the menu. The program immediately installed Taggart as head coach and bounced back this past season. Taggart has left this past month, but Mario Cristobal takes his place with resounding applause from players. Their recruiting class hasn’t been negatively impacted so far, and Oregon’s current recruiting class will still be expecting a top set of new recruits even with Taggart’s departure.

On the other hand, there’s Washington State. Their case is a little different because money at this program is a huge stressor. The program is in dire need for cash influx due to debt from a new stadium, but it doesn’t look like that cash will be coming in any time soon.

Bill Moos, former WSU athletic director, left reportedly left Washington State due to a financial disagreement with President Schulz. Schulz has yet to hire his replacement but did extend Mike Leach’s contract.

Mike Leach will be staying with the Cougars, earning $20 million over the course of the next five years, which is indeed a big payday. This comes after the fact that he met with representatives from the University of Tennessee, and was mentioned as a possible hire during the Arkansas and Mississippi State head coaching searches as well. All of these programs steered clear from Mike Leach. Whether Leach ever met with Arkansas or Mississippi State is still unknown.

As Leach came back to WSU, new negotiations took place. As it was rumored that Tennessee would offer Mike Leach a job, it was confirmed that the Cougars would fill Leach’s void with their own defensive coordinator, Alex Grinch. Since Leach couldn’t land himself $5 million per year in the SEC, he was forced to come back and take the WSU offer.

It’s important to see all of this from Grinch’s point of view. This year he’s had another year of experience, guiding the Cougars towards a 16th ranked defense this past year. This comes on top of a decorated career including stops at Wyoming and Missouri. A coordinator of his stature is surely looking around to see about his chances at becoming a head coach somewhere.

Grinch would look to his colleagues across the Cascades and south of the Washington-Oregon border. An offensive coordinator from the UW at the age of 38 received a glorious opportunity to take over an entire football program at Oregon State. Another relatively young at 47, defensive coordinator just took the reigns of the entire Duck football program.

With Grinch’s reputation, it should be expected that he would search for his next professional step, as he cannot be expected to coach under mercurial Mike Leach forever. Alex Grinch has made the career move and will be headed to Ohio State to coach under Urban Meyer’s tutelage. He’ll be co-defensive coordinator to Greg Schiano, for now.

While news will come out that Grinch wanted to be closer to his family near his hometown, it’s painstakingly obvious as to the improvement Grinch is making to his own career. Likely spurred from the relative ineptitude of Leach’s tenure, Grinch felt that he’ll be able to not only learn from one of the sport’s premier coaches, but at the very least use Ohio State as a better leap to a head coaching position.

Since Mike Leach began at Washington State, only one of his coordinators have taken a head coaching gig. That coordinator is at Montana State. Don’t get me wrong, Mike Leach has had plenty of former assistants and coordinators move on to fruitful pastures after Texas Tech, Leach’s former stomping grounds.

Ohio State is like the proverbial Facebook to Washington State’s middling startup. Meyer’s staff carries legacies and paydays. Greg Schiano, the current defensive coordinator, was rumored to have received a $27 million dollar deal from the University of Tennessee until the school bungled the deal. I like to think that Grinch realizes exactly the type of opportunity that he has in Ohio State.

In fact, go ahead and search Schiano’s name in the twitterverse in regards to the Arizona coaching search. My guess is that Schiano is gone sooner rather than later, and that Grinch is the insurance policy that Meyer needs at Ohio State. Grinch will be able to fully stretch his wings at a more stable organization.

As for Mike Leach, he’ll have to fill the defensive coordinator void immediately, and he won’t be able to find someone that can truly fill Grinch’s shoes. There may be no urgency for finding this replacement, as the school is currently without an athletic director. As usual, there will be more questions than answers out of Pullman. Cougar fans should demand answers to these recent developments.

Congratulations to Alex Grinch!

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Sebastian Pycior

Sebastian is an industrial professional, having graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Political Science in 2013. He remains largely interested in the effects sports have on greater society. From Las Vegas, he’s moved on from the world of ‘odds’ and has embraced storylines and aspects surrounding Seattle sports.

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