Is Walden right that Coug fans are stingiest?

IN A SPIRITED radio interview the other day with KJR's Ian Furness and Jason Puckett, Cougar color analyst and former head coach Jim Walden opined that Washington State fans are the most tightfisted donors in major-conference football. Some cursory digging suggests he may be right on target.

In fiscal year 2011, annual giving to WSU's athletics scholarship fund totaled just less than $2.5 million, records show. Mind you, this isn't total athletics fundraising, just the part (albeit a major part) that is focused on funding scholarships.

Looking at the rest of the Pac-10 for FY 2011, that number by WSU not only ranks dead last, but dead last by a ton. The next-lowest on the list is Arizona State, which raised $5.4 million in FY11 to pay for its scholarships.

Of WSU's top 250 donors to the scholarship fund, the average donation was $2,806. For perspective on how underwhelming that is, consider that the average for the next-lowest team in the Pac-10, Arizona, was $12,216.

So the problem is not only that WSU doesn't have enough donors, but the ones it does have are orders of magnitude less generous than their counterparts in the conference.

Here's another sobering way to view it, one that Bill Moos mentioned several times in Seattle last week.

In FY11, WSU's athletic department spent $7.2 million to pay for scholarships. Oregon State had a similar outlay for scholarships. Yet Beaver fans not only covered that expense with their donations to the scholarship fund, they exceeded it by 25 percent. WSU fans not only didn't cover the $7.2 million, but fell some $5 million short, requiring Moos to redirect other revenue to fill the gap.

WSU fans have been underperforming for at least the last three decades, a source close to the situation tells CF.C.

"Even when the Cougs were going to Rose Bowls and winning 10-games a season the number of donors, not just for scholarships but for all of athletics, was awful, comparatively speaking. So was the average amount per donation," said the source, who asked not to be identified. "I don't know where every BCS schools stands, but in the Pac-10 and Big Ten I know for a fact WSU has always been last in donations. Given how much people care about football in the south, I think Walden is probably accurate or close to accurate in presuming our fans, as donors, are at the bottom for BCS schools nationwide."

Walden, in his interview with Furness and Puckett this week, was upset with fans who question whether Paul Wulff should remain head coach of the Cougars after the team stumbled last Saturday against OSU.

Walden talked about the huge mess Wulff inherited and the housecleaning he had to go through to change the cultural and direction of the program. Walden believes a strong foundation has been poured by Wulff and that making a coaching change now, on the verge of success with a very young team, would be foolhardy.

When the discussion led to talk about fundraising, Walden spared nothing.

"The Cougar fan base doesn't give, Ian, that's a figment of the imagination (that WSU fans make donations) ... The Cougar fan base is all cluck and no checks."

He called them the "poorest givers" in major-college football, and added, "Notoriously, in my years at Washington State, there's been a hell of a lot more crabbin' and not nearly enough givin'."

Walden himself has been a generous donor to WSU. A year ago he contributed $100,000 to the WSU Student-Athlete Excellence Fund and offered as much as another $100,000 on top of that if fans and former athletes hit certain donation levels for the fund. Perhaps not surprisingly, the "extra" amount that Walden had to pay came in at $58,000 rather than the $100,000 he was hoping for.

Here's the link to the Walden interview on KJR:

http://www.950kjr.com/player/?station=KJR-AM&program_name=podcast&program_id=ian_furness.xml&mid=21528965

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