By Jacob Thorpe
LEWISTON — As the on-field performance of the Washington State football team improves, so does its coaches’ salary. WSU athletic director Bill Moos amended the contract for football coach Mike Leach to raise his annual media compensation from $100,000 per year to $600,000 per year, raising his total guaranteed annual compensation to $2.75 million.
That figure puts Leach only behind Washington’s Chris Petersen and UCLA’s Jim Mora among Pac-12 coaches, with the caveat that Stanford and USC are private schools and do not disclose coaching salaries.
Additionally, Moos allocated another $500,000 into the pool for assistant coaching salaries.
After Monday’s practice Moos said that the pay bump comes from a desire to keep Leach’s compensation near the top of the Pac-12. He also cited efforts by Washington and USC to hire defensive line coach Joe Salave’a over the offseason as a reason for the pay bump.
Salave’a, who was initially paid $175,00 to coach at WSU, recently signed a personnel action form that will raise his salary to $275,000.
“I still think (Leach is) one of the best coaches in this league and as we change our culture at Washington State we have to compete with those in our conference and around the country to build stability and consistency,” Moos said. “I like to be forward thinking in that regard and proactive. Not that I’m worried about losing Mike but I also don’t want to get complacent and not be on top of the market.”
Media compensation covers appearances on radio and television broadcasts, the use of Leach’s likeness in promotional events and other media appearances.
Schools occasionally raise the media compensation rather than the base salary to avoid paying into the state’s employee pension program, but Washington state’s Public Employee Retirement System has an annual cap of around $250,000 a figure Leach’s base salary easily exceeds.
Defensive line impresses
One does not need a roster to discern the age of the defenders on the Washington State football team. Just look at the line of scrimmage.
The further away the players are, the younger they’re likely to be. The secondary has two upperclassmen and Tracy Clark is the only senior. The linebacking corps is a little more grizzled with a smattering of players who have seen their share of live action.
But the three down linemen making the young offensive line’s life miserable have been through life in the trenches, and the experience gleaned from 20 starts last season give them the right to lead the rest of the defense.
Xavier Cooper, Destiny Vaeao and Kalafitoni Pole have made it hard for the offense to get good work in at times during WSU’s fall camp. Wide receivers do not have time to get open before a defender has slapped the quarterback to signify a sack.
Running backs often waste their precious few carries wrapped up behind the line of scrimmage as soon as they have been handed the ball.
“We have a better group, we have more experience so we can kind of tweak our defense better,” Pole said. “The veterans did a good job of helping the young guys transition so they’re a step ahead of where the young guys were last year. I think we did pretty good as a defense and we came out here to play fast.”
Of the five offensive linemen only two were starters last season and they played at different positions. If those five offensive linemen can match the defense’s three then the Cougars could be without weakness on offense.
But that’s a big if.
“Those three starters in there are old,” offensive line coach Clay McGuire said. “They’ve played live snaps and so if we can play up to their level we’ll be pretty good.”