How long will Ol' Crimson continue to fly?

IF IT COMES TO FRUITION a week from Saturday, Tom Pounds -- the father of one of the great traditions in college football -- says he doesn’t plan to hop a plane to the Palouse to celebrate. However, he will uncork a 16-year-old Bordeaux if ESPN’s College GameDay broadcasts from Pullman on Halloween morn.

“This would count as an occasion worthy of a good bottle of wine,” says the man who launched the Ol' Crimson flag-waving tradition on GameDay 13 years ago.

The GameDay crew put Cougar Nation on high alert last Saturday with mention that a Washington State-Stanford matchup on Oct. 31 in Pullman might be a possibility if both teams kept rolling. Stanford had just dispatched UCLA and WSU subsequently routed Oregon State.

On Monday, ESPN raised pulses with the announcement that Pullman was one of eight finalists for the Oct. 31 broadcast.

Of course, the Cougs will need to defeat Arizona this weekend and Stanford must beat Washington. And it probably would help if undefeated Temple — set to battle vaunted Notre Dame on the 31st — loses to East Carolina tonight.

Pounds doesn’t think the 2,600 miles GameDay’s eight trucks would have to cover to get to Pullman from this weekend’s locale — Harrisonburg, Virginia — is a big hurdle to being selected.

“I know they have made longer treks across the nation inside of one week, so this trip would not be unprecedented,” he told this week from his home in Milan, New Mexico. “There are enough College GameDay producers who are looking for any legitimate reason to come to Pullman that I believe it will happen, when the Cougs beat UA and the Huskies lose.”

But here’s the money question: If GameDay does come to Pullman, will Ol’ Crimson go into retirement after 13 glorious years?

After all, the original reason for flying the flag — currently at 170 broadcasts and counting — was to bring Cougarville to GameDay until GameDay came to Cougarville, right?

Hold on there, cautions the mild-mannered Pounds, who is pictured above in the two photos on the right..

The tradition didn’t start off as a quest to bring ESPN to Pullman, he says.

“I went to Austin (Texas), with a flag, wearing Coug gear, purely as a show of Cougar spirit,” he said of the very first Cougar flag appearance on GameDay. “The phrase, ‘it’s a Coug thing’ is most appropriate in this case.”

The quest to bring GameDay to Pullman didn’t really become a campaign until a month later, in November 2003, when old Cougar John Bley incorporated the Ol’ Crimson Booster Club and the “GameDay to Pullman” mantra started, Pounds said.

“I liked the thought, and at some point I even made a huge, eight-foot-by-four-foot banner-sign — 'Bring CGD to Pullman' — and I got it on the air at Stillwater, I think in 2005 and at Lubbock in 2008,” Pounds said.

THOUGHOUT THE YEARS, THE MEANS of organizing Ol’ Crimson’s itinerary from week to week have changed. At the beginning, the communications hub was the message board.

"I tell people Tom was the founder of the Ol' Crimson tradition, but the Cougfan message board community served as the cradle," says John Witter, CF.C co-founder and Ol' Crimson Booster Club vice president.

By the end of 2005, a loose network of under 100 people were coordinating matters.

“We had our go-to-guy, Andrew Pannek of Spokane, who worked for Delta Airlines. He did 13 shows over several seasons, many of them literally at the last minute, including some red-eye flights on Friday evenings," Pounds says.

“There were some Thursday evenings where I’d still be waiting for responses, but somehow someone always volunteered to drive several hundred miles, or Andrew made himself available.”

In 2006, the WSU Alumni Association started helping build the network, he said.

“I think it was in that year that I started getting calls and e-mails from Cougs who knew the show would be in their area, rather than me making first contact,” he said. “These calls were rare at first, and at some point I started keeping track of the time on Sunday morning when the phone would ring and some Coug would be asking me to send them the flag kit.”

In 2007 and 2008, the Sunday morning calls kept getting earlier and earlier, but by 2010, Ol' Crimson volunteer C.J. McCoy started getting calls on Saturday nights, just moments after ESPN announced its next location.

“McCoy is the current week-to-week manager now, and the last time I checked we have a network of hundreds of flag-wavers,” Pounds said. “They are calling C.J. late Saturday almost every week, rather than him having to call anyone.”

WHEN HE LOOKS BACK, POUNDS SAID HE KNEW early on that he helped create something special.

“Even in November of 2003 — one month after Austin — I knew that the piece of cloth with a WSU logo ironed on to it, was no longer my property. It belonged to the Cougar Nation,” he said. “I knew that I would continue the effort to get the flag on the show, just for a showing of school spirit, but I didn’t imagine it would last as long as it has lasted.

“My biggest thrill of all was when the WSU athletic department adopted the ‘Wave the Flag’ campaign in 2010 — well, that, and receiving the alumni Lifetime Achievement Award at the same time,” he said. “I am still amazed and very pleased to see Cougs all over the world posting pictures of them and their WSU flag at famous places. The latest picture I’ve seen is at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro — that brings goose bumps.”

He’s thankful for all the support he and the Ol’ Crimson team have received over the years.

“I may have started it, but I am not the only one responsible for keeping it going,” he said. “John Bley, C.J., and the hundreds of flag-wavers in the network, I cannot thank you enough for everything we’ve done.”

In addition, “We’ve had hundreds that have donated $25, $50 a year, and a few that have donated thousands over the years,” he said. “They’ve all been instrumental and I couldn’t be more thankful for their support.”

One donor in particular stands out.

“Our most faithful contributor by far is Joanie ‘Nitz the Coug’ Reis of Portland, Oregon,” he said. “She deserves special recognition for all she’s done to help us.”

So back to the most pressing question: Will Ol’ Crimson continue to fly even if GameDay comes to Pullman?

“I’ve said this in the past: I don’t think I could stop it if I wanted to, neither could McCoy,” he said. “There are too many Cougs who would want to carry on the tradition.”

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