Tracy Claeys

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Washington State, Mike Leach agree on contract extension


Coming off a season with the most wins in school history, Washington State and Mike Leach have agreed to a contract extension that will run through the 2023 season. In addition, defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys has been signed to a three-year contract.

The contract extension for Leach is a one-year addition to the current contract for Leach. In all, Leach is now on a five-year contract as he continues to improve the Washington State program on the field. The Cougars went 11-2 last season with a victory in the Alamo Bowl, although one win shy of playing for a Pac-12 championship. The Cougars have won at least eight games each of the past four seasons.

“Coach Mike Leach has built a nationally prominent football program at Washington State and our student-athletes continue to excel athletically and academically under his leadership,” Washington State Director of Athletics Pat Chun said in a released statement. “His ability to create and steward a winning culture, combined with his vision and expertise, make him one of the elite coaches in the entire sport of football. Few coaches could have accomplished what Coach Leach did in 2018. There is no greater head football coach for WSU than Mike Leach and we are happy to have him leading our program for many years to come.”

Leach will be paid $3.75 million for the 2019 season and $4 million in 2020. He will be given a retention bonus of $750,000 after the 2020 season.

Under Leach’s current agreement, his 2019 compensation will be $3.75 million, while the following four years he is scheduled to make $4 million per year. Following the 2020 season, Leach will also receive a one-time retention bonus of $750,000. Details of Claeys’ contract were not released.

In his seven seasons leading the Cougars, Leach has amassed 49 victories, which ranks third in program history, He has guided the Cougars to five bowl games in the past six years, also a first for a Cougar coach, and over the past four seasons WSU has the second-most conference wins of any program in the Pac-12.

Claeys joined the Washington State coaching staff in January 2018 as the replacement for Alex Grinch, who left the Cougars for a job at Ohio State. Claeys has also been the one-time head coach of Minnesota in 2016 after serving as an interim coach in 2015 and defensive coordinator of the Gophers from 2011 through 2015.

Washington State reportedly fills defensive coordinator vacancy with Tracy Claeys

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On the day Ohio State finally made the addition of Alex Grinch to the coaching staff official in Columbus, Mike Leach wasted little time in getting a replacement in Pullman, Washington. Washington State has reportedly hired former Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys to fill the role as defensive coordinator.

According to a report from The Star Tribune, Claeys has agreed to a two-year contract. There has been no official update out of Washington State at this time, but the addition of Claeys seems to be an intriguing one for Leach and the Cougars.

Grinch did a solid job in reshaping how Washington State performed on defense. Claeys will bring with him a good amount of experience as a defensive coordinator, having held the role from 1999 through 2015 between jobs at Emporia State, Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois, and Minnesota under former Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill. Claeys was named interim head coach of Minnesota in 2015 when Kill stepped aside to focus on his health, and Claeys was named the full-time head coach of Minnesota after that interim season. He held the job for just one season before Minnesota parted ways with Claeys and hired P.J. Fleck from Western Michigan.

Ironically, the last team Claeys beat as head coach of the Gophers was Washington State in the Holiday Bowl at the end of the 2016 season. Claeys and Minnesota held Washington State to just 12 points in the game. The only touchdown allowed by Minnesota came with just 19 seconds remaining in the game.

Jerry Kill says he will never return to Minnesota after firing of Tracy Claeys

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The firing of Tracy Claeys at Minnesota has not been sitting well with one former Minnesota head coach. Jerry Kill, who resigned from his post as head coach of the Gophers to ultimately be replaced by his assistant, Claeys, has always said he would never waver from supporting the Gophers program, but he seems to be singing a much different tune now.

“I won’t be stepping foot back in the stadium, and I won’t be stepping back into the university,” Kill said during a radio interview in Minnesota on Wednesday, according to The Star Tribune.

“We’ll always come to Minnesota. My daughter is there. We love Minnesota,” Kill went on to say during the radio interview. “I’ll go to every baseball game, Minnesota Vikings] football game, anything else. But I will not ever be in that stadium or that complex. And they’re building a new complex. We had a lot to do with that. I won’t ever see it. But I wish them all the luck in the world. I hope the decision that [Minnesota AD Mark Croyle] made was right. I do hope the program continues to do well. I just wish people would be straightforward.”

Kill’s loyalty to Minnesota was clearly lost when one of his most trusted assistants was let go late in the coaching carousel cycle.

Claeys was fired after a 9-4 season marred by a player boycott following the suspension of 10 Minnesota players due to their connection to an alleged sexual assault incident.

Kill is now the offensive coordinator at Rutgers. If you were curious, the Scarlet Knights will not visit Minnesota until at least after the 2020 season.

Minnesota players ended boycott after reading 80-page sexual assault investigation report

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On Saturday, Minnesota football players ended their brief boycott of football activities to return to preparing for the upcoming Holiday Bowl against Washington State. The boycott did not result in overturning the suspensions to 10 teammates, so why the change of heart? Information from an 80-page sexual assault investigation report may have been the deciding factor.

According to a report from The Star-Tribune, a source claims once the report was reviewed by Minnesota football players, the entire tone of the boycott was altered. The information provided in the report brought a sense of clarity and answered some questions that were seemingly and frustratingly left unanswered for Gophers players. A lack of communication was one of the main reasons for the boycott in the first place at Minnesota, but the report may have made things a bit more clear.

The university’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action report recommended five players (Ray Buford, Carlton Djam, KiAnte Hardin, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson) face expulsion from the university. Those players reportedly had sexual contact with an alleged female victim. The reports recommended one-year suspensions for Seth Green, Kobe McCrary, Mark Williams and Antoine Winfield Jr. and probation for Antonio Shenault.

It was during a team meeting early Saturday morning where one of the suspended players urged his teammates to end the boycott and not ruin a postseason experience for everyone on the account of the 10 suspended players.

Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys, who had shown support for his players coming together for a cause they believe in with the boycott, has committed to donating $50,000 to victims of sexual violence.

Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner out vs. Rutgers due to concussion symptoms

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Minnesota will be without starting quarterback Mitch Leidner this week against Rutgers. Leidner will be sidelined due to lingering concussion symptoms. Conor Rhoda will get the start in place of Leidner this week.

This will be the second straight game Leidner will miss due to concussion symptoms. He was officially ruled out for this week’s homecoming game against the Scarlet Knights, although he has been cleared for light activity during practices.

“We put a lot more on the quarterback’s plate now than what we have in the past, and you need to practice,” Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys said when asked about the possibility of getting Leidner involved enough this week to have him ready for Saturday’s game. “So I’m not saying that he won’t, but I think it’s extremely difficult for that.”

Rhoda started last week in place of the concussed Leidner and led the Gophers to a 31-10 victory over Maryland. With Rutgers coming in having lost nine straight Big Ten games dating back to last season, it looks pretty favorable for Rhoda to go 2-0 as Minnesota’s starter.