PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State coach Mike Leach was getting ready to sit down for dinner after football practice this week when ESPN announced the latest rankings in the College Football Playoff.
Several televisions in the room showed it. But Leach didn’t even stop to look up, mainly because it’s just too early for him to care with at least three games remaining, starting Saturday at Colorado (5-4).
And besides, there are more relevant subjects to talk about over a plate of shrimp, pasta, corn and baked beans.
Horror movies, for example.
He has a team rule about them – no scary films when his teams go out to movies together the night before games. The same thing goes for films with that are overly sad.
“We try to avoid tragedy movies, because you don’t want to go to the movies and watch somebody have cancer the whole time,” said Leach, whose team is 8-1 and No. 8 in the Playoff rankings. “You want it a little more uplifting.”
Players often get a choice of four movies to watch, depending on the times available on team movie night, a tradition goes back to his tenure at Texas Tech from 2000 to 2009.
The purpose behind it is team-building, one of the underrated aspects of Leach’s coaching ability, says his boss, WSU athletic director Pat Chun. Leach is known nationally for his eccentric interests and prolific passing attacks, but Chun said it’s this kind of stuff behind the scenes that help keep his teams winning consistently.
“That gets lost in the whole Mike Leach aura that he’s this offensive savant that says all these quirky things,” Chun said.
This season, the Cougars are headed to their fourth bowl game in five seasons, with an outside shot at the Playoff.
“If he had to pick between going into a meeting about what movie we’re seeing or a meeting where we’re ranked, he wouldn’t even consider going to figure out where we’re ranked,” Chun said.
Leach took horror movies off the list of options for his teams earlier in his career after discovering “too many guys don’t sleep well, they’re uneasy, and they’re freaked out,” Leach told USA TODAY.
The list of troubled viewers included older coaches, which he finds baffling.
“Even when I was a kid, I understood the difference between real and pretend,” Leach said.
By contrast, he loves a good fright film, particularly "The Omen" from 1976, the original "Halloween" from 1978 and the new "Halloween," in theaters now.
“Hell yeah,” he said.
Those Playoff rankings still serve as a bad omen of their own for the Cougars. Unless several higher-ranked teams lose, the Cougars likely will be shut out of the four-team field with a 12-1 record.
As he’s said before, the Playoff is poorly scripted, anyway, because it’s too short and needs a larger cast.
“They need an expanded Playoff system,” he said.
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