For a team that is likely to go 0-12 after this weekend’s obligatory loss to California, there sure are a lot of people interested in coaching at the University of Washington.
Mike Leach, who was just named Big 12 Coach of the Year, was reportedly on a commercial flight to Seattle yesterday (way to cut costs, there, UW). Fresno State’s Pat Hill has been mentioned as a candidate. And Jim Mora, Jr., who created a stir two years ago when he openly pined for the UW job when he was still employed by the Falcons, is perhaps considered the front runner. Leach’s trip yesterday is maybe the strangest, considering these kinds of trips are usually made on private planes so as not to arouse suspicion.
Bob Condotta of the SEATTLE TIMES has been convinced by a passenger on yesterday’s Alaska Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Seattle that Leach was on the plane:
Texas Tech coach Mike Leach , wearing a baseball hat, T-shirt, and tennis shoes, flew to Seattle yesterday afternoon from Las Vegas on Alaska Flight 601, according to a fellow passenger.
“I’m positive it was him,” said Dave Christophersen, who said he immediately recognized Leach and had it reinforced when Leach’s wife, Sharon, was called to the counter to upgrade to first class. Flight 601 is scheduled to leave each day at 11:20 a.m. and arrive in Seattle at 2:03 p.m.
Texas Tech’s sports information director says he doesn’t know where Leach was yesterday, but an IMG agent who represents the coach says he wasn’t in Seattle. I don’t know who this Christopherson fella is, or how he got in touch with Condotta, but he seems pretty adamant.
Meanwhile, rumors continue to surround Mora, an assistant with the Seahawks who signed a contract to take over as head coach after Mike Holmgren’s retirement at the end of this season. SEAHAWKS INSIDERS’s Frank Hughes has been bombarded with claims that Mora’s hiring at UW is imminent:
I myself have gotten a flurry of emails informing me that Mora would be announced in the next 24 hours; that Paul Allen and Scott Woodward have sat down to discuss the issue; that Mora is definitely going to be the Huskies’ next coach and it will be announced any moment. There has been no indication from Renton that anything has changed from Mora’s initial — and only — statement on the topic, saying he is not a candidate for the position.
One guy who is now out of the running is Cincinnati’s Brian Kelly, who is going to bask in the glow of a BCS bid by returning to coach the Bearcats next year. Kelly’s plan seems to be to get a big contract extension from UC and get the university to commit to upgrading the stadium and facilities to help turn the school into a football power (although this isn’t exactly working out for Rutgers):
Among the topics of discussion was the renovation of Nippert Stadium. Thomas said plans include adding additional seats, premium seating such as club seats and luxury suites, and improved infrastructure such as more restrooms and concessions.
Thomas said these improvements have been on his radar for several years, but the football team’s success this year and impending bid to a major bowl game put things on the fast track.
Washington has quite a football history, but hasn’t really been relevant since going to the Rose Bowl at the end of the 2000 season. And, looking back, some of UW’s past success came as the result of the shady ethics of former coach Rick Neuheisel and additional NCAA offenses committed during Don James’ final seasons with the Huskies.
Leach must be so convinced, though, that Tech will always be third fiddle to Texas and Oklahoma that it might be worth it to him to try and resuscitate a dying program. Leach has no Pac-10 ties. He was born in California, but was raised in Wyoming before attending BYU.
Edit: I admit that I did confuse Don James with another coach in my mind, and I apologize for insinuating that James had ethical issues on the same level as Neuheisel. I’ve corrected that. However, James was in charge during a period in which UW was hit with a postseason ban and admitted to a lack of institutional control regarding recruiting, so he has to share some blame in the situation.