It's easy to look at Washington State's results in the past two years -- along with the season-opener from this year -- and conclude head coach Paul Wulff has to go. Since taking over, the Cougars have gone through a stretch that will test any fans' patience. The Cougs simply haven't been competitive at all since 2008, with games regularly being out of hand before the end of the first quarter. Fans are calling for his head, confidence in the program is low and the media has declared him "on the hot seat".
What needs to be highlighted is the process that Wulff is taking as he attempts to build a program at Washington State. Wulff inherited a mess when he took over in 2008. The Cougs had a lack of talent to go along with a glaring lack of discipline. Players were being arrested left-and-right, with program discipline at an all-time low.
Wulff stepped in and began cleaning house. In an effort to rebuild the program, the new head coach set out to restore integrity and demand accountability in a program that lost its way during the high-point of its success on the field. The winning seasons and bowl games in the early 2000s were great, but somewhere along the way Washington State strayed from the formula that made them so successful -- find undervalued talent and develop them in a disciplined system.
Something happened this week that illustrated how committed the staff is to building the program the right way. After the Oklahoma State game -- a game in which the Cougar linebackers were abused by OSU -- I advocated playing highly-touted freshman C.J. Mizell. Physically, Mizell is ready for the college-level. His shortcomings stem from his known inability to grasp the scheme WSU is implementing.
Spokesman-Review writer Vince Grippi directly addressed the call for Mizell by sharing what he's seen at practice. Simply put, Mizell wasn't putting in the work needed to convince coaches he's ready to play. He wasn't studying film and was only going through the motions in practice.
Those of us that didn't see the players on a daily basis in practice had no idea why Mizell was running with the third-team. All of a sudden it makes sense. The easy thing to do would be for the staff to play Mizell. He gives them a better chance of winning, even if he isn't exactly assignment sound. Instead, they're making him earn it off the field.
What kind of example would it set for the program if Mizell -- as gifted as they come on the Cougar football team right now -- was allowed to play despite obviously loafing in practice?
The commitment to character, discipline and integrity the Cougar coaching staff has shown is how a team should build a program. From the ground up, they're laying the foundation for future success and refusing to compromise it for a few wins in the short-term. Whether or not it pays off on the field remains to be seen, but the process Wulff is taking should be commended.