BERT KLASEY is a Freelance Television Producer who works primarily in the development of new shows that will soon become a household name, like “HOARDERS.” He is a talented professional and HE IS A COUG.
Bert is also today’s Guest Blogger and for this post he interviewed non other than BILL MOOS. It is an awesome read. GO COUGS! – Erik
Here at Pirates of the Palouse, Erik Hill and Chris Klug have done a great job providing some compelling content over the past few months. When they asked me to be a “guest blogger” for the second time (thanks guys!), I wanted to provide something a bit different than what I had presented before.
Mike Leach, of course, is the focus of this site, but what about the man who brought him here?
For those of you who are new to WSU, that man’s name is Bill Moos. He is the Director of Athletics and he is a very big deal. How big? Well, let’s put it this way, I’m very comfortable saying that WSU President Elson Floyd’s recruitment of Bill Moos was as big of a deal, if not bigger, than Bill Moos’s recruitment of Mike Leach.
Moos is a superstar in college athletics, and he’s the man who brought us all together by bringing Leach to WSU.
But how did he do it? And now that it’s done, where do we go from here? I wanted to find out, and I hope you do to.
Yesterday, I had the good fortune of speaking with Moos for more time than I could imagine that a busy AD has to spare. Without really knowing him, though, I get the feeling that he’s the type of person who, despite a busy schedule, makes time for the fans.
You have to like that.
I’ve heard many things about Moos over the years, and not a single one of them has been negative. In the landscape of college sports, and especially of college football, that is something that is more than unique, it may be more akin to seeing a unicorn wrestling a mermaid on top of a flying carpet.
Minutes in to our conversation, I was able to confirm much of what I’d heard – he’s genuine, affable, and 100% Coug, through and through.
I stated my purpose for the article and we were off. Below are some excerpts of our Q&A.
BK: You were in “semi-retirement” from college sports when you took the job at WSU, what was it that made you want to come back?
Moos: I was out of the business since spring of 07. My wife and I built a cattle ranch up outside of Spokane, on some land that we bought when we were in Eugene, OR. During that time I served as a consultant to athletics here at Washington State and I think that President Floyd got to know me a little bit and I got to get a pretty good feel for him and so when the job vacated in 2010 he asked me to join his team here and I said “that would be a real honor and I feel very fortunate to finish my career where I started it, over 40 years ago here.”
But I told him what my vision would be and that I didn’t want to come down here and be a maintenance man I wanted to come down here and see Washington State compete for championships and in order to do that I would have to have his support and the administration’s support and he wholeheartedly agreed and I thought it was a very good connection there and that was it.
BK: What were some of the major issues that needed to be addressed upon your arrival?
Moos: One of the things that I knew we had to do here, which I had to do at Oregon and Montana before, was change the culture and the mindset from being perennial underdog to being a championship contender and believing in ourselves and our mission. We’re making strides there. We’re not completely there yet, but we’re making strides. Another thing that I knew, coming in, and was confirmed was that we needed to put a lot of energy and resources in to facilities and to marketing and branding our program.
So we started building this plan and it got expensive. To build facilities, rebrand, expand the staff, improve infrastructure with the existing department and grow it, so I realized early on that I had to try and take advantage of the conference’s – the Pac-10 at the time – pursuit of expansion and route to a lucrative new television contract. I saw that as the source we need, and the revenue stream that is imperative to offset the expenses of the blue print. I, at that point, put all my focus in to getting the support to establish for the first time in our conference history, an equal revenue sharing formula that indeed then would enable us do the things that I had discussed.
BK: What was your role in that? What opposition did you face?
Moos: Well, I am the dean of the Pac-12 ADs. I’ve been around a long time and I’ve seen the haves and the have-nots and I’ve witnessed first hand the inequities of the, what was at the time, the current revenue-sharing plan that was in place. We never had enough votes to change it. You needed – with 10 member institutions – you needed 8. And we could max out at 7 and never get there. But in my line of thinking as I was piecing this together, to form a coalition of member institutions to join me in establishing a new plan because with 12 institutions we needed 9 votes and I felt that if I could get the 7 that I had, in previous votes, and get the two new schools, we had the 9 necessary to get it done. So, I took it upon myself to build that group together and bond us to go to the table and to have enough votes to negate USC and UCLA and it was very – it was tense times.
When we sat down in August, of 2010, and I’d just been on the job since mid-April, and the consultants were there and all that and we were going to decide at that meeting, start to have discussions on how we were going to divide the conference so we could have an NCAA-approved football championship game. And so, at that meeting, the discussions came up and I raised my hand, it was about 10 minutes in to it, and said “I think it’s ridiculous to establish how we’re going to divide the conference until we establish how we are going to divide the money.” In the spirit of compromise, we were willing to give USC and UCLA $2 million a piece off the top for five years or until we hit the benchmark of $180 million. And they were happy with that, thinking we couldn’t even hit $180 million until year five, and lo and behold, Larry Scott, our commissioner and our team right out of the shoot exceeded $180 million in the first year with an unprecedented TV package that is the most lucrative in the history of college sports.
*NOTE - The deal Commissioner Larry Scott struck was with ESPN and Fox, and was worth over $3 billion dollars over 12 years, about $225 million per year. Each school would receive about $21 million per year under the equal revenue sharing deal orchestrated by Moos.
BK: You flew about as far across the country as possible just to talk to Mike Leach. Not to hire him, but just to talk to him. What was it about Coach Leach that compelled you to take such a trip?
