Seen & Heard 5/23

A GUY GOES ON vacation for a couple of weeks and comes back to find out he seems to be one of the few people on Planet Coug who didn't know Washington State was planning to put new threads on the football team this season. Official word out of Pullman on the topic is "no comment." But as everyone knows, when translated, that actually means "yes, something is afoot but we're sworn to secrecy for now."

Apparently, though, the secrecy ends with the software types who make computerized football games that look so realistic. I'm clueless about those games, but word on the street is that one of the manufacturers is out with an updated version of its college football game and they have the mighty Cougars clad in road uniforms that look almost identical to Oklahoma's. Given the super-reality of these games, this would seem and odd development unless the Cougs' sartorial splendor is indeed changing.

That, coupled with the ongoing rumors and WSU's official no comment, pretty much seals the deal for me.

For those of you who had the good sense to close your eyes during the 2003 Rose Bowl game, Oklahoma-esque uniforms in Pullman equate to crimson helmets, white jerseys with crimson numbers, and white pants with two crimson stripes. Not sure about the shoes.

No idea what's planned for the home outfits, but the grapevine is certainly abuzz with ideas. My preference would be a ripoff of the classiest football uniform ever created: the Oakland Raiders'. Just swap the black for crimson and suddenly Jason Hill and Josh Swogger look like Cliff Branch and Jim Plunkett.

I think the greatest debate among Cougar fans is whether to stick with the Cougar-head logo on the helmets or go back to "Cougars" in scripted writing. Given the fact we ended our drought against the Huskies last November when the scripted version was brought out of mothballs, I say stick with it.

IT WAS GOOD TO READ that one of my all-time favorite Cougars, Jason Gesser, has his career back on track. He signed with the B.C. Lions a couple of weeks ago and then was traded to the Calgary Stampeders in exchange for a first-round draft pick. Given Jason's mobility and the larger Canadian field, I have a hunch he'll thrive up north. And he'll be in good hands, too. Former WSU, Stanford and Notre Dame assistant Bill Diedrick recently signed on with the Stampeders' as quarterbacks and running backs coach.

In his long coaching career, which took off at Spokane's Rogers High in the 1970s, Diedrick has mentored the likes of NFL mainstays Drew Bledsoe, John Friesz, Todd Husak and Damon Huard.

As for Gesser, it's been a puzzling journey for him to this point. The former Pac-10 Co-Offensive Player of the Year stuck with the Tennessee Titans in his rookie campaign of 2003, but they cut him last year in favor of a more veteran back up. No one picked him up and his hopes of rekindling things in NFL Europe earlier this year were scuttled when he didn't make the cut. I say get ready for another Doug Flutie-type renaissance.

SPEAKING OF FORMER Cougar quarterbacks, The Sporting News' Kara Yorio recently did a marvelous column on the New York Dragons' Aaron Garcia, whom she calls "arguably the best quarterback" in the history of the Arena Football League and perhaps the best signal caller not in the NFL.

Garcia made a name for himself on the Palouse in 1989 as a second-year freshman on Mike Price's first-ever Cougar team. When starting QB Brad Gossen went down with a broken thumb, Garcia came off the bench and coolly led WSU to four victories in five weeks. And that one setback, to USC and the infamous "Marinovich Drive," ranks as an all-time classic. A year later he saw spot duty behind Gossen, but then at mid-season a true freshman named Bledsoe took over and Garcia ultimately transferred to Sacramento State.

Gracia, 34, is one of the highest paid players in the AFL with an annual salary of $130,000. And well he should be. He is the first pro quarterback --- NFL, CFL, USFL, etc. -- with 700 career touchdown passes. He holds AFL records for career completions and most touchdown passes in a season.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, hat's off to Cougar middle linebacker Will Derting who last week was named second-team preseason All-America -- and the favorite for Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year --- by The Sporting News. Derting, the Pride of Okanogan, already is on the watch list for both the Lombardi Award and Lott Trophy.

TSN had good things to say about some other Cougars as well. In the mag's rankings of the 20 best players in the nation at each position, Kyle Basler was picked No. 8 among punters, Michael Bumpus No. 9 among return men and Jason Hill No. 18 among receivers.

THE SCOOP IN BEANTOWN is that former AL batting champion and one-time Washington State All-American John Olerud will be getting called up by the Red Sox sooner rather than later, particularly in light of Kevin Millar's hitting woes. Olerud, unsigned in the off-season, inked a minor league contract with the Red Sox earlier this month and has been playing with the organization's extended spring training team. In 10 real game at bats so far he has collected eight hits.

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