Dec. 11, 2007
PULLMAN, Wash. - Washington State University Director of Athletics Jim Sterk Tuesday named Paul Wulff as the Cougars' new head football coach. Wulff becomes WSU's 31st head coach and the first WSU football letterwinner and graduate to lead the Cougars since Phil Sarboe served as head coach from 1945-49.
"We conducted an extensive national search and met with some outstanding candidates," said Sterk. "In the end I feel we hired the best person for the job. Paul has had success as a head coach, has great passion for this job and this university, and is a man of great character and integrity."
"Obviously this has been a dream of mine since I joined the coaching profession," said Wulff, who replaces Bill Doba, the former Cougar coach who spent 19 years on the sideline at WSU, the last five as head coach. "It is my alma mater, a university with great tradition and a program I feel very strongly about. WSU is an important place in my development as a human being with respect to the university culture. Being named head coach is the biggest honor I have ever received and I am excited about the opportunity."
A 1990 graduate of WSU and a four-year letterwinner, Wulff has spent the previous 15 seasons at Eastern Washington University, the final eight as head coach. There he amassed a record of 53-40. During his eight-year head coaching tenure Wulff was named Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year three times (2001, 2004, 2005) and led the Eagles into the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs three times in the last four years.
This past season he guided the Eagles to a 9-4 mark, including a quarterfinal appearance at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, falling to two-time defending champion Appalachian State. It marked the seventh time in his eight years at Eastern that his teams posted winning records.
"I greatly appreciate the work of Jim Sterk and the advisory committee in running an efficient, thorough and successful search," said WSU President Elson S. Floyd. "Paul Wulff has had great success at Eastern Washington University and his Cougar roots run deep. I look forward to him having a long and outstanding tenure here at Washington State University."
"We put together a logical, thoughtful process, one full of diversity, and one I feel was followed by everyone involved," said Dr. Ken Casavant, WSU Faculty Athletics Representative and chair of the advisory committee. "We threw out a wide net over the candidate pool and after the process produced a number of quality candidates, Jim (Sterk), Dr. Floyd and I felt we came away with the best coach for WSU."
In 2004 EWU reached the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs, falling 35-34 to Sam Houston State. It was the first appearance by the Eagles in the postseason since a semifinal showing in 1997. The Eagles reached the playoffs the following season, dropping a narrow 41-38 decision at Northern Iowa in the first round.
Offense has been a hallmark of Wulff's teams as the Eagles led the FCS in total offense in 2001, finished fourth in 2004 and 2005, and was sixth in the category this season. Eastern also led the nation in total offense in 1997 when Wulff served as the offensive line coach.
"Paul is absolutely first class and I have had a good relationship with him since he's been at Eastern" said Dave Miller, head coach at Lakes High School in Lakewood, Wash. "Our team has gone to the Eastern (Washington) camp each of the last 22 years and we keep going back because of the way we have been treated. There is nobody better in the state of Washington, coach Wulff and his staff are top notch. Paul is a great hire and a perfect fit for WSU and he will hit ground running with all his high school ties in the state."
Wulff began his coaching career at EWU in 1993 as a volunteer assistant working with the offensive line. He was named offensive line/strength coach the following season and spent four years in the position before being promoted to offensive coordinator/offensive line/strength coach in 1998.
Wulff coached 21 players to 54 Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) All-America honors in his first seven years at the helm of the EWU program, and two more of his players were recently named to the Sports Network's 2007 FCS All-America team. Of the 21 players to earn All-America recognition, 15 have been offensive lineman.
Additionally, Wulff has mentored 15 players who have earned 18 total CoSIDA Academic All-District VIII honors and a total of 131 All-Big Sky Conference Academic team members.
As a student-athlete and four-year starter at center for the Cougars from 1986-89, Wulff was an All-America honoree himself as a senior, earning honorable mention accolades from The Sporting News. Wulff started at center under three different coaches after redshirting in 1985. He played for Jim Walden in 1986, Dennis Erickson from 1987-88 and Mike Price in 1989. He was also a member of WSU's 1988 Aloha Bowl championship team.
