Oregon AD Mike Bellotti says Cougars AD Jim Sterk called to talk about the move

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Washington State’s search to continue its series of football games at Qwest Field — and to balance its budget — could lead the Cougars back to a Pac-10 Conference opponent.

WSU has approached Oregon about playing a game at Qwest — presumably the Cougars’ 2010 home game with the Ducks in Pullman — and has been in discussions to that effect with First and Goal, which operates Qwest.

Oregon athletic director Mike Bellotti confirmed Wednesday he had had a conversation with his counterpart at Washington State.

“Jim Sterk called me and said they may move our game there,” Bellotti said.

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Asked late last week whether there were talks ongoing to play the Ducks at Qwest, Sterk said only, “All you’re going to get from me right now is, we’re looking at our options. It’s too preliminary.

“We’re entertaining all options. Nothing is imminent.”

As for whether a multiyear deal could be a possibility, Bellotti said, “We have not pursued that. The discussions have not even progressed.”

Only months ago, WSU and Washington were close to a six-year deal that would have put the Apple Cup game at Qwest, one estimated to have brought as much as $6 million to $10 million per school over the life of the contract.

But that fell through as the schools squabbled over ticket allotment.

Meanwhile, the Cougars, who have played a nonleague game at Qwest each of the past eight seasons, have no opponent in place there for 2010.

The game has annually capped a week of WSU-related events in the area designed to bring west-side boosters and alumni closer to the school. School president Elson Floyd has been an open supporter of the Qwest game and surrounding activities.

At the same time, the WSU athletic department is like most in enduring hard budgetary times, exacerbated by the struggles of a rebuilding football program. The Cougars drew only 22,386 for their Pac-10 opener against Stanford on Sept. 5 and likely will see more slim home crowds this season.

Last week, regarding the future at Qwest, Sterk told The Spokane Spokesman-Review, “We need to create an event that drives more revenue.”

Pac-10 associate commissioner Jim Muldoon said he couldn’t recall of a team taking a league game off campus in the conference since WSU regularly did it before the expansion of Martin Stadium three decades ago.

WSU played its “home” games with Washington from 1956-80 in Spokane, as well as games with some other conference opponents, last of which is listed by WSU as the California game in 1981. The Cougars also played USC in the then-brand-new Kingdome in Seattle in 1976.

Muldoon said he doesn’t think anything in league bylaws would prevent WSU from making the move unilaterally, especially since “they’ve established [Qwest] as sort of a secondary home field.”

That’s also the belief of Bellotti, who said, “If I did have veto power, I wouldn’t use it.”

Anderson quits football

Jeshua Anderson, Washington State’s second-leading receiver last season, has decided to put away his football gear to concentrate on track full-time, the school said Wednesday.

Anderson, a junior, started both games this season, catching four passes for 66 yards. He caught 33 in 2008 for 305 yards and two touchdowns.

His football success paled in comparison to his track achievements. His freshman season he won the NCAA 400-meter hurdle title in 48.69, a school record, and the USA Junior Championship in 49.28. Last spring, Anderson won the Pac-10, West Regional and repeated as NCAA champion.

With Anderson departing the team, WSU will be missing three starters on offense Saturday when the Cougars host SMU. Receiver Gino Simone (concussion) and guard Zack Williams (high ankle sprain) have already been ruled out.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com; The Spokesman-Review contributed to this article.

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