Cougar hoops search and the facilities issue

HOW IMPORTANT are facilities in college sports? So important that Boise State head basketball coach Leon Rice has balked at the idea of returning to his alma mater -- Washington State -- because the facilities he has at BSU are better, Cougfan.com has confirmed with two sources in a position to know.

Both sources said Rice wasn't offered the job, just presented with the idea of talking about it. Whether he was contacted directly or through intermediaries by WSU athletic director Bill Moos was not shared by the sources, and neither knows if Rice left the door open for greater contemplation.

Considering that Rice makes $482,100 per year at BSU and the next head coach of the Cougars figures to pull down around $1 million per year, his reticence about the WSU job would seem curious.

Until you dig a bit deeper.

In 2011, BSU opened a 10,000-square-foot basketball-only practice, training, office and study hall complex that houses its men's and women's teams. And earlier this month the school announced plans to renovate the adjacent Taco Bell Arena, where the Broncos play their games.

Moreover, BSU athletic director Mark Coyle is a devout basketball man -- a description that would be hard to place on Moos.

The basketball facilities at WSU are far from horrible, but given where the competition is headed -- and BSU, in a lower-tier conference, isn't even a competitor -- much needs to be done to keep up.

"There are a lot of Cougar fans who don't realize that the world has changed. Running 20 more suicide sprints each day than your competitors is not going to even the playing field," one of the sources told CF.C. "You can complain all you want about coaching. The reality is that WSU and its fans need to invest in basketball if they want to compete in basketball."

Rice's concerns about facilities are especially notable this week in light of the fact former WSU coach Tony Bennett just earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for his Virginia Cavaliers.

A variety of factors went into Bennett's decision to leave Pullman for Charlottesville, but his father Dick has said in the past that the John Paul Jones arena and complex at UVa was a powerful draw. Opened less than three years before Bennett arrived there, it is a considered one of, if not the, premier facilities in all of college basketball.

"Let's put it this way: If the John Paul Jones center was located in Pullman rather than Charlottesville, Tony never would have left WSU in the first place," said the source. "Top facilities attract players -- but coaches as well."

The timing of Bennett's ascension to the top of the ACC and the March Madness brackets, coupled with confirmation of Rice's reticence to look at WSU due to facilities concerns, would seem a double-whammy of a wake-up call to Cougar fans to start writing checks to the athletic department.