All I can say today is ... wow. The discussion has been amazing, and I love the fact that people are presenting rational, thoughtful arguments on both sides of the issue. To be honest, I'm pretty shocked that I'm so far in the minority in thinking moving the Apple Cup to a neutral stadium in Seattle is a great idea. I anticipated that there would be a segment of Coug Nation that would find this a terrible idea, but I honestly did not expect this kind of backlash.
Some of the reasons for people hating this are perfectly valid. I am sympathetic to students who will now miss out on Apple Cups at Martin Stadium. One of the reasons I picked WSU over UW was the college town atmosphere -- as a lifelong Husky, I remember thinking on my first visit to Pullman as a senior in high school how cool it was that the football stadium was in the middle of campus. Part of the experience of being a Coug is being able to get up, prefunk with your friends, then walk down to the stadium to watch a big-time football game on a Saturday afternoon. I feel you on that. Additionally, the hit to Pullman's economy isn't a good thing. I get that, too. And there are other reasonable opposing views on this as well.
But I think people are overblowing some of these arguments, especially when you consider that we're not just talking about a small revenue jump from playing the game at Qwest -- we're talking about a 300-percent, change-your-entire-athletic-budget kind of revenue jump.
Regarding the students: Let's distinguish between the hardcore students who will truly miss the Martin Stadium experience and the fair weather students whom Paul Wulff and Jim Sterk had to beg to stay in town for the Apple Cup this year. I remember going to the 1996 Apple Cup where Corey Dillon ran up and down the field as the 12th-ranked Huskies raced out to a big lead. Guess what happened to that home field advantage? It went early to the bars -- for a time, I was one of about 2,000 students left in the stadium. Only when the Cougs came back and eventually forced overtime did many of the students come back into the stadium. I think you're fooling yourself if you pretend that the vast majority of our students are rabid football fans who live and die to go the game in Pullman.
Take from someone who's old enough to have seen a lot of games: What hardcore fans like you are going remember are the games themselves -- the venue is only a small part of that. My favorite Apple Cup memory as a student didn't come in Pullman. It came at the 1997 Apple Cup at Husky Stadium. Part of that was beating UW on their turf, but it had far more to do with the game itself, as well as the game's implications. The same thing goes for the games I've attended since. And I have tons of memories at Martin Stadium that have absolutely nothing to do with the Apple Cup, as I'm sure you all do, to. Those experiences won't be diminished by playing the Apple Cup in Seattle.
Hardcore students like you will figure out a way to get there, and besides -- this actually should give you a better chance to see the game every year, as I'm sure there will be sizeable student sections on both sides. I obviously don't know what the number allotted for this game will be, but even if it's only like 5,000, that's 5,000 that will go to the hardcore fans every year. The only reason I got to see the 1997 Apple Cup was because we camped out all night to get one of the 600 or so student tickets UW allotted us. I would have jumped at the opportunity to have a better chance to see the game every year I was in school.
As for the economic impact to Pullman, we're talking about one big game every two years. I just don't see where this is a major back-breaker for these businesses. Additionally, because this would technically be considered a neutral site game, what's to prevent WSU from scheduling a sixth home game in Pullman? I'm not familiar with the NCAA rules on scheduling, but I would think this is a possibility.
Somebody also referenced Nick Daschel's scathing piece at Buster Sports. Daschel covered the Cougs for years for The Columbian in Vancouver, so he generally knows what he's talking about. But I think he's way off base with a couple of his argments.
First, he argues that it will become a de facto home game for the Huskies. That's just preposterous. If we can sell 50,000 tickets to a meaningless game against Oklahoma State in November, don't you think we can sell 33,000 tickets to the Apple Cup? Do you really think that Husky fans are more hardcore than we are, and will figure out ways to get their dirty paws on a substantial number of our tickets? I just don't see it.
He also argues that this is likely to make it harder to sell season tickets. I don't see that either. Do you honestly think Sterk is going to cut off his nose to spite his face? My guess is that this will be part of your season ticket package, and for that reason this will become a major selling point for the Cougs. Think about it: If you buy season tickets to WSU, you're virtually guaranteed to get an Apple Cup ticket every year. Sure, your overall package price will probably go up, as First & Goal is going to probably make the tickets really expensive in order to meet that money guarantee, but the net trade off will be clear -- and it will be positive.
Now, I'm probably going to tick off a few people with my last couple of points, so brace yourselves.
I'm getting a little nauseous listening to those who are romanticizing the game in Pullman at the expense of the truth. Snow? When was the last time we truly had snow? It's been 17 years, people. If we're truly honest, I think we'd admit that freezing our nuts off for four-plus hours (or longer if you're a student) in November in Pullman is really only cool when we're winning, and incredibly irritating the rest of the time.
And this stuff about keeping it there because it sucks for UW to have to come play us? As much as we want to believe Martin Stadium creates a home-field advantage for the boys, our record in games in Pullman since the move in 1982 is 6-8; our record in Seattle since then is 5-8. Once you take a hard look at actual facts, what you're left with is a desire to cause an inconvenience for the 5,000 or so Huskies who travel across the state to watch the game. And that just seems kind of petty.
So, let me ask you one final question: What has Jim Sterk done for so many of you to so suddenly lose faith in him? I don't believe that he went into this without thinking of how this is going to impact the experience of the very fans he depends on to support his athletic department. Trust him to work out a deal that doesn't make it a home game for UW, that takes care of current and future season ticket holders, and that takes care of students. If he doesn't come up with those things, then by all means, flame away. I'll be right there with you. But I don't think that's going to be the case.
I guess the way I'm looking at it comes down to this: While we will be losing something, we are also gaining something -- the opportunity to make new, different kinds of memories. In the end, I think it's going to be much ado about nothing. Despite their vocal protests now, people will go to the game because they love the Cougs. And once they get over their initial emotional reaction, I think they'll end up being pleasantly surprised by how cool this is going to be.