Brian's edit: Bumped. Give it a read, add some thoughts in the comments.
Sitting in the stands Saturday, it was very hard to feel good about the direction of Cougar football. I know the Cougs are better. How much better, I'm still not sure. Yes, Cal had to work. But this Cal team isn't what Cal was in the last few years, either.
This was the first game I've been to in Pullman this year. And what I saw off the field bothered me more than what I saw on it. Although I've never read it in print, it sounds like the construction of the luxury suites and club is somewhere between the back burner and Grandma's deep freeze. If the support isn't there, having them can be worse than not having premium seating, ask Colorado and Oregon State. Both of which built and have trouble filling the expensive seats, so I get that. Moos seems to think the football-only facility is more important at this juncture. In Moos, I trust.
But I also understand the economic reality that without that revenue and additional support for the scholarships, WSU is going to continue to struggle to fund a competitive program. When the scholarships aren't paid for by us, the fans, TV and advertising dollars and any other incremental revenue have to back fill that gap. That's money that can't be spent on a new scoreboard in Beasley, better compensation for assistant coaches or other things on the athletic department wish list. The scholarship bill gets paid first.
Then there was the attitude. I've never heard WSU fans so negative. I talked to people at the basketball game Friday night and all around on Saturday. Despite the excitement over Faisal Aden, I didn't hear one person come close to the measured and cautiously optimistic support I've seen read. Those that were there (and there weren't many) wanted Wulff gone. To a person. Which left me to wonder, will these fans ever warm up to Wulff? An Apple Cup win goes a long way but, today at least, it doesn't feel like enough in the court of public opinion.
I don't envy Moos. Firing Wulff costs money. Keeping him is a tough sale to the fans and donors that are left and probably doesn't encourage those that have walked, driven and flown away from the program to come back. What can WSU's budget afford in a coaching search where $600,000 doesn't buy much? Does Moos have somebody willing to write the kind of check that makes that range closer to $1 million per year? That's not pocket change. I'm not sure what good a search does if you can't come closer to that figure. Sure there's Pac-12 money coming, but until he knows what that's really going to look like, can you abandon caution if you are Moos? In Moos, I trust.
I know what an amazing environment Pullman can be on game day. I'm blessed to have been there for so many great times. It is an incredible place it is to go to school and it hurt to see the town half empty. From the bars on Friday night and to the wide open sections of aluminum bleachers to lonely parking lot volunteers guarding spaces in which no one parked, I can't remember game day in Pullman quite like that. I remember the fieldhouse bursting at the seams, with a line to Colorado Street to get in. The drive out of town used to be a line to Colfax on Sunday morning. Yesterday it was a breeze. My Sunday flight home used to be full of people in Coug gear. Most of the people at the Spokane airport seemed more interested in the NFL and definitely hadn't spent their Saturday afternoon in Pullman.
For most of the last three years, I've been focused on the rebuilding that has to happen on the field. This weekend opened my eyes to the enormous rebuilding task ahead for Moos and his fundraisers and marketing types. I trust Moos. I know he wants WSU to succeed in all the right ways. We all get that winning is the greatest tonic of all. But realistically, how soon do those much needed wins come? How much longer can the program survive without them?
With Wulff or without him, this looks like a really long climb right now. Thanks for letting me vent.