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Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Wulff becomes first Cougars alum to hold top job since 1949

Associated Press

PULLMAN, Wash. -- New Washington State coach Paul Wulff returned to his alma mater Tuesday and immediately took aim at the Cougars' biggest rival.

"It's 22 years later and I really don't like purple," Wulff said, referring to the Washington Huskies' color. "My goal is to turn this program into the state of Washington's team. That is a battle we will win."

The 40-year-old Wulff, who has been coach at nearby Eastern Washington the past eight years, played center at Washington State from 1985-89.

He replaces Bill Doba, who was forced out after going 30-29 in five seasons. The Cougars did not qualify for a bowl game in Doba's final four seasons, going 5-7 this season.

Wulff will sign a five-year contract that will begin paying him about what Doba was paid, around $500,000 a year, athletic director Jim Sterk said.

Wulff is the 31st head football coach at WSU, and the first alumnus to hold the job since Phil Sarboe in 1945-49.

"Paul Wulff has had great success at Eastern Washington University and his Cougar roots run deep," university president Elson S. Floyd said.

Wulff was 53-40 at Eastern Washington, located 70 miles to the north in Cheney. His team qualified for the Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) playoffs in three of the past four seasons.

This year the Eagles went 9-4, losing to Appalachian State in the quarterfinals.

Wulff was Big Sky Conference coach of the year in 2001, 2004 and 2005. His teams are noted for potent offenses. Eastern Washington ranked eighth in the nation in total offense this season at 462 yards per game. Wulff plans to install the no-huddle offense at Washington State.

Wulff played under WSU coaches Jim Walden, Dennis Erickson and Mike Price.

Sterk said he was impressed by Wulff's charisma, and felt it was less of a risk to gamble on a head coach than on an assistant at a bigger program who'd never been a head coach.

"He is a great leader of men," Sterk said.

Sterk acknowledged that Wulff began as something of a dark horse. Sterk added that after interviewing six candidates, members of the search committee came to a unanimous decision on Wulff.

Wulff noted many coaches have successfully gone from lower divisions to the top echelon of college football successfully, including Erickson, Price and Jim Tressel at Ohio State.

Wulff plans to bring five or six assistants with him from EWU, and may keep one or two members of the current WSU staff. He declined to identify them. Washington State quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach served as Wulff's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Eastern Washington before taking the Pullman job in 2003.

"Obviously this has been a dream of mine since I joined the coaching profession," Wulff said. "It is my alma mater, a university with great tradition and a program I feel very strongly about."

Wulff's life has been touched by tragedy.

His mother disappeared when he was 12 and was presumed murdered. The case was never solved, and Wulff was raised in California by relatives and an older brother.

His first wife, Tammy, died from brain cancer at 39 in 2002, after a five-year battle.

Wulff acknowledged the members of his family who attended Tuesday's news conference.

"They helped raise me and get me to WSU," said Wulff, who wore a Washington State necktie and baseball cap. "They kept me on track."

Wulff and his second wife, Sherry, have three children.