Seen & Heard on Planet Coug 12/17

THE ROOTS OF HORIZON AIR'S spirited marketing move – to paint four of its aircraft with the logos and colors of the Pac-10's Northwest schools (starting with Washington State later this month) – can be traced to the 1980s and the Seattle Seahawks. Jeff Pinneo, the CEO of Horizon, was a marketing guy at Alaska Airlines back in those days. He helped give birth to Seahawk I, an Alaska 727.

That plane was decked inside and out in the colors of the home team, and even hauled the club to all its away games for many years.

On Friday, Horizon unveiled plans to honor the four largest public universities in Oregon and Washington by painting four, 70-seat CRJ-700 jets in university colors and marks. The special themed planes will be created at no cost to the universities.

The aircraft will be painted one at a time – starting with WSU – in the order in which agreements were reached with the schools.

"By flying their colors – and the colors of their rivals – we're aiming to add fun to the flying experience," said WSU advertising chief Dan Russo, whose daughter Margaret once worked for "We expect this will thrill fans of the school teams, and put a smile on the faces of graduates, current students and university staff."

CONGRATULATIONS ARE IN order for Cougar football players Michah Hannam, Reid Forrest and cornerback Chima Nwachukwu. All three were honorable mention picks on the The Sporting News' Freshman All-America team. This is the second such honor for Nwachukwu, who earlier this month was named second-team Freshman All-American by Hannam, an offensive lineman from Gig Harbor, was honored earlier this month as well when he was named first-team Pac-10 All-Academic.

Junior receiver Brandon Gibson, the lone Cougar named first-team All-Pac-10 this season, was recently tabbed third-team All-American by national sports magazine pundit and publisher Phil Steele. Gibson said he will seek input from NFL scouts before deciding whether to leave school early and make himself available for this spring's draft. Former Cougar Jason Hill, now with the San Francisco 49ers, did the same thing after his junior season and opted to stay at WSU for his final year.

NEW COUGAR FOOTBALL coach Paul Wulff has two slots left to fill on his nine-member staff. Mike Levenseller, who is being retained, clearly will be the elder statesman – both in terms of age (51) and Pac-10 coaching experience (16 seasons) – on the offense. But there's no such wily old veteran on defense yet, so look for Coach Wulff to fill one or both of his final two posts with seasoned defensive talent.

The rumor mill has been abuzz with the notion of Spokane native Jimmy Lake, the assistant secondary coach for the Tampa Bay Bucaneers, joining the staff. He spent four years as an assistant at EWU under Wulff before moving on to two stints with Washington and Montana State. He is in his second season with Tampa Bay. On its face, Lake sounds like a dandy candidate for the Cougs. But there are powerful forces working against the idea. While he's the assistant secondary coach at Tampa Bay, the buzz on him is excellent, meaning he'll likely be the chief secondary coach for an NFL team next season. In addition, NFL salaries and pension plans are attractive.

While former Palouse Posse mainstay Torey Hunter doesn't qualify as a wily old coaching veteran, look for him to be considered for a job in the secondary if Wulff plugs his "elder statesman" defensive assistant somewhere up front. Hunter was believed to be a runner-up to Dave Walkosky last spring when Bill Doba was looking for a replacement for Ken Greene. Walkosky's experience with special teams may have been the difference. Hunter spent this past season at Central Washington, coached by close Wulff friend Beau Baldwin, and before that spent several seasons at Idaho State under former WSU assistant Larry Lewis.

ONE FACT CAUGHT MY eye the other day when CF.C recruiting analyst Barry Bolton broke the story about Kamiak TE/DE Skylar Stormo's verbal commitment to the Cougars. The lad gave the pledge, in his living room, to Coach Wulff a few minutes before midnight. Midnight!!! When Wulff said he planned to outwork the competition, he clearly wasn't kidding.

The recruiting dead period, in which coaches can't contact prospects, starts today and ends the first week of January. However, that doesn't mean there's not an opportunity for kids to make verbal commitments, because they can make calls to coaches during this period.

FOR A GREAT CRIMSON Christmas present, head to and purchase a box set, or individual copies, of Jeff McQuarrie's fabulous three-volume feature film on the colorful characters and fabled games of WSU football history.

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