CougFam was founded by Jill Osur-Myers, the mother of WSU offensive lineman Noah Osur-Myers, and is affiliated with the Cougar Athletic Fund.
She might be a University of California alum, but it took just one weekend in Pullman for CougFam founder Jill Osur-Myers to fall in love with the Washington State athletic program when she accompanied her son, freshman offensive lineman Noah Osur-Myers, on his official visit last year.
“It was like being transported back in time to where things like honor and respect and pride were at the forefront, and things like family and community were potent,” Osur-Myers recalls.
When Noah and his parents returned to Pullman for the Apple Cup and the spring game, they met receiver River Cracraft’s mom, Tracy, who introduced them to family members of other WSU football players.
“We realized that, while we were fortunate to be included by the Cracrafts, that not every family was having that experience,” Osur-Myers said. “I knew Noah would have a spectacular time here, but I wanted to make sure that we would have a place for the next four to five years, where we could have a spectacular time, too.”
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That’s how CougFam was born. With Tracy Cracraft’s help, Osur-Myers started a booster organization to bring family members of current WSU football players together and give former players and their families a space to gather at games. So far it has been a roaring success.
“At the last home game, I took a step back and looked at our tent and enjoyed the fact that people were connecting — people whose kids had been on the team for years, who didn’t know each other,” said Osur-Myers, who is based in Walnut Creek, Calif., and runs a winery group and wine-distribution company.
CougFam operates mainly off a private Facebook group where family members post and receive updates about things such as where the WSU football team will stay on the road, who needs a ride from the airport or what the team’s schedule is in a given week.
For the Sun Bowl, where the Cougars will face Miami on Saturday, Cracraft and Osur-Myers worked with a travel company called GROUPeTRIPS to secure a block of hotel rooms at a discount and organize a Christmas Eve happy hour and a private Christmas dinner for Cougar football families.
All this is done with the full support of the WSU athletic department. Osur-Myers connected with athletic director Bill Moos after the spring game this year and volunteered to start a family organization affiliated with the Cougar Athletic Fund to connect the family members of WSU football players.
“I knew that one component of CougFam would be that we tie it to a Cougar Athletic Fund membership, because they’re giving so much to our sons and every parent should give back in some way and become part of the Cougar family,” Osur-Myers said.
Moos loved the idea. He assigned Mitch Stiltjes, a program assistant with the CAF, to be WSU’s liaison to CougFam, and helped the budding organization secure a $30,000 donation from IMG, WSU’s media-rights partner, to sponsor a tent for pregame tailgating in the Cougarville area before all home football games.
CougFam’s membership fee this past season ranged from $150 to $250 (depending on family size), and included membership to the Cougar Athletic Fund, an official hat, entry to the CougFam tent at home football games, and a pregame meal. At road games, CougFam piggybacks on the WSU Alumni Association’s tailgate. A scholarship fund also has been set up to help families who can’t afford the CougFam membership.
Stiltjes estimates that the Facebook group has grown to more than 100 members, and that about 50 to 60 percent of the football players’ families are associated with CougFam.
“One of the boys, Hunter Dale, is from New Orleans, and now we’ve gotten to know his mom even though she doesn’t get to come up to games very much,” said Kim Pelluer, the mother of WSU linebacker Peyton Pelluer. “Now when she does come up to games, we already know her, and we’ve also gotten to know other parents from Hawaii, Oregon or California. How everyone communicates is on the CougFam Facebook page.”
Even as she maps out CougFam activities for the Sun Bowl, Osur-Myers already is looking toward the future.
She wants to set up hotel-room blocks at discount for Cougar football families during road games to reduce travel costs, she has spoken with a hotel in Pullman about reserving a block of rooms for family members on football weekends next year, and she wants to hold a number of rooms for parents of incoming freshmen.
“That’s the toughest thing, because you don’t sign (national letters of intent) till February, and then there’s nothing left in Pullman,” Osur-Myers said.
With her other son, Ryan Myers, joining the WSU baseball team this year, Osur-Myers has mulled the idea of extending CougFam to parents of athletes in other WSU sports. But at the moment, the focus is on football.