When he walked into the ballroom of the posh, marbled Fairmont Olympic Hotel on that chilly December night, the likes of Drew Bledsoe, Jack Thompson and Rueben Mayes were suddenly just faces in the crimson and gray crowd.

For most of the last decade, through record seasons of losing and embarrassment, jokes and punch lines, the past exploits of those Washington State greats were the ones fans and alumni latched onto as the football program fell into irrelevance.

But when Mike Leach stepped into that room and donned a crimson hat with the Cougar-head logo, he became the face of Washington State.

No longer did the 40 losses in the last four seasons or the losing by nearly 20 points per game during that time matter.

With Leach in charge, being a Coug was cool again.