THERE SEEMS little doubt the biggest “home” crowd in Washington State football history will be on hand Sept. 29 when the Cougars play Oregon at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field. The buzz around Mike Leach, coupled with Oregon’s high profile and a natural Northwest rivalry, figures to sell enough tickets to exceed the previous high of 63,588, set in 2002 when the Cougs played Nevada in Seattle.
CenturyLink’s seating capacity is 67,000.
“Absolutely we expect a sellout,” Mike Marlow, WSU’s senior associate director of athletics, tells Cougfan.com. “The excitement that we have around our program is at all-time high.”
A sellout looks to be a good bet. Yet a question that some Cougar fans have is this: how many of those 67,000 seats will be filled by Cougar fannies?
A year ago, just less than 50,000 attended Washington State’s game against Oregon State at Century Link. Marlow said in “eyeballing it, I’d say it was 80-20 Washington State.”
But OSU isn’t Oregon. Interest in Duck football by their fans is currently off the charts. Autzen Stadium is regularly filled to capacity, and there’s a line waiting to buy season tickets. Duck fans have a history of traveling with their team, particularly during the recent run of success.
The 175-mile drive to Seattle for many of Oregon fans wouldn’t be an inconvenience at all, if tickets are available. And drive they will, if seats are available. While it would be a nice financial windfall for Washington State, it would be less than a home run if too much of that ticket dough comes from Duck boosters.
Starting Aug. 4, there’s nothing Washington State can do to stop them. That’s the day tickets for the Seattle game go on sale to the general public.
“We hope to sell it out, with the vast majority of it being Cougar fans, but there’s no discrimination after Aug. 4,” Marlow said. “We feel like there’s plenty of time before then for our fans to buy tickets.”
UNTIL THIS FRIDAY, June 8, tickets for the Seattle game are available only to WSU season ticket holders and contributors to the Cougar Athletic Fund, which currently numbers about 5,600 members. They can purchase as many tickets (prices ranging from $10 to the $80 club seats) as they want.
From June 8 to Aug. 4, the ticket-selling window expands to Cougar boosters. Marlow said Washington State will attempt to sell as many Seattle tickets as possible with an all-out advertising assault directed at the school’s west side fan base. Marlow said the school intends to use traditional (print, radio, television) and non-traditional advertising means (social media) to get word out during the two-month ticket-selling window to its alumni and fans. A letter from Coach Mike Leach will go out to past purchasers of the Seattle game asking for their fan support of the WSU-Oregon game.
“Our message is going to be very pointed in the upcoming weeks that it’s important our fans provide support for the Seattle game,” Marlow said.
To buy tickets and for more information, CLICK HERE.
Marlow said it’s his hope that by Aug. 8, ticket sales will hit “the mid 50s, with 10 or 15,000 tickets left to sell.” A year ago for Cougars-Beavers, Marlow said WSU had sold about 35,000 tickets when sales were opened to the general public.
In the meantime, Oregon has nearly sold its allotment of 4,000 tickets to the Seattle game. By Aug. 4, surely Duck fans will be looking for more. It’s up to Cougar fans to make sure only scraps remain.
In its nine previous games at CenturyLink (formerly Qwest Field), WSU's attendance has averaged 50,220 per game. Financially speaking, the difference between drawing the average vs. a sellout of 67,000 is huge: approximately $500,000 in additional revenue, for a total of about $2 million.
The Cougars are 5-4 when playing at CenturyLink Field.
Since its inception, WSU’s annual game in Seattle has evolved into a week-long celebration of the broader university. In the days leading up to the game, numerous university events take place in Seattle. The football game is the capstone to a week-long, community outreach effort in the school's single-biggest market for alums and future students.
Read Nick Daschel’s occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel