Cougar Corner | Washington State Athletics Must Contend with Challenges

Lew WrightSenior Writer IMay 9, 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)


Washington State University is a world class academic institution. The university has matured into an integral part of the future for Washington and our nation through prudent investment of resources for over a century.

The high level of excellence delivered by WSU to the state, nation and world doesn't immunize it from the economic troubles plaguing the landscape.

It's no news flash that everyone is having to get by with less these days. Our national and global economy has been in recession for well over a year. About the only way that might come as a shock would be if you've been orbiting earth in the space station for the past 18 months. And if you've been up there, chances are excellent there's a pink slip waiting for you back down here!

We'll pass on the debate over cause(s) for our economic woes for now. Leave that topic for other experts.

Over in Olympia, the Washington state legislature has adopted a budget responding to what is certain to be diminished financial resources in the near future.

The legislature's remedy for dealing with a required reduction in the state budget is generous. Economic pain has been spread out across the board to everyone.

Here's part of the background for the upcoming budget from the Washington State University Budget committee:

"The state allocated 2009-11 operating budget results in a 10.4 percent, or $54.2 million net reduction to the University over the biennium.

In response, the Permanent Budget Level across the University must be reduced approximately $27 million effective July 1, 2009, which will generate the required $54.2 million reduction over the course of the biennium."

In a recent letter to to WSU alumni and supporters, President Elson Floyd outlined the proposed funding cuts by the Washington State legislature:

"...a $54.2 million overall reduction in state funding for the 2009-2011 biennium. This is the largest reduction in the history of Washington State University." - WSU President Elson Floyd

Elson is faced with the delicate task of cutting expenses without degrading the level of educational excellence achieved at WSU.

Simply stated, adapting WSU to the present economic problems that face everyone is easier said than done.

So what will the cuts and reductions looming on the horizon mean to Cougar athletics?

First, let's look at a historical perspective to that question.

Washington State student/athletes compete in both the classroom and the Pac-10 Conference.

In circles of sports fans across the country, the issue of what is the best athletic conference is always a hot topic where agreement is rarely, if ever, met.

The Pac-10, rightfully dubbed the Conference of Champions, will always be in the mix when debating the top college athletic conference in the nation.

Washington State athletics operate with the smallest budget in the Pac-10. WSU seems to have a hammer-lock on last place in the area of funding. In all seriousness, the funding for Cougar athletics isn't even close to ninth place.

There is both good news and bad news when looking to the future for WSU athletics.

Let's begin with the good news.

Cougar athletics does not receive direct state funding. As Elson is forced to take a scalpel to the budget for WSU, initially his surgical precision will be used ever so lightly on WSU Athletic Director Jim Sterk's budget for Cougar sports.

"I am also cutting the Athletics Department even though it does not receive state funding." - WSU President Elson Floyd

Elson has proposed trimming $350,000 that was to be allocated to intercollegiate sports by the university.

Where WSU athletics may feel the crunch first is tuition scholarships for student/athletes. Tuition will be increased by 14%, an amount that will be in the range of $1million expansion to the athletic budget. Sorry, but adding that expense to the WSU athletic budget still leaves the Cougs dead last when compared to the rest of the Pac-10.

OK, the bad news.

There been a tremendous challenge to maintain appropriate funding for Cougar athletics prior to the university confronting the latest economic challenges. Now the athletic department needs just became greater by more than $1million.

Washington State isn't the only school in the Pac-10 facing budget difficulties. However, WSU must deal with a unique constraint when broadcasting a clear message to Cougar Nation. Every department at the university can go directly to alumni with appropriate requests for financial support...with one exception.

If you guessed the WSU athletic department in restricted from approaching alumni and supporters directly to consider financial support, you guessed right.

In the coming weeks and months, you may or may not be hearing about appropriate ways to continue making WSU athletics and important and integral part of both the university and the greater community.

There has never been a more important time to listen and consider your part in the future of Washington State University.

These are times that will test both Cougar spirit and Cougar pride.

Cougar Football

If you had any doubts about how committed and hard working Coach Paul Wulff and his staff are, consider this. With the end of spring football practice, the coach staff spent most of last week in one-on-one sessions with players. The staff then had most of the weekend to relax and prepare to hit the recruiting trails.

Have you ever wondered just how Washington State finds players with Division I talent that aren't being touted by scouting services?

Coach Wulff has the answer. The goal for the coaching staff is to visit 1,000 schools in the next four weeks. NCAA rules only allow for seven coaches to be on the road at one time. If my math is even close, that's more than 5 schools every single day per coach over the month on the road.

Those logistics are mind-boggling.

Keep in mind, the Cougar staff doesn't have access to helicopters like other Pac-10 coaches.

When Coach Wulff says, "Go Cougs!", he really means it!



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