More thoughts on low-class Mark Few and GU

THIS IS HOW old the Washington State-Gonzaga basketball rivalry is: The Cougs and Zags played each other eight times before Duke and North Carolina ever thought to do battle. True fact. Washington State vs. Gonzaga in hoops is one of the nation's oldest rivalries. And before the Zags dropped football, the neighborly fun extended to the gridiron, where the two met 18 times between 1911 and 1941.

In other words, these two schools go back a long way with each other. The rivalry wasn't just neighborly, though. It was supportive. The vast majority of Spokane Cougs have tended over the years to pull for the Zags anytime they're not playing each other. In fact, since GU's rise to basketball prominence over the last 15 years, many a local Coug jumped into the fun with season tickets at the Kennel.

By and large, the two schools have gotten along famously, both on and off the courts and fields of play. Even in the 1970s, '80 and ‘90s, when Gonzaga would accept any high school student with a pulse and a D+ average, the Cougar faithful were always polite about it.


And now we learn that Mark Few is a true bush leaguer, having threatened last year to kill the 107-year-old series unless WSU agreed to a 2-for-1 deal: one game at Gonzaga (this past season's), one "neutral site" game at the Spokane Arena (this coming season's), and one in Pullman (in 2015-16).

There was a time, of course, when a Spokane game between the two effectively meant a Cougar home game, because the WSU faithful were indeed faithful and the Zags' following was very modest. That's all changed over the last 15 years with GU's unprecedented success.

And with that success apparently comes unprecedented arrogance.

Make no mistake, the Cougs don't have clean hands here. Except for the brief window of Bennett Ball glory, the program has been largely ho-hum since Mark Hendrickson and Ike Fontaine left campus.

That's 20-some years of putting yourself in a bad spot.

In contract negotiations between a struggling program and a high flyer, you know who holds the upper hand.

But this isn't merely the case of struggling vs. thriving. This is the case of two friendly neighbors who've been playing ball together since 1907.

Moreover, let's not forget who held the upper hand in this series for roughly the first 90 years of it: Washington State.

George Raveling once quipped that on the recruiting trail in the East, kids would look at the WSU schedule and wonder if Gonzaga was a school or a venereal disease. That's how obscure the Zags were in those days.

WSU had little to gain from playing them. A victory would mean nothing and a loss would be a huge red flag. Yet most years, and often in Spokane, the two would play.

The series was so lopsided, that CF.C co-founders Greg and John Witter once told me they were OK with the Cougs' overtime loss to GU in December 1983 because their old friend and Gonzaga Prep classmate, John Stockton, was a Zag senior and had hungered to beat the Cougs (who only offered him to walk on) just once.

WSU AD BILL MOOS easily could have walked away from Gonzaga's 2-and-1 mandate. Instead, he chose the classy route. By saying yes, he kept the long rivalry going, he secured a non-conference game against a name opponent that will cost little more than the bus ride north to the "neutral site," and he has a fighting chance of getting some Cougar fans into that neutral site.

Nonetheless, the whole "gun to the head" approach by Gonzaga is just so unsavory.

For Cougar fans, especially those in Spokane who have been very generous in their support of the Zags, Gonzaga's actions should be seen as a shot across the bow. Not only do they take you for granted, but they take your school for granted.

Moos made mention a few weeks back on how much money WSU had helped pump into Spokane by hosting the second- and third-round games in the NCAA men's basketball tournament in Spokane. Moos said local businesses reaped "millions upon millions of dollars" from the tournament.

Mr. Few needs to step down off his high horse. He needs to tear down that wall of arrogance he's built with all those first-round NCAA Tournament appearances.

The recommendation here is that Cougar fans in Spokane start voting with their wallets. Don't attend, don't watch and don't acknowledge the Zags in any way -- at least not until Few and his sycophant AD, Mike Roth, check the ego at the door at go back to the standard home-and-home arrangement.

Being neighborly isn't a one-way street.