Washington State has seen enough.
The Cougars removed the interim tag from Jake Dickert’s title and lifted the defensive coordinator into the program’s permanent head-coaching job.
WSU announced the news Saturday evening, about 24 hours after Dickert’s Cougars wrapped up their most lopsided Apple Cup victory in program history. Dickert has agreed to a five-year contract.
Dickert led the Cougars (7-5, 6-3 Pac-12) to three wins in five games as acting coach after former boss Nick Rolovich and four assistants were fired Oct. 18 for failing to comply with a state COVID-19 vaccine requirement.
“When we made a coaching change midway through the season, we needed to find a special leader to guide this program going forward, and we have found that with Jake,” WSU athletic director Pat Chun said in a release. “His ability to steady this program and keep it focused over the past six weeks has been very impressive. Jake has a championship mentality which has been on display since late October and we are fortunate to have him guiding Cougar Football for many years to come.”
The prospect of promoting Dickert had begun to capture large-scale support over the past month, but he added perhaps the most important possible accomplishment to his résumé Friday, when WSU ended its Apple Cup misery in memorable fashion.
The Cougars snapped a seven-game drought in the series with a 40-13 drubbing of Washington – it was the Pullman program’s first victory in Seattle since 2007.
“Coach Dickert was able to bring together a team that has been through so much in the past two seasons and inspire them to not only keep going, but to fight harder,” WSU President Kirk Schulz said in the release. “Coach Dickert loves Pullman, understands what it means to be a Coug, and most importantly, puts his players first.”
A week ago, the Cougars qualified for a bowl game with a rout of Arizona.
Dickert has been vocal about his interest in the long-term position and desire to remain in Pullman, which he called a “perfect fit” for him and his family.
He considered himself WSU’s “interviewing coach” over the past few weeks.
“That’s out of my hands,” he said after the UW game when asked if the interview is over. “I’m proud and humbled to have this opportunity. These kids have given me everything they had and going forward, they deserve the best. That’s what’s going to come out of all this.”
By retaining Dickert, the Cougs will presumably keep most of their staff intact, creating consistency for the future.
Dickert directed a defensive resurgence for WSU, which ranks third in the country in takeaways (27).
And he performed admirably in the top spot, too. Despite losing half its staff, the team played inspired ball and seemed to rally around its new coach, gaining steam late this season – on offense, too.
The Cougs have seen a considerable boost over the last five games in explosive plays, overall scoring and rushing offense, while also allowing fewer points and yards than they had earlier this season.
“When he stepped into that role, he was ready for it, he was prepared,” linebacker Justus Rogers said Friday. “He’s always prepared in everything he does. He works really hard and we respect that and appreciate that, and we give as much as we can back to him because of that.”
On a short and chaotic week of practice, WSU went toe-to-toe with BYU in a 21-19 loss in Dickert’s debut as interim coach. The Cougars rebounded with a blowout of heavily favored Arizona State before a competitive loss at Oregon.
“There’s been a lot to get to this point,” Dickert said. “They’ve given me everything they can and they stayed together, and trusted each other and kept believing.”
Even before Rolovich’s dismissal, Dickert had been tabbed by college football analysts as a candidate who’d likely land on the radar of several programs in need of a head coach.
A characteristically thoughtful and composed players’ coach, Dickert worked his way up the ladder, making coaching stops at eight schools before being brought in by Rolovich early in 2020 to mentor the WSU defense.
“We’ve been able to witness the positive impact he has had on our student-athletes in a very short period of time,” Schulz said. “We are thankful the best person to lead our program was already living in Pullman.”
A product of small-town Wisconsin, Dickert got his start at his alma mater, Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He spent seven years in the FCS ranks and three at the D-II level before landing an assistant gig at Wyoming.
After two years as the Cowboys’ safeties coach, he was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2019.
In the past, Dickert noted his career goal was to become a head coach by age 40. He achieved that with two years to spare.
“I am extremely honored and humbled to be the next head coach at Washington State University,” Dickert said in the release. “I want to thank President Schulz, Pat Chun and (deputy director of athletics) Bryan Blair for their leadership and trust in me and my vision for the future of WSU football.
“Pullman fits our family so well and we are so excited to be a part of this community for a long time to come.”