COMMENTARY: Now is the time, Coug fans

UNSOLICITED, A HANDFUL of Cougar fans last Friday afternoon donated enough money to the WSU Athletic Foundation to endow a scholarship. Or buy Ken Bone a couple charter flights. This money followed the Apple Cup-at-Qwest controversy and the spotlight it put on WSU's financial needs in athletics. These donations illustrate the fire that I believe has been lit on Planet Coug.

It's fire we all need to keep stoked. And we need to start stoking now. Not tomorrow or next week or next year. Right now.

In many respects, the heated Apple Cup discussion – along with the grassroots effort to stop the UW from soaking taxpayers for $150 million to help pay for their stadium remodel – has ignited a spark.

From talking with a broad section of Cougars around the state in the last two weeks, my sense is that we're more engaged than ever in what's happening off the field as well as on it.

In stopping the UW from its brazen reach into the state's treasury, Cougar alumni and friends showed again they can achieve anything when they put their energy and attention to the cause. Scott Woodward, the UW athletic director, says the grassroots campaign against his plan -- a plan, by the way, which had huge lobbying resources behind it -- was just an irritant. That's not exactly how elected officials in Olympia characterized our all-volunteer efforts.

The Apple Cup issue, meanwhile, brought out both the intense passion that Cougar fans have for their team, but also wound up educating many of us on the incredible financial demands needed to be competitive in the Pac-10. The bottom line on what we learned is that we WSU alums and fans aren't keeping pace with our counterparts in the Pac-10.

What it all means is this: It is time for every Cougar fan to focus on getting WSU's athletic department finances up to where they should.

As you may know from recent reports on, WSU's athletics budget, at $30 million, is the smallest in the Pac-10 – by a long ways. The average budget among all Pac-10 schools is $54 million.

In terms of donor support for athletics, WSU is a distant 10th place in the conference. In the last fiscal year, 6,185 Cougar fans -- just 2 percent of the living alums, friends and supporters in the WSU database -- donated to athletics. They contributed a school-record $8.26 million. That's nice, but it's still $4 million less than the conference's ninth-place school in that category.

In the coming weeks and months the WSU Athletic Foundation will be pushing hard for Cougar fans to step up their support. The two most pressing needs right now are the fund that pays for athletic scholarships and the Phase III portion of the Martin Stadium upgrade.

It is up to us to get WSU back in the game.

We must bottle the passion we saw during the Apple Cup controversy. We must harness the fight we found in the grassroots effort to stop the UW's brazen stadium plan. We must capture the energy that painted the Space Needle crimson and propelled Butch to the CapitalOne mascot title.

We need to get started now. All of us.

If you re of the means, pleased consider a major gift -- which is $25,000.00 or more spread over a five years. WSU athletics is woefully short of these donors.

The size of the donation, however, does not matter. Whether it's $25,000 or $100, what is important is that all of us get on board. There is strength in numbers.

Listed below is everything you need to get started down the path of support that will get our athletic finances where they need to be. Thanks in advance for answering the call to action.

On-line giving:
WSU Athletic Foundation Donor Page

Foundation Home page:
WSU Athletic Foundation

Foundation Phone Number - 1800-IMA-COUG


Chris Walker - Associate Athletic Director - Development (Pullman Based)
Office - 509.335.8786
Primary Coverage Area - Entire State

Justin Felker - Associate Director of Development - Major Gifts (Spokane Based)
Office - 509.368.6729
Cell - 509.432.9041
Primary Coverage Area - Entire State

Michael Clark - Associate Director of Development (Seattle Based)
Office - 206.770.6065
Primary Coverage Area - Puget Sound

Ryan Topper - Associate Director of Development (Vancouver Based)
Office - 360.546.9281
Primary Coverage Area - SW Washington and Portland

Todd Thrasher - Assistate Director for Marketing and Special Events (Seattle Based)
Office - 206.448.1335
Primary Coverage Area - Puget Sound and all Western Washington Athletic Foundation Events

Lori Olson - Development Coordinator, Special Events (Spokane Based)
Office - 509.358.7541
Primary Coverage Area - Spokane and all Eastern Washington Athletic Foundation Events

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Glenn Osterhout is a WSU graduate, donor to WSU athletics, and long-time CF.C subscriber. He also co-founded the grassroots effort to block the UW from unwisely using taxpayer dollars in this dour budgetary environment.


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