Wilner Hotline: Names to Watch in Washington State Football Coaching Search

Story by Jon Wilner 

The Nick Rolovich era is over at Washington State after 11 games, five wins, one pandemic and zero shots.

Rolovich’s refusal to get vaccinated led to his termination Monday afternoon and a coaching search that begins today.

In contrast to January 2020, when Mike Leach’s late-cycle departure forced the swift search that led to Rolovich, the Cougars have at least six weeks to scour the landscape and find their man.

Their deadline: Early December, so the new head coach has time to secure a recruiting class prior to the start of the early-signing window on Dec. 15.

Where might they turn?

The following list is based on exhaustive research and dozens of calls to sources deep within the coaching industry.

Just kidding. We whipped this up overnight.

These are merely eight names to tuck away for December … names that might make sense for the Cougars on some level … names that could surface when the search turns real late next month.

Rolovich’s annual compensation was approximately $3 million. The salaries listed below for each coach are taken from USA Today’s databases for head coaches (2021 season) and assistants (2020 season).

Listed alphabetically.

Texas assistant head coach Jeff Banks: The former WSU punter (during the Mike Price era) is one of the top recruiters in the country, having worked for Alabama before joining Steve Sarkisian in Austin. (He also serves as UT’s tight ends coach and special teams coordinator.) Banks’ position as an alum could help heal the Cougars football community fractured by the Rolovich saga. Salary per USA Today: $725,000

San Jose State coach Brent Brennan: The Bay Area native and UCLA graduate has worked wonders in one of the most difficult jobs in the Mountain West. He’s a relentless recruiter and sharp evaluator of talent who was on Mike Riley’s staff at Oregon State, so he knows the Pacific Northwest. He’s friendly with Rolovich (but believes in the vaccine). Whether that gives him pause, we cannot say. Salary per USA Today: $1.5 million

Washington State defensive coordinator Jake Dickert: Named WSU’s acting head coach on Monday, Dickert has done a stellar job with the defense and would provide continuity for the players and the program. (It’s not like WSU needs a culture change, after all.) Dickert probably must win more than he loses over the final five games to have a realistic shot at the permanent gig. Beating Washington sure would help his cause. Salary per USA Today: $564,000

Baylor offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes: The Texas native has no ties to WSU. He’s a former offensive lineman who seemingly has worked everywhere, including Arizona State, Colorado, Auburn and LSU. But from 2018-20, Grimes was the BYU play caller who developed quarterback Zach Wilson. And right now, he’s in charge of a Baylor offense that averages 38 points per game. Salary per USA Today: not available

USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell: If the Cougars want to return to the Mike Leach era without Mike Leach, Harrell would be a prime candidate. He’s an Air Raid proponent who played quarterback for Leach at Texas Tech, then spent two seasons coaching WSU’s outside receivers. Harrell has recruiting ties to both Southern California and Texas but, like several names on this list, has never been a head coach. Salary per USA Today: not available

Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch: He spent three successful seasons on Leach’s staff and has since worked for Ohio State and OU, where he’s one of the highest-profile defensive play-callers in the country. Chances are, the Ohio native is aiming higher than Washington State, but the Cougars should hear that directly from him before crossing Grinch off the list. Salary per USA Today: $1.7 million

Oregon State offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren: Anyone who has watched the Beavers knows they are the antithesis of the Air Raid and not much like the run and shoot, either. They’re ground-and-pound. But they are undeniably well coached, and Lindgren is a big part of that. He spent five seasons at Colorado before moving to Corvallis. Also, he’s a Walla Walla native who played quarterback at Idaho. Salary per USA Today: $668,000

Nevada coach Jay Norvell: Now in his fifth season in Reno, Norvell has executed an impressive rebuild — from 3-9 in his first year to UNR’s current position atop the Mountain West with a 5-1 mark. (Quarterback Carson Strong is a potential first-round pick.) Norvell played defense for Iowa but has spent his coaching career on the offensive side. It includes stints as an assistant at Oklahoma, Texas, UCLA and Arizona State. Salary per USA Today: $619,000

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