PULLMAN – Just before 4 p.m. Tuesday, Washington State football players hiked up and down icy staircases, trudged through snowy pathways and drove on slick roads to make a late-afternoon meeting at the Cougar Football Complex.
If any of them were uncertain or iffy about their future with a new coach, a brief chat with Nick Rolovich inside the glitzy, $61 million home of Washington State football might have been the thing to settle their nerves.
It isn’t clear what Rolovich told the Cougars during his first meeting, on his first day in charge of a Power Five football program, but the large majority of WSU players seemed to come out of the meeting with more confidence than they entered with. And maybe with more certainty the right person is leading the Pac-12 North program in the wake of an incredibly successful eight-year run with Mike Leach.
Players didn’t necessarily come forth and say those things directly. They didn’t need to.
“Fired up!!!” Rush linebacker Willie Taylor III wrote on Twitter, just before 5 p.m. “Let’s get to work!”
“Let’s Do It,” wide receiver Travell Harris posted.
“Let’s go! #RoloEra,” All-Pac-12 linebacker Jahad Woods tweeted.
“You know how it GO #RoloEra,” wrote nickel Patrick Nunn, adding some flair to his message with three rose emojis.
Nose tackle Lamonte McDougle, meanwhile, didn’t use a caption, simply posting an internet GIF of the popular chocolate caramel Rolo candy – as numerous fans have done the last few days, embracing what they hope is a sweet future for WSU’s football program.
Less than 24 hours after news of Rolovich’s hiring broke, the Cougars made a formal announcement, affirming Rolovich had agreed to a five-year contract that multiple outlets have reported to be worth $3 million annually.
Rolovich will be introduced as WSU’s coach Thursday at a 2:30 p.m. news conference inside the Rankich Club Room at Martin Stadium.
“Not only on the football field, but we truly believe we are raising tomorrow’s husbands, fathers and community leaders,” Rolovich said in a school statement. “The excitement is real and it’s honest. Most recently what coach Leach has built gives us a high starting point. I appreciate him as a friend and what he has done to build the program.
“We are looking forward to learning more about the program, the history, the anecdotes and the legends of WSU football. One of the more attractive things was the community, how it matches a lot of the values we try to live by and I’m excited to raise my family in Pullman. We can’t wait to get up there and get started.”
Athletic director Pat Chun and other members of WSU’s administration interviewed the former Hawaii coach in Las Vegas on Monday, and the party returned to Pullman in a private airplane Tuesday afternoon, in time for Rolovich to meet his new roster.
While in Vegas, Rolovich and Chun held an Ol’ Crimson flag and posed for a photo in front of the brand-new Allegiant Stadium, a 65,000-seat venue situated right off the Strip that will be the host site for the Pac-12 Championship game in 2020 and 2021.
Chun posted the picture from his Twitter account, with the caption, “The future is NOW! Time to go HOME … to Pullman.”
In WSU’s release, Chun called Rolovich “the exact fit to lead Cougar football” and said “he has a vision of taking Cougar football on a path to win championships.”
The official WSU football Instagram account posted a photo of the bearded Rolovich getting out of a private jet in Pullman and walking onto a snow-covered runway. Rolovich wore a camouflage WSU bucket hat, a crimson windbreaker, blue jeans and cowboy boots.
Over the next few days, Rolovich will begin assembling his new coaching staff at WSU. On Tuesday, Brandon Huffman of 247Sports.com told KJR radio host Ian Furness the coach will bring in an entirely new staff and that the hire has been received well in the recruiting world.
One WSU signee, offensive lineman Dylan Mayginnes, told The Spokesman-Review on Tuesday night that Rolovich had already made calls to a handful of the recruits who signed with Leach and the Cougars during December’s early period.