Crimson & Gray Game once brought out stars

IT'S HARD TO imagine in this era of multimillionaire-dollar contracts, but once-upon-a-time Washington State's annual Crimson & Gray Game pitted current Cougar players against former WSU players, including active NFLers. Gail Cogdill, an All-Pro receiver in the 1960s, vividly remembers lining up for the alumni team when he was still playing for the Detroit Lions.

And the Lions didn't mind. "The only thing they were worried about was skiing," Cogdill said in a recent interview from his home in Spokane. "That was a no-no. I didn't worry about getting hurt. I played a lot – maybe 10, 15 plays. I remember I scored."

Once a Coug, always a Coug. Cogdill -- a man who played in three Pro Bowls, one Super Bowl, and was the 1960 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year -- certainly proved that by remembering a touchdown he scored more than 40 years ago in a WSU spring scrimmage.

On Saturday, the Cougars hope to add to the Crimson & Gray memory book by drawing a school-record 10,000 or more spectators to Albi Stadium for the final scrimmage of their first spring season under Mike Leach. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.

It figures to be a well-scripted affair, with Leach known for running a tight ship on game days. Years ago, though, the spring game -– while often not all that competitive -- was certainly entertaining with former Cougar players squaring off with the new ones.

Alumni who had not played or practiced in years often had trouble keeping up with active college players. The idea of an alumni vs. varsity game seems fairly ludicrous today, but back in the day such games were fairly common at many colleges. The Cougars occasionally held the games until early in Mike Price's coaching tenure, which began in 1989.

Asked how much competition the alumni players provided when he was a freshman in the spring of 1970, current WSU athletic director Bill Moos gave a politically savvy answer.

"Let me put it this way," Moos said dryly. "I think they had a pretty fun week. Some of it carried over to game time."

Moos, who developed into an All-Pacific-8 Conference offensive tackle, remembers lining up against "one of my idols," former All-American defensive tackle Wayne Foster.

"I think I got half intoxicated just smelling him!" Moos joked.


All-time Cougars and San Diego Chargers great Keith Lincoln held up signs on the sidelines with plays written on them when he coached the alums one year.

"If you call it coaching," Lincoln said with a laugh. "It was more like herding cats or something. But we had a lot of fun."

Paul Sorensen has fond memories of playing in the 1990 game with fellow NFL veterans like Jack Thompson, Ken Greene, Dan Doornink and Don Schwartz.

"It was probably not a smart thing to do, but I'm sure glad I did it ... we had a blast," said Sorensen, who played in the NFL and USFL in the early 80s.

Pretty sore the next day, Paul?

"Oh, I was sore at halftime," Sorensen said. "I'm not kidding!"

Sorensen recalls the pregame "inspiration" provided by alumni coaches Tom Perry and Pink Erickson.

"They said, ‘Guys, this is all we want you to do. We don't want you to smoke or drink on the sidelines, and try not to get hurt.' That was our motivational speech."

By all accounts, Sorensen – a wild-eyed, omni-aggressive defensive back during his playing days – played with his customary reckless abandon.

"I crushed (wide receiver) Phillip Bobo," Sorensen said with no small amount of glee. "Hit him in the ear. He didn't like that very much. He never knew who I was until halfway through the next year when one of the players came up to him and said, ‘Hey, that's the guy that freakin' ear-holed you in the spring game.' He looked at me and he goes, ‘You're kidding me.' ‘Yep, that was me.' He goes, ‘Holy (blank)! You're old!'"

  • The Ian Furness Show on sports radio KJR in Seattle (950AM and 102.9FM) will be broadcasting live from 1-3 p.m. on Friday from Spokane's Northern Quest Casino. They'll be talking all things Cougar football and will have a variety of guests, including Bill Moos and former Cougar players.

  • Saturday's game will be televised in the Spokane area on cable channel SWX, and KXLY Radio will be covering the first hour of the game. Note: SWX published a brief on Thursday afternoon that they will also be streaming the game at

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