PULLMAN — Like Renoir applying the last touch to one of his 19th-century works, Bill Moos looked out on a gathering of 30 media folks here Tuesday with a question.
“Well,” he said, “what do you think?”
We think the new Cougar Football Complex is well-designed. We think it’s functional. In terms of what preceded it, we think it’s a triumph.
But, back at you, Bill Moos, a question: Before the bountiful Pac-12 TV contracts began spreading cash around the conference, how did Washington State ever get to two Rose Bowls in a six-year period not so long ago? How did the Cougars win 30 games in three years?
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As WSU conducted a media tour of its new football digs, you couldn’t help but wonder how it was workable before but outdated now. That’s the reality, though, with the Pac-12’s lockstep march to new facilities: You may not be positioning yourself far ahead of everybody else, but you’d better not fall far behind.
What the Cougars have bought for $61 million (no tax dollars), you wouldn’t call opulent. Opulent is Oregon, with its German-built lockers and Ferrari-grade leather seats. Nor would I call WSU’s purchase spectacular; that’s the view from the new Washington football offices toward Lake Washington.
But WSU unveiled a facility that’s well-appointed, tasteful and without question a place of which it can be proud. They say that when they took seniors to the locker room recently, they weren’t so much giddy as they were stunned.
In his office east of Martin Stadium, the school president, Elson Floyd, invoked an adjective used in advertisements for the university:
“It’s world-class,” Floyd said.
As Moos, now in his fourth year as athletic director, tells it, it’s the next logical step in pushing WSU’s football profile back to prominence, a process that got a foothold last year with a first bowl appearance in 10 seasons.
Talking about Pullman, Moos said, “Parents fall in love with it because it’s clean, it’s safe. There’s no freeways, no drive-by shootings. If we could recruit the parents, we’d be in the Rose Bowl every year.”
Recruits want to indulge Mom and Dad, but they also want hydrotherapy when they get hurt, and a weight room dedicated to football only, and a general sense that football is important where they’re going to school.
Now they’ve got it at WSU. The Cougars can’t give them Lake Washington and they can’t promise a beach 10 miles away, but they can tell recruits they can maximize themselves here as well as anywhere else.
“Now we take a back seat to nobody,” said Moos.
“This is going to be the place where kids want to go,” said Jeremiah Allison, a WSU linebacker from Los Angeles.
On the first of five levels, Moos showed off the locker room and called it “as good as it gets, in the NFL or whatever.”
“If I saw that locker room when I was being recruited,” said quarterback Connor Halliday, talking about an 11,610 square-foot rambler twice the size of the old one, “I’d have committed on the spot.”
The weight room dominates the second level, cushioned from below with a spring-supported floor. The third level is the public face, with WSU’s best colorfully displayed along a 125-foot timeline facing the practice fields to the west.
Occupying the upper floors are meeting rooms, coaches’ offices and the Gray W legends lounge, a gathering spot for ex-players on game day. The rest of the week, that space is an all-sports training table.
The building seems to integrate into the space between Martin Stadium and the practice fields, and it’s apt to squeeze noise in. Receivers, meanwhile, may use another adjective besides cozy to describe a mere 13-foot, 8-inch separation between the west end line and a retaining wall.
Reminiscing, Moos said of the dual football press box/football ops projects, “I’ll bet we went before the regents 10 times.”
They’re servicing $125 million bonded debt on the two buildings, at $7 million per year, so it has come at a price. But the Cougars are convinced they’re paying it forward.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281