You know, for it being firmly in the offseason of Cougar sports, it sure seems like the news just refuses to slow down. It was a busy weekend, which we haven't had the chance to catch up on until now, and there is some news breaking tonight.
We'll get to the news you're probably most interested in first. You know how we all have been wondering just how it is that the Cougs seem to have a ton of offers out there for the 2010 basketball recruiting class? Part of the mystery has been solved tonight, as guard Nick Witherill has been granted his release from the program.
It's not real surprising, given the glut we've got at guard right now, and Ken Bone's noted preference for faster guards who can push the tempo. What is surprising is this little tidbit from Vince Grippi:
During the waning days of Tony Bennett’s tenure in Pullman, the Cougar coach made it clear he was going to ask Witherill to look elsewhere.
This is the dirty side of collegiate sports, ladies and gentleman, and while we all wanted to think Bennett was above it -- long since disproven of course -- no program is immune.
I'm pissed about this. Not because I think this makes the Cougars worse; I think there were serious questions about whether he was ever going to be a meaningful contributor. No, I'm mad because Witherill deserved better.
By all accounts, Witherill is a great guy. He was the first player to commit to that amazing class of last year, a guy the Cougs were on a long time ago. You can read all about it in a story Grady wrote for Cougfan about a year ago. He believed in what Bennett was doing. He appeared to be the quintessential Cougar.
But he became a victim of circumstance. Klay Thompson and Mike Harthun committed. Then Marcus Capers committed extremely late after Taylor Rochestie ... well, you know. Suddenly, there was a glut in the backcourt, and as Jo-Jo pointed out multiple times last season, someone was probably going to have to go.
Turns out, it was Witherill -- the guy who believed in Bennett, only to see his redshirt burned for a handful of meaningless minutes and then shown the door. He'll land on his feet; even if he'd redshirted he'd still be sitting out a year wherever he went. But I guess that's the point -- Witherill wasted two years of his basketball career. It's terrible, and a shame.
Bone said he's not going to use the open scholarship this year -- no big surprise there.
OK, now that I'm off my high horse, let's move on to other news.
Jeshua Anderson continued his march to repeat as the NCAA 400-meter hurdles champ last weekend, winning the event in the West Regionals. His winning time of 50.31 seconds was nearly a second-and-a-half off his season best, but it still was almost a half-second better than the second-place finisher. Not bad, as Anderson simply has his eyes on the prize.
"I think the race went well today. It was pretty windy on the backstretch but I just cruised through and tried not to push it so I could get healthy for the NCAAs," Anderson said. "If you don't take these (regional) races seriously, it can be bad. I try to stay hungry, stay humble. I will do my best to defend the NCAA title. The Olympic Trials gave me experience and helped out with the rounds. I'm taking this is in stride, and hopefully I'll run smarter and faster."
Also winning a regional title was senior Justin Woods in the 200-meter sprint. Anderson and woods will be joined by nine other Cougs in the NCAA championships, next weekend at the University of Arkansas.
Now on to more mundane news. The athletic department was supposed to have its budget for the upcoming school year finalized by yesterday, but like everyone else, they received an extension from President Floyd. Freelancer Howie Stalwick checks in with this piece for Cougfan.com, notable because it's the first time (that I know of) that AD Jim Sterk has gone on record as saying no sports will be cut for next year, but that he can "never say never" about 2010-11.
The one sport we don't have to worry about?
"There’s been no talk of baseball at all as far as being cut," Sterk said.
That's welcome news.
Additionally, the athletic department is still exploring its options with Phase III of the remodel of Martin Stadium. It seems counter intuitive, until you note what's going on in the construction industry right now.
"Some of my alums have sent articles that Washington State DOT [Department of Transportation] projects in January, February and March have been 29 percent below estimate, 26 percent, 22 percent," Sterk says. "That's a pretty significant savings if you're talking about a $40 million project."
"We think there's an opportunity there," says John Johnson, WSU associate athletic director and its chief fundraiser. "It may be, oddly enough, a time when that project becomes more affordable."
Of course, the key is securing financing, something that will be tough to do without ... donations!
Speaking of football, do you realize training camp is now just two months away? That means it's time for meaningless preseason predictions and lists, kicking off today with Phil Steele's all-Pac-10 teams. Believe it or not, there are six Cougs in there, led by second-team center Kenny Alfred. It's a well-deserved honor for a guy who could be a big time pro sleeper come next April. Remember, he was on the fast track to becoming one of the league's dominant interior linemen until injuries sidetracked him. He's been playing through a lot of pain the last two years; seeing what he can really do this year would go a long way toward shoring up our o-line issues.
"He has to wear this body cast for about two more months after he gets home," his father said. "Anytime he's up above 30 degrees [of body incline], he has to put that on first. That supports the spine so the weight of the upper body doesn't compress the repairs. "It's not a fun thing for him to wear. He says, 'I look like a Ninja turtle.' "
Once the swelling goes down, they'll be able to determine just what the actual damage is and what kinds of limitations (if any) he might have for the rest of his life.
That's it for tonight.