This is the first part in a series of posts about the WSU-Oregon Qwest Field proposal. I'm starting with the easy part: The WSU side of the equation. Posts examining the Oregon side, which is probably the most important aspect, and all alternatives to the plan are also forthcoming.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was a fan of Jim Sterk moving the Oregon game from Martin Stadium to Qwest Field. To me, the answer at the time was simple and the amount of money to be made outweighed the loss of losing a home-field advantage.
Then Bill Moos stepped in, taking a mediocre proposal that was no more than a cash grab and changing it to a neutral site game with rivalry rules. Make no mistake about it, this proposal is great for WSU. So great, that we should be shoving the paperwork under the new Oregon AD's nose as soon as they even hint towards liking it.
The first, and most important, aspect that makes this appealing is money. The discussion begins and ends with money for WSU. Everything else that may come with this game is an added bonus.
In order to be thorough, it's necessary to look at what shape WSU would be in with and without the game. At Martin Stadium, WSU pulls in around $2 million dollars in revenue from home games per year. A game at Qwest would nearly surpass that if the cards fell the right way. In a normal year, WSU would pull in around $300,000 to $400,000 for themselves, after cutting a check to visiting teams for $200,000.
A game at Qwest is rumored to guarantee between $1-2 million per team per year. Each team would get half of the tickets and half of the revenue.
Over a two year cycle, WSU is looking at between $2 and $4 million. Presently, a two year cycle of home and home games nets WSU around $600,000 (400 for a home game, 200 for an away game). The money is a no-brainer for WSU. In a time where the athletic department budget is easily the smallest in the conference, this kind of game is needed.
Can a WSU-Oregon game sell out Qwest? Yes, I have no doubt it can. WSU games in Seattle have drawn well, given the right opponents. Oklahoma State drew over 50,000 and the first year, against Nevada, drew 63,588. If it wasn't for a lack of big name opponents, the Qwest game probably would have been a more rousing success.
WSU wouldn't be the only contributor to attendance, either. Oregon fans have a presence in Seattle and Portland, home to many Ducks, is about 3 hours away. A 50/50 distribution of tickets creates a situation where all each school has to do is fill 30,000 seats. No problem.
For the Cougs, a return to Seattle, especially with the draw of the Ducks, brings new life to the biggest fund raising weekend for the university. Remember, this isn't just a football game, but a week of events leading up to it. The game is a great draw to bring in Seattle area Cougs and get them to open their wallets.
For Wulff and the football team, playing at Qwest allows them to take the team to a professional stadium, one of the nicest in the country, and use it as a recruiting tool. Not only will Wulff be able to host recruits there every other year, but he'll be able to promise recruits a game every year in Seattle against Oregon.
For the athletic department, this cuts the cost of travel a bit. Instead of traveling to Autzen every other year, WSU will travel to Qwest Field every year. However, a game at Autzen only guarantees $200,000 for the visitor, while a Seattle trip garnering at least a million dollars will easily offset having to travel every year. It takes away the advantage of playing at home, but also does the same for Oregon.
Finally, a game at Qwest against Oregon with a neutral ticket split would be fun. If WSU can pull it together on the field, a neutral site game in that environment would be exciting for the fans, the athletes, and the schools involved. 30,000 fans per team, dressed in their colors, screaming their heads off would be an awesome environment. Is it artificially creating a rivalry? Sure, but it's also doing so in a way that could be fun for both fans.
There is no reason WSU shouldn't like this proposal. The Cougs give up a home game, but the Ducks would do the same. The money, recruiting, and added benefits for the university make this a no-brainer. Get it done, Bill.