Washington State coach Mike Leach knows what it’s like to have a warm seat in the cold Palouse.
At the start of his fourth season in 2015, the Cougars lost at home to Portland State. He was 12-26 at the time playing most of his recruits. It appeared the “Air Raid” experiment, Leach’s famed passing offense, in the rain-soaked Pacific Northwest was a mistake.
Now look at him.
The Cougars have gone 23-9 since that humbling loss to Portland State — the Pac-12’s first against an FCS school — and they are presently 7-1 and ranked No. 15 heading into Saturday’s game at Arizona.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez felt the heat from fans and media entering this season and it had nothing to do with Tucson’s 100-degree temperatures. The Wildcats were 10-15 in the previous two seasons after going 10-4 and winning the Pac-12 South in 2014. They won only three games last season.
Now look at him.
The Wildcats are 5-2 and knocking on the door of a Top 25 ranking, winning three straight games behind electrifying running quarterback Khalil Tate. They host Washington State and Leach for a Homecoming game this weekend that should draw more than 50,000 fans.
The feel for the program is different than back in May when our site ran a poll asking readers about Rodriguez’s hot-seat status. Only 10.6 percent of the respondents indicated Rodriguez should not fear his job security. The category with most votes at 35.3 percent — Rodriguez’s seat is moderately hot with at least seven wins a must.
The Wildcats are only two wins shy of that now. They need only one more win to become bowl eligible and avoid a losing record in the regular season.
Leach addressed Rodriguez’s hot-seat situation yesterday when a reporter asked him what it is like to “coach in that sort of environment when everybody is calling for your head?”
“Well, you just ignore it,” Leach answered. “I mean, you just ignore it. They’ve already got … as a coach with rare exception, unless you’re lazy and I don’t know hardly any lazy coaches, they’ve already got everything that they got. You’re already trying as hard as you can try.
“In my opinion, you try as hard as you can, if you’re unsuccessful, screw them, you did the best you could. You don’t have anything else to offer or anything else to give.”
What Leach is getting at: Can Arizona really do better than Rodriguez, who is making the most of his resources?
“The notion that fans, alums and media somehow want to win more than the coach does … there’s never been a more absurd statement,” Leach continued. “Fans or somebody acts like they want to win so bad, well they don’t want to win as bad as the coaches and players do. It’s not even comparable. It’s not even remotely comparable. You just ignore it because you already know you are more deeply invested than anybody else to begin win.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.