From Alaska, to Cuba, to the Florida Keys, Mike Leach’s off-season itinerary has been an atlas of exotic and interesting locales.
He went to Italy, too, but that trip was for business and not pleasure.
Washington State’s coach traveled to Milan, Italy, to host a football clinic with Chris Ault, who transformed the University of Nevada’s football program first as its coach, and then as its athletic director.
Ault also transformed football when he and current WSU running backs coach Jim Mastro crafted the pistol offense, a whip-quick rushing attack that uses smart spacing and multiple running backs to get ball carriers quickly downfield.
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Ault now coaches the Milano Rhinos and used his relationships with Leach and Mastro to get the WSU head coach out for a multiple-team workshop in May so that the Italian players could learn two very different offensive philosophies from the coaches who crafted them.
“They play American football in Europe and I coached in Finland for a season,” Leach said. “Chris asked to have me over for a clinic, which I was honored to do. It gave me the chance to travel around the great spots of Europe and do what I could to share football with Italy.”
Leach is admittedly in favor the globalization of America’s favorite sport, an initiative likely to be spearheaded by the Pac-12, which will see California open its season in Australia.
“I would like to see football become fully international instead of just kind of hobbyists overseas,” Leach said.
DANCING ROUND THE ‘MEH’ POLL SUBJECT
Gabe Marks’ reaction to the Cougars being voted fourth in the Pac-12 North in a preseason media poll was one of indifference.
“None of these people, I bet over three-quarters of the people, that vote on this thing never even played football,” said Marks, WSU’s star receiver and offensive representative for the Pac-12 Media Days in Los Angeles.
“What’s the point in caring,” he continued. “It’s their opinion. I’ll respect it, but we’ve still got to play.”
WSU is projected behind Pac-12 champion Stanford, offseason darling Washington, and Oregon. It is WSU’s highest finish in the preseason poll since the Pac-12 was formed.
LOVE FOR FALK
Marks held court at Pac-12 Media Days, and made sure to show a little love to his quarterback.
“I call him the ‘Messiah of the Palouse,’ and also the ‘CEO of Washington State Football,’ because he runs the show,” Marks said. “Leach gets a lot of credit and he should, because he’s Mike Leach, but Luke is the reason this started working. You know what I mean? Without a quarterback that people follow, and that’s a leader, you can’t win.”
Leach agreed with Marks’ sentiments, so much so that he made an after-the-fact case for Falk’s 2015 Heisman candidacy.
“There was a time when the Heisman went to the guy who had the biggest impact and effect on their team, and if that was the case, he probably would have won it last year or should have.”