Washington State has its new defensive coordinator, and it's a guy the Cougs have some recent history with.
WSU announced Monday night that former Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys will take over the Cougar defense. Claeys was fired by the Gophers after their 2016 season, which ended with a Holiday Bowl win over the Cougs.
"Tracy comes highly recommended as a tremendous teacher, strategist, and a player's coach with an impressive body of work that has withstood the test of time,” Leach said in a program release. “We are fortunate to have him at Washington State University.”
According to Minneapolis' Star Tribune,Claeys agreed to a two-year contract with Washington St.
“I would like to thank Coach Leach and Washington State University for the opportunity to coach the Cougs.” said Claeys in a WSU release. “I am looking forward to getting to Pullman, working with a great staff and getting to know the players.”
In the Gophers' win over the Cougs in 2016 Claey's defense held the Air Raid to 12 points, which included a touchdown with 19 seconds left in the game. In that game Luke Falk threw for just 264 yards, completing 30-of-51 attempts with a touchdown and an interception. WSU finished with just 303 total yards.
Claeys was a long time defensive coordinator before taking over at Minnesota, including five seasons at that position with the Gophers. He will reunite with WSU defensive line coach Jeff Phelps, who held the same post at Minnesota from 2011-2016.
The former Gophers head coach was fired after his first full seasons as the program's head coach. Minnesota was surrounded by controversy heading into the 2016 Holiday Bowl following a threatened boycott of the bowl game following the suspension of 10 players, the result of a university investigation into an alleged sexual assault earlier in the season. Claeys supported the players in their boycott, causing a clash with school officials. The boycott ended after the findings of the investigation leaked.
According to USA Today, Athletic Director Mark Coyle said about his decision to fire Claeys, "With the support of Board of Regents' leadership and President Eric Kaler, I have decided to take the Gophers football team in a different direction with new coaching leadership."
Claeys has since said that he would have handled the situation differently, telling the Twin Cities Pioneer Press that he should have refrained from using social media to express his support of the boycott. He also would have steered the players to something other than a boycott.
Claeys did initially suspended five player for the reported assault. Those players were reinstated when prosecutors decided not to file charges. The investigation conducted by the school led to the suspensions, resulting in the boycott that put Claeys and the program in hot water last December.
The news of his new job in Pullman comes on the same day that Ohio State announced the addition of former WSU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch to the Buckeye coaching staff.