YAKIMA – Washington State has had moments of greatness in its long sports history, but maintaining that excellence has proved troublesome, WSU athletic director Bill Moos told Cougfan.com prior to a dinner gathering of WSU fans at Yakima’s Harman Center on Friday. That is about to change, he said.
“We’ve never been able to sustain it and now we’re going to do that,” Moos said. He said has created a five-year blueprint he believes will result in Cougar teams in all sports competing for titles and making annual appearances in post-season play.
But it can’t be done without help, he noted.
Cougar fans must put some “skin in the game,” he said.
Membership in the Cougar Athletic Fund (CAF) is growing and season-ticket sales for football are well ahead of last season, “but we need more” to compete against formidable opponents, he cautioned.
He wants fans cheering from the stands, but to also have ownership in those teams by donating to athletics. Membership in the CAF starts as low as $50 a year.
“We need to look at ourselves as winners,” Moos said, alluding to a cultural shift that won’t tolerate mediocrity. He said it’s important for fans to expect their teams to achieve greatness, and to realize that their support, though donations and ticket sales, is critical.
As part of that shift in thinking, Moos said he wants the Cougar football team to regularly challenge itself in non-conference games against other BCS schools. To that end, Moos is putting the Cougars on the road to Auburn in 2013, and he’s scheduled a home-and-home series with Wisconsin for 2014 and ’15.
“It’s important for our fans to see that caliber of play at WSU,” Moos said.
And it’s important for other parts of the country to see what the Cougs are bringing to the plate, he said. “It showcases our program in different parts of the country.”
He said talks are underway to pair Big Ten and Pac-12 schools every year across all sports -- a move he fully supports.
He also said it’s important for the Cougar football team to play non-BCS conference schools, too. “It’s a great way to develop our younger players,” he said.
The Cougars have Eastern Washington and UNLV on the schedule this season, Idaho next season and Nevada in 2014.
WHILE THE SOUTH-SIDE PREMIUM SEATING and press box project at Martin Stadium is well underway, Moos said he is also concentrating on getting construction of a football-only training facility and office complex off the ground in the west end zone. He said the design for the facility has been completed and cost estimates -- right now in the $60 million-plus range -- are being fine tuned.
He hopes to present the plan to the Board of Regents in August. With the board’s approval, construction would begin in late fall immediately after the Apple Cup on Nov. 23. He said it will likely be a 15-month project.
Moos said fundraising for the project is underway, and he hopes to be able to use some of the surplus funds from the south-side seating project, which is coming in under budget.
Moos is also working on rebranding some of the other sports facilities at WSU. There have already been improvements made to Beasley Coliseum, including the addition of a large center scoreboard, and upgrades to the practice gym.
The rebranding effort doesn’t end with facilities enhancements. It’s Moos’ desire to continually reconnect WSU athletics with former Cougar athletes. He said part of the rebranding process has been having teams start thinking of the past as building blocks for the future. To that end, the 1972 Cougar football team and coaches will be reuniting in Pullman on Sept. 7-8 for a 40th anniversary celebration.
That team, of which Moos was a senior co-captain, was notable for several reasons. For one, it snapped a six-year losing streak for the program. They went 7-4 in ’72. Second, they concluded the season ranked No. 17 in the nation. And third, they were the first Cougar team to play in brand new Martin Stadium, which was constructed after the wooden grandstands of 70-year-old Rogers Field went up in flames in 1970.
“We’re going to do this sort of thing every year,” Moos said.
Casey Fox, a long-time marketing director for WSU Athletics, is now an assistant athletic director based in the Tri-Cities and charged with mobilizing Cougar fans in the Mid-Columbia and Yakima Valley areas.
With a 98 percent renewal rate from last year’s season-ticket holders, plus new orders for nearly 3,000 seats, WSU’s season ticket sales for 2012 are approaching 13,000.
The new premium seats that will be ready for the Sept. 8 Martin Stadium opener against EWU are getting close to sold out, Moos said. All 21 of the new suites, ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 a year, are booked, as are all 44 loge boxes, and 700 of the 1,180 club seats.
Moos received a standing ovation when he took to the podium Friday.