After a successful collegiate career Wulff went on to play football professionally. He signed with the National Football League's New York Jets as a free agent and also played for the World League's Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks and New York-New Jersey Knights.
He and his wife Sherry have a 12-year-old daughter, Katie, and two sons, four-year-old Max and one-year-old Sam.
Following today's media press conference, Coach Wulff will attend a reception in Bohler Gym at 4 p.m., with Cougar fans encouraged to attend and meet the new WSU head coach.
PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES
WSU Athletic Director Jim Sterk
Opening Statement... "Thank you all for coming here on short notice. There are a number of thank yous I need to make. My wife and my daughter - I haven't been around much these past few weeks and I owe them a lot and I appreciate their support. Obviously to President Floyd and our senior staff, our search committee, our advisory committee chaired by Ken Casavant and especially Craig Angelo who was on that search committee - they put in a lot of time. And then, our favorite Moos of the Palouse - Bill Moos, our search consultant, deferred a lot of phone calls and did a lot of phone calling, and really helped us move this search along effectively as it did.
I told you two weeks ago we would conduct and extensive national search and in our candidates we were looking for someone that shared our core values, someone with integrity, our student well-being, pride, passion and excellence. A person of great character, someone with BCS experience as a player or a coach, someone who would be a great spokesman for the university and WSU Athletics. I received input from many sources which included our team and team captain Greg Trent, Coach Doba, and as a result of that, the first week, we had information on over 70 prospects. We had conversations with many potential coaches and people that were recommending people. We personally met with six this past week, I'm not going to confirm or deny who those were. We only brought Paul to campus. We met with President Floyd and Ken Casavant Sunday night. Yesterday I met with the President, Dr. Casavant and our senior staff and by the afternoon we offered the job to Coach Wulff.
With this hire, I feel we've come full circle. Coach Wulff is the epitome of the values we're looking for in our head football coach. Again, integrity, student-athlete well-being, pride, passion and excellence. Some people that do not know Coach Wulff will be surprised by this hire. Those that know him believe it is the best hire I could ever make. He has the unique experience of lining up against the likes of USC, Cal, and UCLA of the Pac-10. He played for three of the last four head coaches: Walden, Erickson and Price.
When you look at his credentials and personally visit with him, you quickly come to the same conclusion that I did, President Floyd did and our search advisory committee did. He was impressive at each stage of the process. I have no doubt in my mind that he will create Washington State's team at WSU. I'm pleased to introduce to you the 31st head coach of Washington State University, Paul Wulff."
WSU Head Coach Paul Wulff
Opening Statement... "I need to start with thanking my wife Sherry and our kids Katie, Max and Sam. I have some family here from California: my brothers and sisters, their spouses and my uncle and cousin. They are a big part of my life. They helped raise me; helped get me to Washington State as a teenager. They followed my career and were very supportive. They kept me on track. This is a tribute to them and their perseverance as siblings to keep me on track. I appreciate that very much and that's a big part of why I'm standing here. I want to thank President Floyd and our athletic director Jim Sterk. Having an opportunity to meet the selection committee and everybody involved in the process that I had to work through, very impressive people.
Obviously everyone has apprehensions when you step out away from your comfort zone. But when you have an opportunity to meet people that you're going to work with and when you feel very comfortable around those people and you know they are good, quality people, it makes the transition and the decision very easy. That was the feeling I got when I was offered the job. It was a no-brainer to come back to a place that I chose to come.
Twenty-two years ago, in February of 1985, I signed a letter of intent to Washington State University. I was obligated to that, and I committed to it, and I chose this university over five other Pac-10 schools at that time. I am back 22 years later, and I am committed for another five years. I will make the most of it and do everything in my power to create an environment that everyone who is a Cougar can be proud of. It's going to take some work. There is some building we need to do and some culture changes we need to make. But the process will start today...It's going to take a lot of hard work but its something that is very attainable. We need to put ourselves in a position where everybody can be proud of the student-athletes in this program both on and off the field on a consistent basis. We need to have the right kind of kid here -- one that wants to come for excellence, wants to develop and work hard and have a lot of pride about their institution. We need to recruit that kind of person to this university -- someone who will really embrace Pullman and Washington State University because this is a phenomenal institution in so many ways. There is a tremendous amount of pride and past excellence. I am so proud to be back in this situation.
There are so many wonderful people who allowed me to get here. I can't name them all because there are hundreds. But I am proud to represent them, and my goal is to turn this program into the state of Washington's football team. We want to make sure this team has a hard, heavy flavor of kids who graduated from the state of Washington. We obviously need to recruit the western United States to a high level. But we need to make sure that our roster has Washington kids and we're doing this with home-grown kids, and kids that come here and are here for five years. That's how you build a program and you don't look any other way. You just stay consistent and solid, and I'm very proud of that.
In addition to signing on in 1985, I learned that very day that I am not supposed to like purple. And I don't like purple and that has not changed. It is 22 years later and I really don't like purple. That is going to be very clear. That is a battle that we will win. We are going to go after those guys and we're going to attack them. We are going to find a way to take control of this deal and run the best program in the state of Washington. I am very proud of that fact. One thing I told Mr. Sterk and President Floyd is that dogs hunt and bark, but Cougars fight and kill."
WSU Athletic Director Jim Sterk Questions
On bringing only Coach Wulff to campus... "The process we went through was identifying candidates. We had head coaches, coordinators, pros, former head coaches - those categories. Once we brought people in, we brought the top of each of those categories in to talk to. Paul was our last one. I think what happened was, we felt like we had a very good group and Paul kind of brought the best of everyone. It was very evident to the folks in that room, unanimous that there was our guy. Everyone agreed that he was far and above the best person, has the experience, the integrity, the organization, the passion, basically all the attributes that the players were looking for and we were looking for in our head coach."
On meeting in Salt Lake City... "There were five or six (of us present at the meeting). We picked Salt Lake, where we could bring people in and you guys didn't know where we were at."
On Eastern Washington's recent season and its impact on hiring Coach Wulff... "That was a bonus. His body of work as a coach eight years bringing a program together. As Paul said, the first few years, you're kind of finding out just how this thing works as the head guy. I think the former player was kind of a bonus at the end."
On Coach Wulff's contract... "Similar to when I do coaching hires, we're working on them. At five years, he'll be compensated similar to Coach Doba but we're working out that stuff as we move along but I think he'll get a raise."
WSU Head Coach Paul Wulff Questions
On his emotions in being back at WSU... "It's a little bit of a blur. I didn't sleep much last night...now I am here and it has been a whirlwind. These are emotions you can't really put into words. I am proud and honored to be here. It has happened very fast. This hasn't been something I prepared my career for. I just tried to always do my work and my responsibility, always aware that if an opportunity presented itself that I would take advantage of it. It wasn't a long, thought-out plan to be the coach at Washington State. It was a far, way out there goal and dream. I didn't realize it was going to happen until it did."
On his staff... "We are still working through our staff. We don't have anything final, but we're looking to bring four to five staff members. And that would leave four to five positions open that we want to fill. And I want to make sure that we do our due diligence, and we do that process right. I don't just want to be quick to hire until we're comfortable with the process."
On staying in eastern Washington for so long... "I honestly thought I would go to school here and go back to California. Once I signed here and came here it took until about year two before I realized I really liked this place. As a freshman you come here and you're surviving, and it's a new world. But after a while when I started staying here in the summers and my senior year, I knew this was great for me. I had no idea that I would spend the rest of my life up to this point in the eastern part of Washington."