By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Jake Dickert was introduced Thursday as the new head football coach at Washington State and vowed to “bring the Pac-12 championship back here to Pullman, Washington.”
Dickert was elevated last week from interim coach after the Cougars pounded rival Washington 40-13 in the annual Apple Cup game in Seattle.
“My main goal is to re-energize and refocus our program,” Dickert said at a news conference with former WSU coaches Mike Price and Jim Walden in the audience. “We’re going to have a lot of success.”
Dickert is a product of small-town Wisconsin, and said rural Pullman “fits me. I’m excited about setting down roots.”
Dickert posted a 3-2 record after he was appointed interim coach following the firing of Nick Rolovich on Oct. 18.
The 38-year-old Dickert was promoted from defensive coordinator after Rolovich and four assistant coaches were fired for refusing to meet the state’s mandate for employees to have received a COVID-19 vaccine or an exemption.
Dickert agreed to a five-year contract, the school announced. Terms were not disclosed.
Washington State (7-5, 6-3 Pac-12) has qualified for a bowl game, and will learn on Sunday where the team is headed.
Director of Athletics Pat Chun was asked how important the Apple Cup victory was in removing the interim label from Dickert’s title.
“The Apple Cup is important, period,” Chun said, and he pointed to the image of hundreds of Washington State fans celebrating in the middle of the field at Husky Stadium while the Cougars hoisted the Apple Cup trophy.
The decision to retain Dickert “was pretty obvious in how the team performed,” Chun said.
Dickert said he would be evaluating the existing staff of assistant coaches and deciding if any would be retained. He said he expected to hire a defensive coordinator, rather than doing that job himself.
“Washington State needs a true head coach,” he said.
Dickert also said he will look at a variety of offensive schemes, not just the run-and-shoot installed by Rolovich.
“Players over plays,” Dickert said, adding the offense will build off the talents of quarterback Jayden de Laura, who blossomed this year as a sophomore.
Dickert thanked his family for the sacrifices it had made, noting at one point it moved eight times in nine years while he climbed the coaching ladder.
He also thanked his players for staying together during a season that was riven with controversy over Rolovich’s vaccination status.
“Everyone came together,” Dickert said. “Seven weeks ago, we said we’ve got to write our own story.”
The Cougars will emphasize recruiting in the state of Washington, he said.
He also challenged “every wheat farmer in Whitman County” and “every Fortune 500 Coug” and every alumnus in between to support the program, which faces economic challenges because of its remote location.
Dickert has never been a head coach in any of his previous stops. He came to Washington State from Wyoming, joining Rolovich’s staff when he was hired before the 2020 season. Dickert worked at Wyoming for three seasons under mentor Craig Bohl, the first two as a defensive backs coach before being promoted to defensive coordinator for the Cowboys.
Prior to his time at Wyoming, Dickert bounced around several colleges including South Dakota State, Minnesota State-Mankato, Augustana, Southeast Missouri State, South Dakota and North Dakota State.
From the time he took over as the interim coach, Dickert referred to his opportunity as an interview.
Under Dickert’s leadership, the Cougars this season saw increases in scoring (by 6.5 points per game) and total offense (by 36.4 yards per game), while allowing fewer points and opponents’ total offense.
The Cougar defense has been a huge spark this season, leading the Pac-12 with 27 takeaways, while also being second in the Pac-12 in turnover margin.
Dickert played wide receiver at Wisconsin-Stevens Point from 2002-06. He earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary math education from Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2007, and completed his master’s degree in general education, also from UW-Stevens Point in 2009.
Dickert and his wife, Candice, have three children, daughter Rylee and sons Jett and Jace.
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