Negative for Fans, No Big Deal for Team?


So here we are. Reaction pours in from all corners of the state. Is it safe to say that the majority view on the idea of moving the Apple Cup to Qwest is a really bad idea? A lot of comments, here and everywhere, more or less back that up. Today’s article from Bud Withers shows that even true purple-blooded Husky fans don’t like it. Mike Lude, the former AD?

“If I were still the athletic director,” said the man who once was AD at Washington, “they’d have to do it over my dead body.

“It would be a tragedy.”

I have to say I would think the UW fan base wouldn’t be quite so hating on this. The game is just a few miles south of their campus, they don’t have to travel to “the armpit of Eastern WA” in late November, as someone put it yesterday in comments, etc. And the finances, forget about it. To trade in a miserable trip to Pullman where they only take home a few hundred thousand, to now play in Qwest Field for upwards of $2 million? WHERE DO WE SIGN?? I thought there were many reasons that this is a major benefit to the purple-n-gold, but maybe not.

But, what did the powers-that-be expect the overwhelming response was going to be? We love it? I mean honestly, we are COLLEGE FOOTBALL FANS. College athletics are some of the most emotional athletic competitions on the planet. The NFL is intense, sure, and the NBA playoffs at least can get pretty hot. But there is more of a sense of “ownership” by students, alumni and just fans, at least in a lot of regions throughout this country, in NCAA athletics. There isn’t a Steinbrenner or Nintendo in the ownership box. We believe (right or wrong) that WE are part owners of this thing. That WE are right there with them, doing the heavy lifting and carrying the torch for our respective institutions. We are the ticket buying public, we write checks for the athletic department, we buy the apparel, and most of all, WE are the butts in the seats!

So to rip the game out of the heart of both campuses to make some extra money? It’s a little naive to think that the initial wave of fan reaction was going to be positive.

However it also must be said – not everyone hates this in the blogosphere. The lads at Cougcenter? They like it, to the point they sound like they are endorsing it. And after reading some of their arguments for the game, they do raise some decent points. They might be in the minority today, but they appear to be on the bandwagon.

Moving on, Grippi bellies up with his offering on the WSU reaction. The players don’t sound real upset by it. But coach Wulff kind of goes around and around with it, but doesn’t exactly hate it. In fact he likes the idea of a guaranteed bye with moving the game to after Thanksgiving in a twelve game schedule. But most of all, don’t forget he’s in the administration. He is all too aware of the bottom-line challenges that we are facing in the coming days.

In the same article, Grippi notes how Pullman isn’t skipping down main street over this one.

In a more concrete development, the Pullman Chamber of Commerce sent an open letter to WSU athletic director Jim Sterk, stating the group was “astounded at the idea of moving the Apple Cup game to Seattle for the next 6 years,” and urging Sterk take into account “the broader economic and psychological impacts of moving this game out of town.”

The letter, signed by chamber president Tom Handy and executive director Tammy Lewis, cited Apple Cup economic impacts that, according to those surveyed, are for some, “double or triple the revenues they reap from a regular home game weekend.”

NOT IN LOVE WITH THIS. Not. One. Bit. And can you blame them? Punting double or triple the revenues they get compared to a regular game pretty much sucks for said college town. And let’s face it, they don’t (or won’t) come from all corners of the state to watch New Mexico or SMU in Pullman, will they?

I talked to a good friend in Spokane last night, who is part of a key demographic of WSU eastern WA alums. A season-ticket holder for several years, in his late-30’s, married with young children, a homeowner, and some disposable income living in Spokane. You know what his reaction was? Disgust. And if he was forced to buy a ticket for that game as part of his season ticket package, how fast can he get his tickets on Craigslist, Ebay, Stub-Hub or anything else for that matter?? To him, it is a sellout move by the administration and a big chunk of the season-ticket base in Spokane is feeling awfully betrayed by this.

In a down economy, we are all making tough choices with our discretionary income. Will something like this lead to some sort of backlash? Time will tell. While the financial carrot is awfully large in this, man, I would tread lightly when dealing with the biggest contingent of your fanbase – the eastern WA alums.

We’ll see what happens in the coming days. It sounds like it could be announced soon, as in early next week.


18 Responses to “Negative for Fans, No Big Deal for Team?”

  1. Chris '04 Says:

    Ya know, I’d love to see some demographics chart based on the location of alumni. Something along the lines of East WA, West WA, and Out-of-State. Spokane has a large fan base, I’m sure. But they are tepid at best. Being a city of almost half a million only 70 miles away, the fan support is atrocious. We should be selling out every single game in Pullman based on Spokane fans along. However, in reality that isn’t close to being the case.

    I’d also be curious to see where our donor money is coming from. Spokane has a pile of money, although the car dealerships and billboards may be blurring your ability to see it. Do they donate it? Do they pony up for tickets (I think I’ve already answered that question).

