Sorensen: Bill Moos' WSU blueprint now needs fans

WHEN BILL MOOS took the reins as Washington State’s athletic director in early 2010, he put forth a blueprint for revitalizing Cougar sports. His aim was pretty straight forward: destroy the roller coaster that tended to define WSU’s fortunes in athletics and win consistently.

His plan began immediately. He overhauled marketing and branding, creating consistency and professionalism in the look and feel of Cougar athletics. He took Jim Sterk’s drawings and fundraising for premium seats at Martin Stadium and turned them into reality. He helped guide the Pac-12’s reshaping of itself, and then leveraged new-found television revenue to build a world-class football complex -- in what appeared to be record time. In addition, he’s spearheaded facilities improvements in soccer and basketball.

He also innovated, implementing a nutrition program that stands tall on a national scale.

In the coaching ranks, he brought in two nationally known commodities -- Mike Leach and Ernie Kent -- as part of a makeover in which 10 of WSU’s 12 current head coaches are Moos hires. June Daugherty in women’s basketball and tennis coach Lisa Hart are the only holdovers.

In other words, Bill Moos hasn’t let much grass grow under his feet since he returned to the Palouse. He has followed his blueprint.

But one piece of the puzzle remains a work in progress. And it’s abundantly clear Bill won’t be able to get it done on his own -- as illustrated by his comments earlier this summer about the slow pace of fundraising for the last two major items on his facilities check list: a new Indoor Practice Facility and a baseball clubhouse adjacent to Bailey-Brayton Field.

As Moos approaches his fifth anniversary as Cougar AD, the blueprint is not yet complete.

To be fully implemented, he needs a big assist from Cougar alumni and fans. I won’t rehash the sobering numbers here, but the bottom line is that too few Cougs are donating to athletics and those that do are doing so at a rate below the rest of the conference. Facilities still must be built, and bonded financing isn’t available because it’s been used on the Cougar Football Complex and Martin’s premium seats. Moreover, the chasm between the cost of athletic scholarships and the donations to fund them is about $3 million a year and growing -- a fact that I don’t believe pertains to any other school in the Pac-12.

The excuses for that lack of ownership by WSU partisans runs the gamut ... the fundraising staff is weak and either hasn’t reached out or made a persuasive case ... we just need Paul Allen to take care of it ... I won’t start donating until the football team starts winning ... I prefer that my philanthropic dollars go to causes more important than athletics.

My responses, in order, are:

1) No doubt the staff could have used more than just one Justin Felker, the lone rain-maker in fundraising who is now working in the private sector, but how many times does Moos need to talk about the importance of “skin in the game” before the need registers?

2) Paul Allen’s focus at WSU is the global animal health center that’s named after him, not football or basketball. If athletics hasn’t persuaded him after two decades of trying, it’s pretty clear his donation dollars aren’t going to suddenly flow. Lack of one deep pocket like that is all the more reason why thousands more people should be donating to the Cougars.

3) Waiting until they win is about as nonsensical an argument as there is and I hear it over and over again. Anyone who utters it should be embarrassed for their lack of common sense. Investing in the future – the future! – begins today, NOT tomorrow.

4) I won’t take issue with this at all, but I will point out that success in athletics raises all boats. Over and over across the nation, it’s a proven fact that winning generates increased donations to every corner of a university. For proof, look no farther than Gonzaga University. The budget there was perilously tight for a generation and now, thanks to 15-plus years of great hoops, the construction never stops and scholarship dollars to regular students flow generously.

At day’s end, donations from alumni, friends and fans add up to better recruiting. Better recruiting adds up to better teams. And better teams super-charge every aspect of the university.

Facilities of course are the centerpiece.

As he did at Oregon, Moos put together a master plan for facilities shortly after arriving at WSU. If you’ve ever been inside the Casanova Center in Eugene you’ll see a facilities upgrade map that Moos created while he was there. It shows each facility and the year it was finished or, for facilities that are planned, an artist’s rendering and the anticipated completion date. This kind of simple visual is gold when it comes to recruiting. The recruit can see the plan and become a part of that plan.

Now is the time, Cougar fans. Step up now. The IPF, baseball clubhouse and future needs in basketball will be taken care of as soon as YOU want them to be.

YOU can bridge that embarrassing gap between scholarship costs and the donations to cover them – an obligation that will only grow with implementation of covering the full cost of attendance for each scholarship athlete.

If we -- Cougar fans far and wide -- want to see the full implementation of Moos’ blueprint, the responsibility falls squarely on our shoulders. Not only do we need to grow our membership in the Cougar Athletic Fund, we must raise the average annual gift. If the average gift went up by $166 that would be an additional $1 million in the coffers for the CAF without even adding one new member.

And let’s not forget about the commitment that Greg Rankich made a few years ago. He did that when he was in his late 30s. For all those who say we don’t have the high-end donor base that Oregon has, I would say bull crap! We have the donors that can double, triple and quadruple the commitment that Rankich made. The state of Washington is one of the most prosperous in the nation.

Rankich said he made his commitment to serve as a catalyst for others to do the same, to help take our alma mater to the next level. So with that, Cougar fans, I ask you this: can we step up and make the commitment to compete, year in and year out, in the Conference of Champions?

Moos can’t finish his blueprint by himself. You must step up today.

Paul Sorensen played safety for the Cougars from 1980-81, earning first-team All-America honors as a senior. He then spent two seasons in the NFL on the Bengals' and 49ers' practice squads and later played in the USFL. From 1985-98 he was the color commentator on radio broadcasts of Cougar football and has been the color analyst for Eastern Washington University broadcasts for many years since then. He also was a long-time assistant coach in the Greater Spokane League. Paul has been writing periodically for CF.C since 1999. His columns here are labeled SLAP! The acronym stands for Sorensen Looks At the Program. The word also aptly describes the way Paul played safety and the way he does color commentary: in-your-face, nothing held back.

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