COMMENTARY: Mind changed, bring on Qwest

LISTEN CLOSELY, because I'm only going to say this once. I was wrong. I apologize. The Apple Cup should be moved to Qwest Field. There. I said it. Now I'm going to go lie down and try to sleep from, oh, 2010 to 2015.

That's how long the Cougars and Huskies plan to stage their annual pigskin tussle off campus. When the proposal was clumsily tossed into public view last week, I joined the vocal majority in railing to the football gods about the injustice of it all.

It was a travesty, I said.

It would ultimately cost the schools millions, I said.

It was just flat-out wrong, I said.

That was before Jim Sterk revealed that WSU's financial situation is so serious that the Cougars' future in the Pac-10 could be in jeopardy without a cash IV from the games at Qwest. Quite frankly, I had no idea the situation was that grave.

Mind you, Jim Sterk is many things, but he is not an alarmist. The Washington State athletic director is a good person, a highly intelligent man and a former college athlete. He has a keen understanding and appreciation of college athletics in general, and WSU athletics in particular.

When Sterk deems it necessary to even suggest the remote possibility of the Cougars being forced to leave the Pac-10, you know times are tough. Really, really tough.

So, like it or not -- and I absolutely HATE it -- the Apple Cup should be moved to Qwest for six years. And only for six years. Not one day longer. That needs to be written in stone.

The cold, hard facts are these: The Cougars and Huskies will split barely $6 million if they play the six Apple Cups on campus. Only a relative handful of fans from the opposing school can attend the biggest athletic event in the state every other year when it's played at Martin and Husky stadiums. At Qwest, more than 30,000 fans from each school can attend.

Move the six Apple Cups to Qwest, and the schools split an extra $20 million. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that works out to $10 million apiece. That's one-third of WSU's annual athletic budget. And if $30 million sounds like too much to spend on volleyballs and hurdles and whatnot for boys and girls, keep in mind that Oregon State has the second-smallest budget in the Pac-10 at $44 million, and the Beavers are crying poor, too.

The saddest aspect of this whole thing -- aside from the loss of tradition and the riveting, hearts-a-racin' atmosphere on campus on Apple Cup weekend -- is that it is all so unnecessary, at least for the Cougars.

The Huskies? Qwest is a long field goal from campus. Qwest is infinitely nicer than Husky Stadium. As someone who grew up in Spokane and Seattle and has no allegiance to the Cougars or Huskies, I don't see it as any huge deal to move three Husky home games to Qwest in exchange for heaping mounds of cash.

The Cougars are a different animal, however, and we're not just talking mascots.

Washington State University IS Pullman. Without WSU, Pullman is wheat, lentil and not a whole lot else. Without WSU athletics, Pullman is deader than disco.

The borderline wacko level of devotion that so many crimson-blooded fans hold for Cougar athletics is an amazing thing. And yet, barely 6,000 people donate one dime to WSU athletics annually.

That is pitiful, plain and simple. That is the fiscal equivalent of watching a man die of thirst while you're holding a jug of Gatorade.

If just 10,000 more people donate $100 a year to the Cougars, that adds up to one million badly needed dollars.

True, times are tough financially for many of us. But $100 a year is a mere 27 cents a day. Cut out one latte a week, and you can help assure that the Cougars never wind up in the Big Sky.

No offense, Weber State, but Cougar fans already see enough purple every year.

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