SPEAKING OF STEFANIE LOH, SHE'S kicking butt and taking names later this week. She fired up an interesting story in Tuesday’s Times about what the new cost-of-attendance stipends mean to WSU’s scholarship athletes and the athletic department’s bottom line. For an athlete on a full scholarship, the stipend totals $3,542 per year. The Power 5 conferences voted at the start of the year to allow this additional stipend to cover the cost of travel to and from school and other expenses beyond tuition, room and board. Every Pac-12 school is on board. For WSU, the annual outlay totals $820,000. It’s a very interesting read that can be found here. This additional expense for WSU exacerbates a sobering reality: Cougar fans are the only ones in the Pac-12 who don’t donate to athletics at a level that covers WSU’s full cost of scholarships. That gap between donations to the Cougar Athletic Fund (CAF) and scholarship costs was about $3.5 million in the last fiscal year (i.e. before the stipend program began). WSU just concluded a two-week push to increase membership in the CAF. Program director Uri Farkas said Monday that the effort resulted in 600 new members, pushing the overall total to 6,642. The goal was to hit 7,000, but Farkas said, “We’re not done yet.” The minimum to join is $50.
IN HIS WEEKLY COLUMN FOR COUGFAN.COM, former standout WSU quarterback Alex Brink offered high praise and insight to the Cougs’ defensive effort at California but was disappointed with the offense. Indeed, a look at national statistics shows that the calling card of the Cougar program – the offense – is far from hitting its stride right now. The Cougars are eighth in the Pac-12 and No. 67 in the nation in ESPN.com’s rating of offensive efficiency (i.e. the offense’s contribution to the team's scoring margin, on a per-play basis, and adjusted for strength of schedule). The scale runs from 0 to 100, with 100 being the best. Baylor, USC and Texas Tech are at the top of the list, each with a rating over 90. The Cougars are at 48.6, which basically means they’re a very average unit right now. Seven teams in the Pac-12 are in the national top 30 for offensive efficiency, and four teams are lower than the 67th-rated Cougs: ASU (68), UW (89), Colorado (95) and OSU (97).
WHILE ON THE TOPIC OF STATISTICS, a tip of the hat to WSU rush ends Kache Palacio and Ivan McLennan. The alternating seniors are at the head of the pack when it comes to sacks. Palacio leads the Pac-12 with four and McLennan is tied for third with three. In addition, first-year WSU safety Shalom Luani is tied for first in the conference in forced fumbles with two. On offense, Cougar junior receiver Gabe Marks lead the conference in receptions, with 35, and is second in receiving yards per game, with an average of 103.5 per game. In addition, Dom Williams and River Cracraft rank in the top 10 in both receptions and yards.
THE BETTING LINE FOR THE Cougars’ 3 p.m. game at Oregon on Saturday (Pac-12 Networks) has settled in at 17. It had opened at 20 on Sunday and quickly started coming down but hasn’t changed since Monday.