Leach hire already paying dividends for WSU

TO SAY THE hiring of Mike Leach has created a buzz in the Cougar Nation is a towering understatement. The soaring traffic on CF.C's message boards is one source of proof. But for rubber-meets-the-road kind of testament, consider this: Yesterday afternoon between the time WSU announced the hiring and the time the ticket office closed, the school averaged one new season-ticket sale per minute.

Per minute?

Did I hear that right?

"You heard it right," Mike Marlow, WSU's senior associate athletic director said in a phone conversation this morning. "The excitement we're seeing is tremendous."

The bottom line on the roughly two-hour-plus window yesterday between the Leach announcement and the closing of the ticket office was nearly 200 new season tickets.

And no, those sales weren't renewals by existing season ticketholders. We're talking brand new rear ends making sure they have a place to sit in Martin Stadium when Leach launches his famed Air Raid in September.

Bill Moos said yesterday that WSU had opened its checkbook for the football program and now it was time for fans to do the same.

The early returns are encouraging.

To emphasize the importance of the message, WSU changed the face page on the athletic department's Web site, wsucougars.com, within moments of the Leach announcement. The site now greets visitors with a welcome message for Leach that encourages fans to support him by buying tickets and joining the Cougar Athletic Fund.

"All Cougs are being called upon to Wave the Flag," the site says. "Supporting the Cougs at this critical juncture requires getting off the sideline and getting in the game in one of two ways."

Those two ways are season tickets, of which WSU sold just 7,500 this past season, and joining the CAF, whose numbers have dipped to around 4,800 from the 6,200 of recent years.

Could WSU, which has for years aimed to get its CAF membership total to 10,000, hit that mark in the wake of the Leach wind in its sails?

"I really think there's a chance to double or more than double our membership size by the end of the month based on the energy I'm seeing and hearing from Cougar fans about Coach Leach," says Justin Felker, regional director of the CAF. "A jump like that would send a strong message throughout the rest of the conference."

CAF membership starts as low as $50 per year.

Marlow said getting Cougars en masse to turn their enthusiasm into tangible support for the program is key to sustained success on the Palouse.

"Mike Leach can't do this alone. Bill Moos can't do this alone. We need Cougar fans to really step up now and help get this ship sailing."

Marlow didn't have the numbers readily available, but said the email applications for the CAF were "stacking up" late yesterday and that season ticket purchases picked up this morning where they left off yesterday.

That encouraging trend line also applies to overall athletics fundraising, Felker reports. "My phone has been attached to my ear for the last 48 hours with Cougar fans stepping up with multi-year donation commitments to our scholarship fund. They want to get on the bus now to make sure they're in line for bowl tickets. The enthusiasm has been unbelievable."

To order season tickets and/or join the Cougar Athletic Fund, click to wsucougars.com.

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