    As much as us Eastern WA fans feel betrayed, how might the university feel after all these years of low attendance and donations from its local constituents?

  2. KopravicaHater Says:

    Letters to the Editor in this morning’s Evergreen:

    Nice to see the Pullman Chamber got a letter in quickly–as poorly written as it is.

    On a side note–aren’t we supposed to be one of the best Com schools in the nation? Yet we deliver an atrocious online edition, full of html errors and misspellings.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Being a western wa alum , I’m torn. I have been to one home apple cup since I graduated in 01 but have been to two in Seattle. I understand the east side of things, travel, the city of pullmans position and of course the current students. However if the program has the chance to pocket 2 million a year plus bowl game money, plus potential national tv money (imagine a split qwest if both teams are relevant) once we can turn the program around you have to take it. I know some feel it’s a sellout but we have all argued over money for the program, why can’t we get a big time coach, why can’t we improve our facilities, this money goes along way to help those issues. Go Cougs!

  4. Selahcoug Says:

    I have many of the same questions, are they going to alienate the regular customers, the season ticket holders with this move? I fit that demographic somewhat as I am a season ticket holder, though I live in Central Washington, actually closer to Seattle than Pullman. But even if this move would be more convenient for me personally, I am totally against it. I am curious as well to where the majority of season ticket holders come from. I think that would be hard info to get, even from the school as people buy in groups. My tickets for example are purchased as a group under a friend’s name who lives in Everett, but out of the group we have people from Everett, Lynnwood, Yakima and Kennewick.

    I did put a poll up on Cougcenter’s fanposts to try and get an idea on some of these questions if any body wants to vote.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    I live in Spokane and have been a season ticket holder since 1993. I do not want to travel to Seattle on Thanksgiving weekend just to see the Apple Cup. That is vacation time and family time. If this happens, I will miss the game every year.

  6. kaddy Says:

    Again – I don’t like this idea long term. However, if we’re using the money to finish Phase 3, then we go back to a home-and-home, I think we need to do it.

    When Phase 3 is done we’ll be making more money from Pullman games, and won’t be quite as cash starved as we are now.

  7. Soze Says:

    Chris ’04… the entire state of Washington is an apathetic sports state. You should know this; the Steelers fans are with the team win or lose. Any sports team in the state of Washington, pro or college, loses fans when the team is down. During the Rose Bowl years, every football game was sold out and I’m guessing more than half that stadium was Eastern, WA alums/fans.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    After 2 days with my in-laws I love the Apple Cup excuse to bail on them for the last 2 days of Thanksgiving weekend. If it was played the Saturday before Thanksgiving we get no byes with a 12 game schedule, the AC is probably not the last game of the year with the way the fuskies are currently scheduling and I spend 4 days with my in-laws.

  9. Trinity Says:

    Good article today. I see all sides of this thing but superman money wins over the crying child in your photo. Brilliant choice to capture the moment btw, lol. The emot of the college sports fan is larger than large at college sports. It isn’t corporate pinstripes at the games like new yankee stadia. It is a college game and it should be emotional and fun with vibrant students as a big part of the experience of gameday on campus. I was a poor starving student too once but what are my options for this game. Pay extra for the travel hotel etc when I should be able to walk to the game on stadium way from my dorm?

    I did talk to a friend close to the situation today and she said that ticket prices for this game are going to anger the Coug fans. How does $75 sound. And that is for upper deck. Lower bowl could be $125. Maybe for a bowl game I would pay that with my husband and kids but not for this.

  10. Nuss Says:

    Yeah, I’m cautiously supporting this until all the details come out. But if what Trinity says is true and they’re already anticipating that the prices are going to be outrageous, I may yet join the legions who think this is terrible.

    One point I made on my site, though — if you’re a Western Washington Coug, spending $100 a ticket plus parking is a heck of a lot less than spending $75 a ticket plus gas plus two nights lodging plus eating out for two days …

    Again, it comes down to whether making the extra money from Western Washington fans who will go to this game outweighs pissing off your Eastern Washington fans who will be priced out by the ticket and travel.

  11. sedihawk Says:

    It is a dangerous game they are playing with eastern wa fans. Like Kaddy said, it’s temporary. If it helps finish phase III, then it is a money grab. The danger is in the collateral damage they do to their base. But they aren’t going to please everyone here. It isn’t possible now.

    The Spokane thing has always been a head-scratcher. Why the apathy, who knows. There is a very good core of friends I have in that demographic who try and get to every game possible. But it’s a nut they have never been able to fully crack. Maybe the rise of Zags hoops has taken a big bite out of the chance an average Joe would make the trip? Not that hoops and football go on at the same time, but average Joe may decide that he would rather throw a few hundred at the Zags hoops tickets and make the 15-minute drive instead of going to Pullman a few times?

