Moos' track record really is head turning

IF EVERYTHING comes to together as hoped, Bill Moos will be introduced any day now as Washington State's new director of athletics. For the 59-year-old Moos, who was raised in nearby Edwall and grew up cheering for the Cougs, his life's arc will have come full circle. But the heavy lifting will have just begun.

Moos must prime the economic pump at WSU in an unprecedented way.

The athletic department, already working from the smallest budget in the Pac-10, needs to make notable facilities investments at the same time that scholarship costs and coaches salaries are escalating.

The number of donors to athletics -- and the dollars they give -- climbed notably under Jim Sterk but still lag the rest of the Pac-10 significantly.

In addition, Moos figures to get to work early on an issue he alluded to in his public forum in Pullman last week: The Cougar Culture and its seeming tolerance of the status quo.

While renowned for their loyalty to the school, too many WSU alums and fans don't demand or expect excellence in athletics. And too many of those that do, do not donate in a way to make it possible. That needs to change the same way it changed under Moos during his 12 years at Oregon.

"The Cougars don't have to be an underdog," Moos said in Pullman the other day after driving down from his cattle ranch outside Spokane.

At Oregon, Moos spearheaded more than $160 million in facility improvements, and expanded the athletic department's budget from a subsidized $18 million to a self-sufficient $41 million. Along the way, the financial support he received from Nike's Phil Knight was no piece of happenstance: Moos presented Knight a vision of the future and convinced him to be part of the quest for excellence.

"My first week on the job, I asked for 15 minutes with Phil. He granted me that and it ended up being close to an hour," Moos told the Seattle PI in a 2003 interview. "Surprisingly, he had really not been involved with Oregon athletics. He had a skybox for football, but had really not been a donor of any significance. I wanted to create a friendship with him."

Moos is known for thinking creatively. He plucked off a revenue and exposure deal with ESPN Regional in 1998 that made Oregon one of only three schools in the country with such an arrangement. Oregon made nearly $4 million from it.

Brazen marketing campaigns -- from Joey Harrington's $300,00 banner in Times Square to cutting-edge uniform combinations -- all took wing under Moos' watch.

The measurables from it all were head turning. Annual giving to athletics increased from $3.5 million when he arrived in Eugene in 1995 to more than $15 million when he left in March 2007. By comparison, WSU's annual giving to athletics is about $6 million. Football season tickets in his tenure at Oregon rose from 14,000 to 41,000. WSU's football season ticket total in 2009 was roughly 11,000.

Top-notch facilities and aggressive marketing, Moos has said over the years, allowed Oregon to attract first-class athletes and, in turn, morph from mediocrity to consistent contender.

"When Moos took the Oregon job, the Ducks had a clear inferiority complex about Washington. The Huskies had a more imposing athletic program, better facilities and, in most seasons, a better football team," says Ken Goe of the Portland Oregonian. "Moos made it his goal to change that. And he did."

ATHLETICS IS THE MOST public face a university projects and the value of putting forth the best face has never been lost on Moos.

When criticized in 2003 for helping fuel the "arms race" in college athletics following Oregon's unveiling of a lavish football locker room that cost more than the original construction of Autzen Stadium, Moos made no apologies. Asked if the locker room was the finest around, Moos' retort spoke volumes: "The best in college football?" he asked rhetorically. "It is the best anywhere, including the NFL."

In that 2003 PI interview, Moos talked more about the arms race. "Is sports itself playing too large a role in the academy, in higher education? That will be debated forever," he said. "All I know is that I was hired to do a job, and I have been given the tools to do it, and we're working every day to continue to be successful."

In the Pullman public forum, Moos talked about his love of competition and achievement. He quipped that Oregon sent him off with a non-compete clause "because they didn't want to compete with me -- and I don't blame 'em ... I like to win. I like to win fair and square and I like to be innovative. I take risks."

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