Editor's Note: Nuss here. Since we've spent a lot of time talking about the positives of the probable move of the Apple Cup to Qwest Field in Seattle, I wanted to give some space to those who are absolutely against this. So I hit up my buddy Mike, who composed some of the more eloquent comments against the proposal in the other posts. He's a true-blooded crimson of a Coug as a I know, was a sports management major, has worked in the professional sports industry, and eventually wants to get into college athletics administration. He's got a unique perspective. Enjoy.
When I first caught wind of the Apple Cup's potential long-term move to Qwest Field I went through an array of emotions and I'll be honest, none of them were positive. I guess with being a former employee of the Evil Emperor himself, Clay Bennett, I have seen too much selling out the last couple years and none of it was butts in seats! Anytime I hear discussion of bright shiny new ideas or enticing sports revenue schemes, my gut reminds me of the old phrase, "If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is."
I had a front row seat for Clay Bennett and his executive staff putting together their "compelling" argument on how financially viable a world-class Renton Event Center would be in Seattle. Within months, I saw him twist and turn those very same figures to prove to the NBA why the franchise would be better off in Oklahoma City, of all places. Numbers can be slanted and skewed to make anything sound viable, and that is why the $2 million guaranteed revenue doesn't hold a lot of weight with me.
Now I know Sterk is not trying to sabotage the situation like Clay Bennett did, but I do think the pressure of tuition hikes and state budget cuts have to be wearing on the guy. I'm just concerned he might be getting all of us into one of those "get rich quick" pit-falls. We have all been pitched a pyramid or multi-level marketing scheme by our friends or family, and right now UW and WSU are sitting at the Starbucks ready to sign-on underneath the triangle that is First & Goal. I will not be surprised if it comes out to be less than the $2 million per year, and more importantly, I see us losing money in other areas which will only counter such a big payout.
Sorry for being such a Debbie Downer, but I'll give some potentially negative effects of a Qwest Apple Cup.
First off, either this pending deal is a sign that Phase III and IV of the Martin Stadium Project are indefinitely on hold, or they will be put on hold because of this deal. I just don't see there being enough interest in adding the luxury items to Martin Stadium when one of the main attractions is removed from Pullman. I know Apple Cup in Pullman only happens every other year, but if you believe many of the long-term season ticket holders who have spoken out so far on the situation, they have kept their season tickets for two reasons: moving down into better seats, and assurance of Apple Cup tickets. Dwindling season ticket revenue aside, do we really need an addition 5,000 seats for the likes of Idaho, Portland State, and Oregon State?
With the Seattle game being moved back to Pullman in return of the Apple Cup, I'm starting to think the Gridiron Classic was a big bust. All we have heard in the few comments made towards the Apple Cup deal, is that the contract for the Gridiron Classic was nearing its end and they had to re-evaluate everything. If the Seattle game was financially successful, then my thought is First & Goal is just trying to make a power-play for something bigger and better. Either way, moving the Gridiron Classic back to Pullman will be a drop in revenue and needs to be considered when taking the $2 million guarantee into consideration.
As I've mentioned in a few of my previous comments on CougCenter posts, for me personally the location is ideal (I live 5 minutes away from Qwest). What I'm concerned with is the minority voices that might not be getting their fair shake. By minority voice, I'm talking about the student body and east side alumni.
Especially in comparison to UW's stadium financing project, our students stepped up big-time for the Martin Stadium remodel. I could be a little off, but I think the first two phases were completed primarily through $27 million -- which was committed by the students through self-imposed fees and ticket surcharges. Would they have been so eager to help if they knew they would have to travel to Seattle for the Apple Cup, sit in the end zone instead of the 50 yard line, and potentially never see Phase III or IV of their home stadium? This, of course, is in addition to potentially having their tuition hiked 14 percent on them the next couple years. If I were a current student, I would demand ASWSU to have a voice in these negotiations.
We once said the Seattle game would be a huge recruiting tool, being able to see 50,000 Cougars cheer on their football team, blah, blah, blah. Now that the Gridiron Classic will be disappearing, will the Apple Cup in Seattle make up for it in appeal? Will recruits -- who are probably getting recruited by UW just as much as they are WSU -- look into the stand and say, "Wow those 33,000 Cougar fans seem much more affectionate towards their team than the 33,000 Husky fans do!" or "Man, that WSU Marching Band is ten times better than UW's." I'm sorry, but promoting the Apple Cup in Seattle as a recruiting advantage is hog-wash. If anything, it will re-iterate to potential recruits how far WSU still has to go.