    Kaddy, here is a thought. What IF the extra money doesn’t go towards the renovation at all? Right now they are looking at what, $12 million gross for this game over the next 6 yrs? Figure in the extra they will make with not playing in Pullman (about 5 million?) and then the extra for not playing at Husky stadium (3.6 million) and that could mean almost 9 or so million the school will get, above and beyond what they get playing on campuses. Fair enough?

    So, 9 million extra. Phase III sounds great…..if that is what they choose to do with it? OR, isn’t it more likey the university could divert those funds for other things? The budgets and such are looking awfully gloomy. Grippi himself said on the radio yesterday he hears this is coming from Floyd as a way to try and have a reasonable budget. Doesn’t sound like they are going to throw it all at phase III. AND, we don’t have any idea what the recession is going to do to ticket sales this upcoming year. It was getting bad last spring when people renewed their tickets, but think about how different it is today compared to 12 months ago. 9.2% of the state is technically unemployed, double from last year at this time. Makes you wonder what the impact is going to be next fall. Maybe a crowd of 30k will turn out to be a luxury, not the norm?

    And I don’t know “Trinity” from Adam (Neo?) but $75 for upper deck seats?? NO WAY will that fly. No offense but that can’t be right. $75 as the top ticket, on the 50, club seats? Maybe. $125 for a suite? Possibly. But if they jack the prices that much? Wait for it……FAIL! 🙂

  12. Longball Says:

    I definitely am of 2 minds on this one. If I had heard we had a chance to make this kind of revenue from the AC and didn’t even consider it, I would have been beside myself. If done right this could be a golden egg for the program. Neutral sites for rivalry games have a damn fine history, see Red River Shootout, or the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Not that either program compares to those, but it isn’t necessarily the death of tradition. I am not 100% cheerleader here, my tepid approval of this comes with a lot of conditions:

    1. Guaranteed money. All the risk on this should be on the organizers, not on the schools. If we take on one cent of risk, the pen should never have touched the paper.
    2. Student sections. There should be large student sections available at student friendly prices. Also, i want to see fleets of rooter buses to get students to the game for cheap, or free along with some kind of affordable accommodations.
    3. Good TV. This better not be on regional FSN camcorder broadcast at 11am on a Tuesday.
    4. Fair and effective ticket distribution. No matter how they achieve the 50/50 fan split, they batter make it work. Anything even approaching 40/60 and this is a bomb.
    5. Temporary. I think 6 years, as reported is good enough. At that point Martin should be double the revenue generator it is now and we can move the game back to the home fields without a major revenue loss. On the flip side, there is the chance this turns out to be the greatest thing since Cougar Gold cheese on a Ritz and a placated fan base is ok if they re-up. you never know.
    6. finally, they need to de-hawk the stadium as much as they can for this game. I don’t want that sterile NFL feeling at the Apple Cup. I can hardly stand it when we are playing Nevada.

  13. jv Says:

    Stop saying Seattle is a “neutral site” please. Our team has to travel and stay in a hotel in the other teams hometown. That is as neutral as playing Stanford at Candlestick park.

  14. Longball Says:

    JV, if this was such a great home field advantage for the Huskies, they would be excited about this, but they hate it too.

    We could never draw over 50k fans for a game in Pullman like we have in Seattle. Most Coug fans live along the I5 corridor between Portland and Vancouver, BC. Western Wa Cougs have proven they are much more willing to drive to Seattle from 100 or more miles away then Spokane fans have ever been willing to drive the measly 72 miles to Pullman.

    The fact is that Eastern WA Coug fans could voice their concerns a lot louder with their money and support instead of just ranting here and on other blogs and message boards. To all the people talking about pulling their support, there is no better way to make this move permanent.

    As far as travel goes, I dont think our kids are going to get super bent out of shape about traveling to Seattle and shacking up at the W. Heck, even for Pullman games they stay at the University Inn in Moscow the night before.

  15. Soze Says:

    Shitting on the eastern Washington Cougs needs to stop and it needs to stop now.

  16. Ja-Mocha Says:

    Oh but it will be spendy.

    Look at how much UW already charges for the game. $70 for reserved in their house, $35 for bleachers? Trinity might be right.

  17. kaddy Says:

    I know that Floyd is behind it – we’ll have to wait and see. I’m sure Sterk will go into a lot of detail at the fundraiser on 6/5 down here.

  18. san francisco coug Says:

    Spokane and other eastern Washington Cougs are doing a great job of attending games, per capita. It’s just that there aren’t many people who live in eastern Washington.

    And of course I mean “great job” by Northwest standards. If WSU, UW, OSU and OU were in Alabama and Mississippi we’d be expanding our stadium to 100,000 right now. Nothing wrong with that – we have lives outside of football in the PNW.

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