Steve Sarkisian may not like it, and Washington Huskies fans may protest, but Ol’ Crimson and Stripey will rise out of the crowd behind ESPN’s “College GameDay” set and flap in the breeze just as it has for the past 10 years.
Things might get a little awkward Saturday morning considering the show is being broadcast for the first time from the University of Washington.
But Cameron McCoy, the man behind the Washington State University flags’ weekly appearance on the pregame college football show, said tradition trumps rivalry.
“It’s about being a Coug and being proud to be a Coug,” he said during a telephone interview from Norman, Okla., on Thursday. “It’s not about UW-WSU or anything like that.”
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It’s also about a streak: 138 games and counting.
Back in 2003, Tom Pounds, WSU class of 1981, drove 600 miles from Albuquerque, N.M., to Austin, Texas, and flew a WSU flag during the live “GameDay” telecast.
A few weeks later, another WSU alum wanted to do the same thing at a “GameDay” show in Madison, Wis., and the streak began.
“We started out doing this to try to get ‘College GameDay’ to go to Pullman back when we were better in football than the past few years,” McCoy said. “It’s sort of taking on a life of its own.”
It’s a tradition that has its own website (olcrimson.org), Twitter account (@olcrimson) and Facebook page. But initially, Pounds organized an army of WSU followers who made sure the flags would fly each week. He did it for six years until McCoy, a 1998 WSU grad, took over.
The operation is fairly simple: Once ESPN decides where the traveling show is going, McCoy checks his roster of 200 or so alums. Once he finds someone willing to carry the flags, they’re shipped by FedEx.
There are two flags: a 5-by-7-foot nylon burgundy/crimson flag with a white WSU Cougar logo called Ol’ Crimson and a 5-by-7 gray flag with crimson logo called Stripey.
“You might think during all this time that one week the streak would be snapped, but it hasn’t,” McCoy said. “I don’t think anyone wants to be the one to be responsible for that.”
Don’t tell that to Sarkisian.
On his weekly radio show this week, the Washington football coach joked that Husky supporters might try to snap WSU’s flag-waving streak.
However, “GameDay” senior producer Lee Fitting said the tradition will continue.
“Some of the Husky fans may not like it, but it’s awesome,” he said. “Wazzu has been known as the stepchild of the Pac-12 the last several years and they’re out representing their school. We’ve sort of sunk our teeth into that. It’s cool. It’ll be here on Saturday and we’ll make sure the people that are waving the flag are well-protected and out of harm’s way. I don’t foresee any issues with that.”
Fitting also believes it won’t be too long until Washington State hosts its first “GameDay” show.
“I think we’ll be there sooner rather than later,” he said. “I have no doubt we’ll be there in the next couple of years.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @percyallen.