Stew to Wazzu?

By now we know Stew Morrill is the kind of coach lots of schools are interested in. Enough that he has received numerous offers to leave Utah State and more than double his annual salary.

Yet, over the years Morrill has rebuffed all those offers and stayed an Aggie.

Sunday, however, he interviewed for the vacant position at Washington State.

Aggie fans should be worried. Why? Not because WSU is waiving a raise of at least $400,000 per year — Morrill has had fat paychecks dangled in front of him before and not budged.

No, USU fans might worry more than usual this time because Washington State is very much like Utah State — but with the hefty boost in tax bracket and the lure of the Pac-10’s recruiting base and prestige.

Washington State, like USU, is out of the media spotlight to a degree. Instead of toiling away in BYU and Utah’s shadow, Morrill would be working his magic on the Palouse while Gonzaga and Washington get the lion’s share of scrutiny from those pesky newspaper reporters in Spokane and Seattle.

He’d also be free of any further questions about his strength of schedule. Two games each year against Washington, UCLA, Arizona, Stanford, California, etc., will give Morrill all the freedom he wants to play the likes of Whitworth, Idaho or even Utah State.

Morrill, who is fiercely loyal to the assistants who typically return that loyalty for a decade or more, would also be able to reward his staff with a big raise if he were to accept the Washington State job.

Making a speculative assumption here, what is Utah State to do if Morrill does, in fact, get an offer to coach the Cougars?

Well, if Utah State wants to keep the school’s all-time winningest coach — and why wouldn’t USU want to keep a guy who wins 25-plus games every season and sells out the Spectrum with regularity? — they might need to simply make sure Morrill’s staff is well taken care of.

Money is far from the most important thing in the world to Morrill — repeatedly turning down offers from other schools is proof of that — but the veteran coach likes to feel appreciated.

Utah State’s coach and his assistants are reportedly the third-best paid staff in the Western Athletic Conference while being the most successful group in the conference ever since joining the league four years ago.

As Utah State has done in the past, they will almost certainly make a counter offer to keep Morrill in Aggie Blue.

While matching the $1 million-plus Washington State is said to be offering for the position might not be possible, Utah State would be foolish to not pry open the checkbook a little farther and make sure Morrill and his staff know how much the Aggie family is in debt to its 11-year coach.

While USU would certainly attract a load of quality applicants to replace Morrill if he were to leave, it would be a stretch to think anyone could match the level of success Morrill has reached over the past 10 seasons.

So, unless USU simply can’t afford to pay Morrill’s staff any more, athletic director Scott Barnes should instruct his fund-raisers to find another $100,000 or whatever it takes to keep Morrill in Logan.

Stew Morrill has built something incredible at Utah State. Allowing that to end without a serious attempt to keep him around would be a mistake Aggie fans might not want to see happen.

Leave a comment encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.