Sterk plows new ground in talking with fans

IN AN UNPRECEDENTED entry on the school's website, Washington State Athletics Director Jim Sterk today took, head on, recent fan criticism of Cougar football losses and a perceived letdown in recruiting. Known for thinking out of the box, Sterk took a page out of the progressive PR man's handbook and responded at length about fans' concerns in his "AD Forum."

Sterk cited a recent newspaper article documenting coach Bill Doba's first three recruiting classes. The article noted that of the 65 signees, just 30 remain with the program.

Sterk, however, pointed out similarities between the 2003-05 recruiting window and the 1998-2000 time frame. The 1998-2000 period followed the Cougars' first Rose Bowl in 67 years and preceded the school's remarkable string of three straight 10-win seasons.

"Did you know that of the 53 total freshmen to enter from 1998 to 2000, the three years following our 1998 Rose Bowl appearance, 32 were still on the roster after four years (60.4%) and 22 were on the roster after five years (41.5%)?" writes Sterk.

"Furthermore, in Coach Doba's first recruiting class (2003), he signed 16 players, seven of which are still on the roster (43.8%). That percentage is higher than the three-year period of 1998-2000 for fifth-year players."

Sterk noted he wasn't trying to say it was okay for players to leave, but rather, "My point is to say the player retention level under Coach Doba is not unique for the program."

The A.D. then turned his attention to the future and in particular, the influence faculties have on recruiting. First, however, he noted there are five games left in the 2007 season.

"I remind you that there is still much more of the season to be played," he writes. "Our student-athletes and coaches are doing all they can to turn things around. They are of the highest quality and character, and want nothing more than to give Cougar fans everywhere a season they can be proud of.

"I know I have mentioned this before but it is worth repeating. It is time to assist our coaches in getting high quality players to make the decision of coming to WSU. The biggest disadvantage our coaches have in the recruiting battle is facilities. A primary element on whether an 18-year-old decides to attend one university over another is the school's facilities.

"Our current facilities are not what top recruits or fans should expect of a Pac-10 institution; yet, we are asking our program to compete in one of the toughest conferences in the nation.

"One of the numerous benefits of the current stadium renovation is to enhance recruiting, which will, in turn, enhance the program. Just look around the league through the eyes of an 18-year-old recruit. Our stadium, in its current state, places our football staff at a huge competitive disadvantage in comparison to our Bowl Championship Series (BCS) counterparts."

A recent CF.C article on the state of Cougar recruiting and the role facilities play, can be found here.

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