Oct 31, 2013; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars mascot Butch wears a Superman costume during the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
For Bill Moos, this offseason was about more than christening the final touches onto and into the new Football Operations Building that now sits majestically and snugly inside Martin Stadium. It was also about setting the Cougs up to take advantage of what that building (and the Martin Stadium pressbox before it) means to Cougar football and Cougar athletics; that the Cougs are now a big-time Pac-12 program.
Of course Moos has been preaching this since he arrived, but confirmation is never quite as solid as when it’s seen and now we can look at what lies ahead and see it all. Moos has accomplished a few key things this offseason that will validate the Cougs even further in the upper echelon of the conference in years to come. While not all of them directly relate to football, it all relates to what the Cougs are building in their overall program and football will receive an indirect boost from it anyway.
- Revamped energy around basketball program with Ken Bone firing/Ernie Kent hiring and comments towards an eventual continuation of renovation within Beasley Coliseum.
- Plans on a new baseball clubhouse and other minor renovations for Brayton-Bailey Field.
- Plans for a renovated soccer facility and field.
- Completed the non-conference football schedules through 2018, setting WSU up for success (possibly removing Seattle game)
- Set plans for starting work on the IPF (indoor practice facility) after the FOB is done this month
Those projects and moves by Moos continue to change the course of this Cougar program for obvious reasons, but I want to talk for a moment on why the scheduling that was accomplished for football is so important. First, here is what it looks like through 2018.
Aug. 28 vs. Rutgers (Seattle)
Sept. 6 at Nevada
Sept. 13 Portland State
Sept. 5 Portland State
Sept. 12 at Rutgers
Sept. 19 Wyoming
Sept. 3 Eastern Washington
Sept. 10 at Boise State
Sept. 17 Idaho
Sept. 2 Nevada
Sept. 9 Boise State
Sept. 16 Montana State
Sept. 1 at Wyoming
Sept. 8 San Jose State
Sept. 15 Eastern Washington
Washington State also has BYU (2019) and Wisconsin (2022, 2023) on future schedules.
It should be pretty self explanatory that the Cougars have a very solid shot at starting 3-0 in each of the next five seasons. There’s really not a major “headliner” like Auburn from last season or some of the bigger opponents in that group, but the home-and-homes against Rutgers from their new position in the Big Ten and BSU from the MWC give the Cougs solid, if not somewhat difficult, games to build on heading into the Pac-12 seasons. Wyoming is another MWC team that gives the Cougs a solid but very winnable game in what would be Leach’s seventh year.
This is very much how Oregon started building their brand when Moos was in Eugene and it continued when he left.
Of course now the Ducks will play anyone, anywhere, but it started a lot smaller and they still don’t go crazy in giving away home field advantage to other teams. The “big-ticket” Virginia matchup was a rouse last season which means the only truly difficult out-of-conference test the Ducks have seen the past three seasons was against LSU in Dallas a couple years back. Yes, the success of Oregon and others that constantly strive for high-level bowls began by compiling easier wins out of conference year after year, actually going to annual bowl games and finally recruiting the players that would allow you to go to the BYU’s and Wisconsin’s of the World later on and be successful and competitive.
I thought this was an interesting comment by Moos while he was talking about what the Cougs are doing with Pac-12 games in the future, it also runs into my next point about the Seattle game.
"“When I first got here, we didn’t have TV money and the Pac-12 money. We needed to build a cash flow. I decided to schedule Oregon State and Oregon games in Seattle because we needed the money. I scheduled the Auburn games as away games for $1.2 million."
But now Washington State is in a whole new tax-bracket when it comes to revenue stream. Now that the Cougs have the money and the facilities to compete both on the field and in the recruiting game, it’s all about scheduling a competitive schedule. Not competitive in a “big-name opponent” kinda way, but more of a “competitive with what the rest of the conference is doing” kinda way. With the Pac-12 on the rise nationally, that means not scheduling brutal road trips to SEC-country strictly for the dough. Not that WSU wouldn’t be in a position to be competitive, but strictly giving away advantage for the sake of a money-grab is not the way the big boys do it.
Of course taking the Pac-12 game out of Seattle is a smart move if you can do it too, and the Cougs clearly can (and have) at this point. The Seattle game has long been a heated debate topic for Cougar fans everywhere. While I believe it does (or did) serve a purpose and was not as bad as some Cougs make it out to be, the fact is that, as the old adage goes, “there’s no place like home”. The Cougs didn’t win a conference tilt in Seattle and in fact got blown out in each of those games, so that is obviously not a place of refuge.
Seven home games in four of the next five seasons is also an important number to take note of. More home-than-road games means you don’t get stuck in the gruel of the season in a terrible stretch of back-to-back plane rides and subsequent beat-downs. It also means… even more revenue!
With all of the renovations to Martin and a competitive football team that draws a strong Cougar contingency, if not regularly sold out home games, the thought of moving everything back to Pullman is quite appealing to most local Cougar supporters. It seems Moos is liking this idea as well, but honestly the final decision probably won’t be made until we find out how Cougar fans react this season to success from the previous year. A full student section and raucous Martin Stadium every game (in other words becoming the new Autzen), will make this an easy decision, especially if the Seattle game flops in crowd support for the opener against Rutgers as it did last season against Stanford.
Along with everything else he is accomplishing this Spring and eventually Summer, props go to Moos for finding the right balance (in my opinion) in the scheduling to field a competitive football program in the coming seasons. Just as he did it at Oregon, I believe it will yield the necessary results to take WSU to the next level in the win column and yet is strong enough to keep the Cougs in the top half of the national rankings, assuming they can stay strong in Pac-12 play, which I also fully expect under Mike Leach and moving forward.