Is WSU's annual Clink game ready for hiatus?

A COUPLE OF telling numbers would suggest that next Thursday’s WSU-Rutgers game may be the last time we see the Cougars at CenturyLink for a while: $141 million and 25,000. That first number is the collective amount WSU has invested in Martin Stadium and the football operations building over the last few years.

The second number is how many seats, as of yesterday, WSU had sold to next week’s game. Granted, Cougar fans are notoriously late buyers when it comes to the Seattle game, but that ho-hum 25K figure suggests little more than 40,000 are going to be at the Clink when the Scarlet Knights arrive.

And a worst case scenario could even mean, gulp, less than 40,000. A season ago, with a week to go before the Seattle game, WSU had sold more than 30,000 tickets for Stanford. The number of tickets sold wound up at 40,095, the lowest in the Cougs' 11-game history of playing in Seattle.

Even if they match last year's total, given that the Cougs are coming off their first bowl appearance in a decade and that they figure to have an offense built to excite, one-third of CenturyLink left empty would be mighty sobering.

It tells me the Seattle game, while a good thing in so many ways, has worn out its welcome in Cougarville -- at least for the time being.

Perhaps the six straight losses there have soured the crimson faithful. Or maybe it’s the fact the opponent isn’t a huge name, or that the game is on a weeknight.

Regardless, it might be time to give the Clink a rest. Not permanently, mind you, but certainly for a stretch of time.

And there is no better time than now, because Washington State has invested heavily in its football facilities in Pullman.

Between the premium seating, the FOB, the new bricks and other touches, there is a sparkling gem sitting right there in the middle of campus. Why not use it every opportunity you can?

Moreover, between Pac-12 TV revenue and the $3 million-a-year generated by the sale of Martin's premium seats, the financial incentive to play at the Clink is lessened. While it's true that even a modest crowd of 40,000 at the Clink generates $500,000 more in revenue than a typical Saturday at Martin, the simple reality is that the pressure to bolster revenue isn’t as intense as it has been.

Bill Moos has been a big proponent of the Seattle game -- and rightly so. WSU's extended presence on the ground in the week-long activities is a golden way to energize the alumni base in the region and up and down the I-5 corridor. But last fall Moos left the door open for going all-Pullman, all the time, when he said on his radio show "if our fans are going to pack Martin Stadium week in and week out regardless of who we're playing” he’ll consider scrapping the Seattle game.

Cougfan.com has been a tireless advocate for a Seattle game ever since we launched in 1998. And down the road, we may be again. But right now, all the numbers on both sides of the state add up to playing every home game in Martin Stadium.

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