Cougs likely back to Qwest; Oregon in tow?

NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN Washington State and the folks who operate Seattle's Qwest Field are progressing nicely on a new contract to keep the Cougs playing one home football game in Seattle each season, WSU athletic director Jim Sterk said Wednesday. In addition, he continues to contemplate bringing the Oregon Ducks to Qwest in 2010.

Jim Sterk said he expects the Cougars to continue playing one home football game at Qwest each year because, "As an institution, it's a positive for us to play there."

Earlier this year, Sterk had discussed the possibility of playing at Qwest every-other season. The Cougars have played at the NFL stadium every year since it opened in 2002, drawing far more fans each game than can be seated in WSU's Martin Stadium.

The annual Seattle game and accompanying university-wide functions that are held in the days before the game have developed into a major event for Washington State and its alums. More WSU graduates live in Western Washington than anywhere else.

Sterk said negotiations on a new contract with Qwest are encouraging.

As for Oregon, that game currently is scheduled to be played in Pullman. But Sterk is considering the move to Qwest because the game would figure to be a sellout or near-sellout -- a development that would generate roughly $500,000 more in revenue for WSU than their typical Seattle.

WSU's previous eight games at Qwest have been nonconference affairs, of which most have drawn between 41,000 and 51,000 fans. A sell out is 67,000.

Sterk said Oregon is only one of the teams under consideration for the Qwest game next year.

He also said WSU's 2010 nonconference schedule has been tentatively completed with a home game against Montana State. The Bobcats are a Football Championship Subdivision (formerly NCAA Division I-AA) team in the Big Sky Conference.

WSU's two other nonconference games next season are road contests with Oklahoma State and Southern Methodist. Sterk said dates should be finalized soon, but the Pac-10 is working on television scheduling that could lead to changes.

ON THE FUNDRAISING FRONT, Sterk said the Cougars have employed some 40 volunteers to help spread the word about WSU's bid to add 2,200 premium seats to Martin Stadium in time for the 2011 or 2012 season.

"We're going hard at it," Sterk said. "It's been very well received."

The school recently mailed out 5,000 information packets regarding the project. Selling the added seats, including suites and access to alcohol during games, would substantially bolster income for an athletic department that has by far the smallest budget, fewest donors and least donated funds in the Pac-10.

Ideally, the Cougars are aiming to have deposits on 80 percent of the premium seats before construction begins. If construction starts by April, Sterk (who said he does not have an updated figure on the percentage of deposits already received) said he believes some or all of the new seats will be ready by the start of the 2011 season.

STERK SAID HE'S DELIGHTED with WSU's strong showing in fall sports this year. He also continues to express optimism about the future for Cougar football. The team has been severely hindered by injuries, youth and inexperience for the second straight year.

WSU is ranked 21st in women's volleyball and women's soccer and tied for 26th in men's cross country. The Cougars beat then-No. 4 Washington in volleyball last Friday before the largest Bohler Gym crowd (2,724) since 1997.

The Cougars are scrambling financially due to increases in scholarship costs, the economy's struggles and decreases in football attendance and television income. Sterk, who came to WSU from Portland State in 2000, said he still likes his job.

"I'm enjoying it still through the rough times," Sterk said. "Like Paul (Cougar football coach Paul Wulff says), ‘You've got to enjoy the process.'"

Cougfan Top Stories