Underdogs no more, Moos insists in debut

PULLMAN -- Athletes, coaches and fans of Washington State have often viewed the Cougars as underdogs. In fact, some relish the role. That, WSU's new athletic director says, needs to stop. Immediately.

"One thing we're going to focus on right away is the culture, the mindset of Cougars everywhere," Bill Moos said Wednesday afternoon at an introductory press conference in the Compton Union Building (CUB) Auditorium.

"I will never look at the program that I'm responsible for as underdogs. We're not underdogs, and we're not going to use the term ‘Cougin' it' or any of that.

"We're going to set forth a path that leads to championships."

To do so, Moos said, improved facilities, fund-raising and pride are vital.

"Amazing things can happen," said Moos, a former Cougar football standout who grew up in the Eastern Washington farm town of Edwall and graduated from Olympia High School.

"It's a lot about morale. It's about attitude. It's about who you think you are and where you think you CAN be at any given time.

"You should give up what you are to become what you can be, and I know what Washington State can be."

Moos said he saw that first-hand when the Cougars improved from 1-9 to 7-4 and No. 17 in the country during his four years in the football program from 1969-72.

Moos can only hope the current football team makes similar strides. The Cougars were 1-19 in Moos' first two years on campus (freshmen were ineligible for varsity athletics at the time), and WSU is 3-22 the past two years since the hiring of coach Paul Wulff.

Moos was part of the selection committee that recommended Wulff's hiring. Moos did not say whether Wulff was his No. 1 choice -- "I don't know if we actually went through choices (by committee members)" -- but he offered support to Wulff on Wednesday.

"I continue to think he's very capable," Moos said. "It looks like his recruiting classes, especially this one, have improved dramatically.

"That's what it's all about. You have to have very good players."

Moos, who presided over successful football programs as athletic director at Montana and Oregon, said a winning football team does wonders for the entire athletic department.

"At Oregon, with a $42 million budget when I left, football was bringing in three-quarters of that one way or the other," Moos said. "All the programs benefit when the football program is healthy and is productive in regards to producing revenue streams for the overall (athletic) program, so there will be a lot of focus on football."

The Cougars have been trying to raise enough money to add premium seats to Martin Stadium to increase capacity and revenue for football. Jim Sterk was in the process of bringing Moos on board to help raise funds for the expansion project when Sterk resigned two weeks ago to become athletic director at San Diego State.

Moos said expansion of Martin Stadium is "extremely important," and he said construction costs are "at an all-time low." However, Moos said he will study all facility needs before deciding whether to focus primarily on expansion of the football stadium at this time.

"One day, it's going to be ‘supply and demand importance' (football ticket sales), because there aren't going to be enough seats available," Moos said. "That's not the case right now."

Moos joined school president Elson Floyd in raving about Sterk's 10 years of work as Washington State's AD. Most college athletic departments lose money, but the Cougars -- despite a small budget, relatively low athletic donations and a struggling football program -- turned a profit every year under Sterk before losing $200,000 in the fiscal year that ended last June 30.

"Jim Sterk did an absolutely remarkable job as our athletic director," Floyd said. "I have never worked with anyone who has a higher level of integrity, confidence and honesty as Jim Sterk."

"Jim did a wonderful job," Moos said, "and there's many things that aren't broken and don't need to be fixed. But we all have a little different management style."

Moos, 59, has tentatively agreed to a seven-year contract that guarantees him $455,000 annually, plus bonuses and incentives. Sterk's total compensation was about $300,000 a year.

Floyd said a survey of nine Pac-10 schools (one did not provide information) revealed the average guaranteed AD salary is $400,000. Floyd said Moos' guaranteed money ranks third among the nine AD's.

"I want it to be over the average," Floyd said. "We are not an average institution."

Floyd said he immediately pursued Moos, and only Moos, as Sterk's replacement because he regards Moos as "the best of his class." Moos, 59, said he is "humbled" and "excited" to land the AD job at the school he grew up rooting for as a youth in Edwall, and where he worked as an associate and assistant AD from 1982-90.

Moos said he longed to return to college athletics after living and working on a cattle ranch south of Spokane that he purchased after leaving Oregon. He proved how much he wanted the WSU job by coming aboard while lawyers continue to work toward a possible settlement -- nothing is guaranteed, Moos said -- on the reported $1.4 million left on the 10-year, $2 million exit deal Moos worked out with Oregon.

The Ducks made the deal contingent on Moos not taking an AD job with a Bowl Championship Series school west of the Mississippi. Washington State is one such school, but the Ducks drew hordes of bad publicity when they threatened to stop paying Moos when he appeared set to take the UNLV athletic director's job in December.

"The good Lord works in mysterious ways," Moos said last week, "because I couldn't have looked at this position if I had just been hired at UNLV."

Moos said obligations with his ranch and his parents (1947 WSU graduates who are in fading health) will prevent him from working full-time for the Cougars until May 1 "at the latest." Until then, he plans to meet with Cougar supporters throughout the state as much as possible.

Moos said he will follow a plan that worked well for him as AD at Oregon and Montana and form a committee that will develop a "blueprint" for success at Washington State. Moos said he hopes the plan is finalized before fall semester.

"When I left here 20 years ago," Moos said, "it was with hopes and dreams of coming home one day. I just didn't think it'd take this long. Our journey has been a fabulous journey."

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