I wish I were a compliance director, because another thing I have been wondering about -- in order to be considered an official visit, doesn't a recruiting trip have to be within 30 miles of your home campus? If that is the case, how will we be getting a recruiting advantage when UW is bringing in recruits on official trips, when WSU cannot? Even if permitted, would Wulff want to bring recruits to the Apple Cup now? Are they going to commit on the spot without seeing the campus, checking out the athletic facilities, and their particular educational program?
Husky side note: I don't know how many season ticket holders UW has, but how can they be excited about only being allotted 33,000 seats per year when their home stadium gives them about 65,000 to work with? I know they are not all season ticket holders, but it has to be putting the crunch on their seating arrangements. Before we blindly start accepting the idea and this 50/50 Utopian split, be careful not to get your hopes up too high. Apple Cup could very easily turn into a 60/40 or 70/30 if UW gets their way in the negotiations. Part of the reason why I hate going to Husky Stadium for Apple Cups is there is just way too much arrogance in one place! To never have a safe-haven of Cougar Pride (every other year -- so be it!), it could kill the Apple Cup for me. I would rather watch it on TV with close friends than be spewed the same crap from drunk, egotistical Huskies talking about their "history and tradition."
Finally, from a side note to a personal note. When I first stepped foot on campus in Pullman -- August of 1998 -- I was sadly *gulp* a default Husky fan. I grew up on the west-side, listened to Husky games on the radio, watched the Rose Bowls on TV. My first year on campus, although I rooted for WSU, I could care less if they won or loss. The 1998 Apple Cup was sadly my moment to see the Husky team up close for the first time -- nothing more, nothing less.
In 1999, I changed my major to sport management and started learning about the short-comings that WSU faces, especially in comparison to other Pac-10 athletic departments. It was impressive how they actually perform very well for the circumstances. I really started to grasp and embrace the under-dog mentality with which all true Cougs have been accustomed!
The 2000 Apple Cup rolled around and I was on the field working with the television crew. The temperature was about 8 degrees at kickoff and with the wind-chill it had to be dipping below zero. I had sold my stocking cap to a Cougar alum for $20 bucks, so I was already freezing (terrible decision by the way!). Before the kickoff, some of our crew kept warm by sitting on the Huskies' new heated seats, complete with special slots to warm your hands and feet. These had recently been donated to them by Paul Allen's Seahawks. While we were playing on our newly installed Field Turf which our alum had so proudly raised the funds; the Huskies were also getting new Field Turf installed at their stadium- again, a donation by the Hawks. As the home team, WSU players sat on their cold metal benches with two or three electric space heaters in between (one of which I accidentally unplugged, much to the ire of the team).
By halftime we were already getting blown out. One of the sideline reporters (might have been Lewis Johnson), had placed a vase of roses on the Cougar side of the field. I guess he was going to do a piece on the Huskies upcoming trip to the Rose Bowl and wanted to do it right in front of the WSU student section. (How smart!) Well, the student body started calling for me to throw them the roses, and I was obviously torn on what to do. Should I sabotage the bit and never work a game again; or piss off my fellow students?
Well, luckily a couple of WSU offensive linemen had come out of the tunnel and quickly spotted the vase, before I could even form my decision. The next thing I know the reporter is asking me why I fed his roses to the crowd?! I say fed, because when I turned around to see where they ended up, they were literally being chewed on and ripped apart by WSU students! A couple of hours later, the UW faithful rushed our field, hung from our goal posts and it was at that moment I embraced "being a Coug."
This is also the reason why the Apple Cup in Pullman, holds so much meaning for me personally. I'm passionate about sticking up for the students, because I know there are a lot of new Cougs that haven't yet grasped what "Once a Coug, Always a Coug" means. Maybe for them it becomes a freezing, miserable, lopsided Apple Cup in Pullman when it finally clicks! Two million dollars is a lot of money, but there are some factors that we might be unable to calculate into dollars and cents.