Cougar Corner | WSU-UW Rivalry Escalates from Reaction to No Deal

Lew WrightSenior Writer IApril 30, 2009

TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 13:  A Washington State Cougars helmet showing the initials of Pat Tillman next to the American flag during the Arizona State Sun Devils against Washington State Cougars Pac-10 game at Sun Devil Stadium/Frank Kush Field on November 13, 2004 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Ask a Washington State Cougar fan who their favorite teams are, and the usual response goes something like this: "Have two favorite teams—the Cougs and anyone playing the Huskies."

Typically when posing that same question to a Husky fan, you can expect the reverse to be offered up.


There is something about securing personal identity through rivalry.

Next to one's politics, their devotion to sport can fuel passion beyond the realm of rational thought.

In the past week, two significant issues have reached a resolution that seems to have raised the level of rivalry between the University of Washington and Washington State University.

Scary thing is, reaction from the two camps to the way both issues concluded is similar.

No one is very happy.

The issues fanning the flames of fire in the bellies of Husky and Cougar fans are rooted in one of the most important underpinnings of our society: college football.

Negotiations to move the Apple Cup game to a neutral site, Qwest Field, became extraordinarily important to a vocal minority before they were silenced. For the moment, all is said and done on the subject of playing the Apple Cup in an NFL facility for five or six years.

No deal.

Efforts by the UW to secure $150 million in state funding for a $300 million Husky stadium upgrade were not successful. State legislators, for a myriad of reasons, backed away from the carefully crafted proposal incorporated in Senate Bill 6116.

Again, no deal.

It should come as no surprise that claims are now being made that Cougar Nation brought down the proposal to use state funds, along with private funds, to bring the UW football facility into the 21st century.

Hardly a news flash that Husky Nation has been credited with quashing a deal to move the Apple Cup to Qwest, which would have raised millions for WSU athletics.

At some point the temperature of rhetoric will cool down. But for now, there's a flurry of heated remarks being exchanged between the two camps.

University of Washington athletic director Scott Woodward has been quoted characterizing WSU president Elson Floyd and athletic director Jim Sterk being a party to misplaced rival efforts to derail the UW proposal for state funding of their stadium project.

Clearly frustrated by the funding proposal being shot down, Woodward had this to say about the part WSU administration played in the process:

"(President Floyd and AD Sterk) didn’t do anything to try to contain that little group of Cougars that were out there doing that. It was a shame that they didn’t show leadership or courage to curtail something like that.”

Perhaps Woodward's comments were made in the heat of the moment.

In a story by Vince Grippi of the Spokesman-Review, Jim Sterk responded to Woodard's comments as:

“ inappropriate that I laughed, basically. I could not believe those comments were coming from (Woodward). One, to me as athletic director but then, two, to the president of the university.”

Consideration of rhetoric at this level brings a quote from John Lennon to mind. When asked about his thoughts on US officials investigating his every move, Lennon had this to say:

"Time wounds all heels."

UW officials may have played the dominant hand in putting an end to the financial windfall offered by moving the Apple Cup to Qwest Field. All parties involved in the negotiations were looking to make their best deal.

In the end it was simply, "No deal."

Zealous WSU alumni and fans may have played a role in the efforts to gain state funding to rebuild Husky stadium. The Washington state legislature is charged with doing what's best for all citizens of the Evergreen state. Rarely has there been a time more demanding of taxpayers' funds.

In the end it was simply, "No deal."

Problems for both schools remain unchanged and unresolved.

Washington will still need stadium renovations. WSU still needs new funding to maintain Cougar athletics.

It seems ironic that the answer to the problems facing both schools is defined by the rivalry.

Private funding is the answer.

Both schools will likely have different approaches to securing private funding, which follows form, doesn't it?

There's the Husky way and the Cougar way.

When those two meet on the athletic field of competition, it's rivalry time!

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