Jake Dickert interviewed three times for the Washington State head-coaching job, acing not only those, but also his on-the-job audition under difficult circumstances.
So while the search for a new WSU football coach was far and wide — including current FBS coaches and Power Five coordinators — it was Dickert, the man already on the job, who was introduced as the program’s 34th head coach Thursday afternoon.
“On a parallel path was the evaluation of Jake Dickert,” said WSU athletic director Pat Chun. “As interim head coach, he was immersed in an extensive and exhaustive evaluation.”
It was a five-game evaluation, with Dickert coaching the Cougars to a 3-2 record after taking over as interim head coach at midseason when Nick Rolovich was fired for not complying with the mandate that state employees be vaccinated for COVID-19. The Cougars (7-5) will soon be rewarded with a berth to a bowl game.
The biggest win on paper after Dickert took over was a 34-21 victory over Arizona State as a 15-point underdog. But the biggest victory in the heart of most WSU fans was the 40-13 rout of Washington in the Apple Cup.
That win not only ended Washington’s seven-game winning streak in the series, it was Washington State’s largest margin of victory ever against their cross-state rivals.
“By the time we entered the Apple Cup last Friday, we had an inspired team that emerged, one that was forged through adversity and served as a reminder to everyone who watched that when Cougs unite, and come together, anything is possible,” Chun said.
The day after the Apple Cup, WSU announced that Dickert would be elevated to permanent head coach, agreeing to a five-year contract worth $2.7 million a year.
“Coach Dickert has a powerful and vibrant vision for WSU football,” Chun said. “He is a dynamic coach and he is committed to the development of our student athletes.”
Dickert said Thursday that his vision for Washington State football is simple: “We are going to be building champions while we are relentlessly competing for championships. … We are going to have champions here at Washington State and we’re going to be champion people first and foremost.
“The second phase of it while relentlessly competing for championships is a 365-day approach to greatness and excellence, and being our best in everything we do on and off the field. That is a pursuit I am passionate about and that pursuit is to bring a Pac-12 championship back to Pullman, Washington.”
Dickert, who grew up in Oconto, Wisconsin, played college football at Wisconsin Stevens-Point (2002-06), first as a quarterback before changing to wide receiver.
He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant defensive coach at North Dakota State and gradually worked his way through the coaching ranks at small colleges before joining Wyoming in 2017.
“At one point, I had to move my family eight times in nine years to get to this point,” Dickert said, while thanking his wife, Candice, and their three children, ages 5 to 10.
He coached the linebackers for two seasons at Wyoming before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 2019. Rolovich then hired him as WSU’s defensive coordinator.
Dickert continued to run the defense even after taking over coaching duties from Rolovich, but said that he will hire a defensive coordinator. According to multiple reports Thursday, that coordinator will be Brian Ward, the current Nevada defensive coordinator.
Dickert said he is in the “process of vetting all of our coaches,” but did not commit to retaining the current staff.
“My biggest thing is to provide the best experience for our players that is possible and we are going to find the right guys and the right fit,” he said. “… We’re in that process now and it starts with our staff here in Pullman, but I am going to have a lot of conversations with a lot of people to make sure that we have the right fit for our program, now and in the future.”
Dickert also would not commit to retaining the run-and-shoot offense, which has been used since Rolovich was hired before the 2020 season.
“I think we are going to look at everything,” Dickert said. “I think the biggest philosophy I have on offense is players over plays. We are going to center this around (quarterback) Jayden (de Laura) and his development and what he can do in the future. He is just blossoming into what he can become. I think there is a certain level of expectation that we all have of having an explosive offense here at Washington State, using our speed and our athleticism but being uniquely different.
“So we are going to be looking at all avenues to make sure we are finding the right fit for our future and our players.”
Dickert will now get back to work and resume the recruiting process. He said that begins in the state of Washington.
“From Tumwater to Tacoma, from Eastside Catholic to Gig Harbor, from the Palouse to Spokane to the Tri-Cities and everywhere in between, we’re going to be at your school, we’re going to be flying the Cougs flag and we’ll find you,” Dickert said. “I learned from (former WSU coach) Mike Price on a zoom (meeting) last summer, that is where our program is founded and that is where our program will start.
“I think the biggest thing we need to show them is what a unique place Washington State is, because what makes us unique at Washington State also makes us great.”