Birth of CF.C was in the genes

YOU COULD SAY this website we call all started with a simple walk through a muddy hill on the Palouse some 115 years ago or so. It was then and there that a Whitman County businessman joined with a transplanted Harvard man to informally plat building locations for the state's infant college ... using a stick.

The stick-wielding Ivy Leaguer was Washington State University's (nee: Washington Agriculture College and School of Science) first "true" president, Dr. Enoch A. Bryan. The businessman, from up the road in Thornton, was George Witter -- the great-grandfather of me and my cousin, CF.C chief Greg Witter. George was a member of the location committee for the state's new land grant college. And our family genes have been firmly — some might say obsessively — rooted in Ol' Wazzu soil since that fateful day.

So, it came as no surprise to me in 1998 when Greg relayed his chagrin over the lack of WSU media coverage in the western half of the state and the opportunity presented by the World Wide Web. Together, along with good friend and fellow Cougar enthusiast Jack Evans, he said we could help make the world right. I immediately hopped aboard the CF.C train. Thus, we became like two 10-year-olds staring at the unlimited possibilities on the blank canvas of a crimson and gray scrapbook.

This is the first in a series of stories and photo essays commemorating CF.C's tenth anniversary

Sure, it made no sense to embark on this enterprise. We both had "real" jobs that took up more than enough of our days already and each of us had newborns at home. This labor of love, we quickly learned, meant ungodly amounts of our free time were to be occupied by this cyberspace homage to WSU. Still, the Cougar pull, as you all know, often spits in the face of common sense.

Hard to believe how this website has morphed over the past 10 years. Photos on the site were just a pipedream in the early days. The coding to actually load an article was something Stephen Hawking would have struggled with. Three- or four-hundred views of an article made us feel like we were the Associated Press.

THE CHAIN BETWEEN THIS website and our great-grandfather is a strong one. While religiously listening to Cougar radio broadcasts with our grandpa as youngsters, he would, along with decrying the futileness of the forward pass, entrance us with stories of William "Lone Star" Dietz. He spoke of the school's only Rose Bowl-winning coach with such reverence that Greg and I were shocked to learn, much later in our lives, that college football historians didn't hold Lone Star in the same light as, say, Knute Rockne.

On the flip side was my dad's lionization of Mel Hein. Although dad was — and is —subjectively enamored with 1930s-era Cougar football, we would learn that his praise of "Old Indestructible" Hein turned out to be completely in line with the history books. (Just don't get my dad started on WSU retiring the number seven in honor of Hein, when his Cougar number was actually 8.)


So loyal was my dad's devotion to the Cougs that, as a nine-year-old attending a Gonzaga-WSC showdown in Spokane, he was being carried into the stadium atop the shoulders of a Bulldog player when asked "Who you rooting for?" He responded the only way he could: "WSC!" To which the Gonzaga players responded "Drop him!"

I will admit I became somewhat sidetracked from my beloved Cougars when, as an eight-year-old Catholic school boy, I was lured to the golden aura of Notre Dame football. This was primarily due to the fact that three Spokane high school standouts were on the Irish roster.

Thankfully, Greg's intervention — with a major assist from the Cougars' "superstar" running back, Bernard Jackson — rescued me from South Bend.

But our Cougar relationship hasn't always been a peaceful existence. We've had our share of heated Turner-Casper, Gossen-Garcia, and Brink-Swogger disagreements over the years. Usually more civil than the CF.C message boards, but not always.

Like the incident at a North Seattle bar that my wife has since termed "The Jason Hanson Affair."

CF.C FOUNDERS John Witter (left) and Greg Witter

It was 1989 and Wazzu was in a high-scoring Thursday night battle with Brigham Young broadcast on ESPN. With the game going back and forth, Greg had the audacity to launch an expletive or two in Hanson's direction when the Pride of Mead High sailed a kick-off out of bounds. I took great offense, especially in light of Hanson's four field goals — including 58- and 52-yarders! Fists were nearly clenched, but an eventual 46-41 victory by the real Cougars quelled the familial firestorm.

CF.C HAS GIVEN ME access to Cougar legends, people, and events I likely would never have come across as an average fan. I'm proud to say I had a front-row seat at the launch of Jeff McQuarrie's outstanding WSU football documentary Legends of the Palouse and Tom Benjey's definitive biography of Lone Star Dietz, Keep A'Goin'. In addition, I am proud of our role, one that continues to this day on the CF.C message boards, in getting off the ground the weekly flying of our beloved "Ol' Crimson" Cougar flag on ESPN's Gameday.

We've been thanked by a mom for her notion that we somehow were instrumental in securing her walk-on son a full football scholarship. The brother of another player thanked us for the way we "fairly and accurately" covered his sibling's controversial gridiron career.


I've been cursed at by Dawg fans and Trojans (and Cougars, too, on occasion). I've been banned by the UCLA athletic department (rather my "Crimson Seer" alter-ego was). I've written approximately 500 Cougar-related articles, and been insulted by an infamous former WSU athletic director. Grown men have told me they wept over some of my more emotionally driven essays.

I was able to develop friendships with two gridiron giants from bygone eras, crimson legends Johnny Bley and Chuck Morrell, and had the privilege of sharing their greatness with the Cougar Nation.

Although real-world obligations and the yeoman-esque work of senior editor Barry Bolton (thank God I "discovered" him!) has made my role these days at "The Fan," more emeritus than active, and my days of CF.C all-nighters are mostly a thing of the past, I feel the same strong sense of pride over this web site today as I did 10 years ago when first went live.

Yes, there have been times when my involvement with CF.C has felt like a burdensome curse; but mostly it has been a blessing, allowing me to share a Cougar field of dreams with my cousin -- a brilliant man I have known and loved my entire life.

Ten years later, I think that blank scrapbook turned out pretty nice.


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