MIKE PRICE AND JASON GESSER

Legendary coach Mike Price and winningest QB in school history Jason Gesser headline WSU's new hall of fame class

IN 2013, AS PART of a series commemorating the 15th anniversary of Cougfan.com, we polled the brain trust to determine the single-most compelling individual in the crimson orbit since we launched into cyberspace in 1998. The vote was unanimous.

Mike Price.

“He was gregarious and quotable like Sweeney and Walden,” we wrote at the time. “And he did something even the great Hollingbery and immortal Dietz didn't: take the Washington State Cougars to two Rose Bowls. Even his departure was off-the-charts memorable, with airplane tail numbers at Pullman-Moscow Regional adding up to the end of an era.”

The headline on that story about the second-winningest coach in WSU history spoke volumes: The Crimson Colossus. We dubbed him that for two reasons: his accomplishments on the field and the added luster those feats attained as the football program steadily eroded in the years after he left.

Now he will take his rightful place among the immortals in Washington State sports history.

WSU announced Tuesday that Price and six others will be inducted into its WSU Athletics Hall of Fame at a gala dinner in Spokane on Sept. 16 that will be followed by festivities in Pullman the next day when the Cougars play Idaho.

Fittingly, one of Price's fellow inductees will be Jason Gesser, the gritty competitor who won more games at the helm than any quarterback in school history.

Together, he and Price led the 2001 and 2002 Cougars to back-to-back 10-win seasons and a spot in the 2003 Rose Bowl against Oklahoma.

For Price, it was his second trip to the Granddaddy of Them All with the Cougars in the span of six seasons. It arguably stands as the most enviable achievement in any sport ever at Washington State.

No game captured the essence of both Price and Gesser better than the 2002 regular-season finale at UCLA, a 48-27 victory that clinched the Pac-10 title for the Cougars.

Price was at his swashbuckling best, orchestrating a trick play on the second snap of the game – a Collin Henderson-to-Mike Bush 66-yard scoring aerial -- that set the high-octane tone for the day.

And Gesser, hobbled badly from a leg injury in the previous game and wearing a custom-made protective boot, guided the Cougar with machine-like precision to 541 total yards. Price put Gesser's performance into perspective at game’s end when he told reporters the leg injury was so severe that it was only 50/50 Gesser could start in the Rose Bowl game 3 ½ weeks hence.

By the time the sun had set on the Rose Bowl, Gesser owned 15 WSU records. He was also named 2002 first-team All-American by College Football News and Pac-10 Co-Offensive Player of the Year with Carson Palmer.

That 2003 Rose Bowl also was Price’s last game at WSU. In his 14-year tenure he guided the Cougars to to five bowl games, groomed three legendary quarterbacks in Gesser, Ryan Leaf and Drew Bledsoe, and earned National Coach of the Year honors for his work with the 1997 (1998 Rose Bowl) team.

The other five 2016 inductees into the WSU Athletics Hall of Fame are:

Mark Hendrickson (basketball/baseball, 1992-96):  A four-year letterwinner in basketball at WSU, he finished his career fourth in career scoring with 1,496 points and second all-time with 927 rebounds…two-time All-Pac-10 First-Team selection…also appeared as a pitcher for the baseball team as a junior…played four seasons in the NBA followed by 10 years in Major League Baseball.

Marv Chamberlain (baseball, 1970-74):  Hit .383 with 16 homes runs during his senior season, which was capped by being named an ABCA/Rawlings First-Team All-American as an outfielder…he broke or tied 10 school records during that season, including games played (159), hits (166) and at-bats (494)…as a sophomore led the Pacific-8 Conference in hitting at .415.

Erin Eldridge (swimming, 1996-2000): Ended her WSU career as the school record holder in the 100 and 200 breaststroke…three-time All-American during her Cougar career…garnered team’s Most Outstanding Award each of her four years and was WSU’s Pacific-10 Conference Medal winner her senior year.

Jennifer Robertson (track & field, 1988-93): A three-time All-American at WSU, all coming in the 3000m…as a freshman captured Pac-10 titles in the 3000m and 5000m…also captured the Pac-10 cross country title during her sophomore season…held school record in 1500m, mile, 3000m and 5000m upon her graduation.

Marcia Saneholtz (administrator, 1979-2007):  A respected national figure in collegiate athletics during her time at WSU, particularly in the area of Title IX…1997 National Administrator of the Year by National Association of Collegiate Women’s Athletic Administrators…2010 recipient of NACWAA Lifetime Achievement Award, WSU’s Samuel H. Smith Leadership and WSU Woman of Distinction Awards.

For more information on the Hall of Fame dinner, contact Bridget Slaybaugh at 509-335-0220 or bslaybaugh@wsu.edu.

MARK HENDRICKSON


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