Moos: I’m just going to, for 30 seconds, point out that I wouldn’t have even been on that airplane, or looking out my window right now and seeing a $65-million stadium renovation if we had not had that revenue stream created. So with that in place and being able to project and knowing that full well, yes I was hoping that Paul Wulff was going to make it, but I saw apathy in our fan base, nothing was energized in any way internally even though we were working very hard in that regard, I had to make some tough decisions there. When I went down to see Mike, first of all he had been on my short list even when I was back at Oregon. I liked his brand of football, I liked his approach to the game, I liked his, the excitement not just of his offense, and other aspects of his football program but also, his personality and he looked like a possible great fit for us here at Washington State. But I had to see it first hand because if I was going to make a change I wanted to do it fast.
So I went under the radar when I was starting to get disenchanted with our play, and I actually secured the services of an individual that I trusted, actually that was in the media profession, television and sports in Eugene, Oregon, and when we went down to play in Oregon, I spent two hours with him and I asked him to serve in the capacity of a liaison with Mike Leach’s agent to see if there was an interest and, if I may say, if we were going to go after somebody of this caliber, this individual that I secured – I can’t give you his name – knew me, knew the success we had at Oregon and that I wanted him to sell me. Because I knew there would be a lot of callers to Mike Leach because it looked like in the landscape of college football there was going to be turnover. It was important, I thought, to be in there early just to see if what I perceived to be a good fit, truly would be.
Bert: How does Mike Leach fit in to the brand that you’re trying to build?
Moos: A perfect fit. We rebranded our uniforms, our fonts, we kept our cougar head logo and built around it. I talked about changing our self-image and our culture, we started to change things from our spirit squads and all that – we were working on the sizzle and looking for the steak. And as the sizzle was going and the plans for the stadium and all the things going in to place, I had to make sure that the steak was right, and that’s why I went to Key West. And he’ll tell you, that when I sat down with him for three and a half hours, the first thing I said to him was “I want you to know that I’m supporting my coach and I hope he makes it. But in the event he doesn’t, I want to be prepared to make a change and to make it fast. You’re number one on my list, you were when I was at Oregon and I want to get to know you and I want for you to get to know me. And that’s what this is all about.”
BK: Knowing what you know of the Coach, do you feel that he chose you, President Floyd and WSU as much as you chose him?
Moos: The President puts all of his confidence in me and allows me to do these things. And that was all agreed upon when I took the job, so President Floyd really did not know that I was even down there. He and I had not had our conversation about the existing coach yet and where I thought we should go. What I think appealed to Mike Leach was my resume, and the fact that if you’ve read his book, I think he said he had four presidents and three chancellors or something like that, and I think that everybody wanted to get in his business. We have a president who wants to be successful in an honorable way and has entrusted me with those decisions. And I told Mike Leach at the end of our meeting, or toward the end of it, that we have a supportive president that has indeed trusted in me this department and it would be him and I, with the blessing of the president, building this program.
BK: How do you see Leach’s hire as a boon to all athletics at WSU and even to the University as a whole?
Moos: I thought it was going to be off the charts and it exceeded my expectations. You just need to look at the awakening of our alumni, the growth of our fan base, the – we sold 2000 NEW season tickets, people who had never had them, within 10 working days. That’s up to 2800 now, we’re up to 98% renewal on last year’s season ticket holders. I just toured our new donor seating areas, our premium seating area on the south side, the 21 suites up there, ranging from $30,000-$50,000 were all sold within two weeks, we have a waiting list, 44 loge boxes all sold. Just under 1200 club seats, we’re at about 80% there. There will be a sold out stadium come September 8th, which will be our home opener.
BK: So it reached the desired effect and then some?
Moos: Well, it was a national story. And you stop and think of the northwest schools, with the possible exception of Dennis Erickson but I don’t think so, there’s never been a bigger name hired than this. And it’s just what we needed to energize Cougar athletics and with that, the entire University. He has a tremendous following. I wish I had the numbers for you, the number of people in Lubbock and down through Texas who have contributed to the Cougar Athletic Fund and who have bought tickets, it’s phenomenal.
BK: Speaking of national exposure, with the BYU game and the UNLV game both being nationally-televised –
Moos: That would’ve never happened! That’s the thing, making a move like this and making sure we now capitalize on it in every single way. We now have more donors to the CAF then ever before in the history of this school. That’s the good news, the bad news is that it’s still not enough. I talked to you about season tickets and the facilities enhancements and we’re just in the final stages of design for a just under 90,000 square foot football operations building to go in the west endzone. With regents approval we’re hoping to break ground on that just after the 2012 season – all these things are capitalizing on from the Mike Leach hire. And in the meantime, allowing him to build his program and hire a staff which he has told me and others, is the best staff that he’s ever had, and focus on recruiting and preparing and getting ready for the upcoming season for which there’s great anticipation and a lot of excitement brewing.
BK: You’ve accomplished an amazing amount in two years, what’s the plan for year 5?
Moos: In the game plan, by year five, all sports are in the position to compete in the upper tier of the Pac-12 and are in a position to be in post season competition and that being more the norm than the exception. And we’re on our way to that. I was thrilled with our women’s tennis team. This team won 19 matches, finished 5th in the Pac-12, Lisa Hart Pac-12 coach of the year…those young women have the mentality, the winner’s mentality, the culture has changed and that’s what we’re doing across the board.
BK: What do you have to say to groups like Pirates of the Palouse that are made up of not just WSU fans, but Tech fans and Leach fans and football fans from all over the country?
Moos: We extend ourselves and reach out to sports fans everywhere and extend an invitation to be Cougars. It’s a wonderful family. It’s a close-knit group and our heads are high now that we can be in a position to be a source of pride to all those involved and we want the masses to be a part of our Cougar brand and hope that they can all get to our beautiful campus and enjoy our events and some improved venues and feel the excitement that you and I know that comes along with being a Cougar.
BK: I’d say that there’s room on our bandwagon, is that right?
Moos: Absolutely and if it’s not big enough, we’ll get a new one.