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WSU hears it about Apple Cup


COUGARS

Well there's been a day to let the news soak in. To organize. To try to influence the decision. And we had a day to talk with the WSU football players about the possibility of playing the Apple Cup in Qwest Field instead of Martin or Husky stadium. Read on for the unedited version of the story that features their responses, and some other comments.
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• Here's the story ...

PULLMAN – The fallout Thursday from the news Washington State and the University of Washington were close to an agreement moving the Apple Cup to Qwest Field on a yearly basis settled on the state's East Side like ash from Mount St. Helens.

It was deep, it was hard to move and everyone was talking about it.

Though nothing official has been agreed upon, or, for that matter, even officially talked about, the response from many WSU and UW fans was quick – and overwhelmingly negative.

A Spokesman-Review non-scientific on-line poll was running 85 percent against the idea. A Seattle Times survey attracted a majority who thought it was a bad idea. Comments on the papers' and other websites were at least 3-to-1 on the negative side.

In a more concrete development, the Pullman Chamber of Commerce sent an open letter to WSU athletic director Jim Sterk, stating the group was "astounded at the idea of moving the Apple Cup game to Seattle for the next 6 years," and urging Sterk take into account "the broader economic and psychological impacts of moving this game out of town."

The letter, signed by chamber president Tom Handy and executive director Tammy Lewis, cited Apple Cup economic impacts that, according to those surveyed, are for some, "double or triple the revenues they reap from a regular home game weekend."

The responses of the people who would play the game, however, were not nearly as dire.

"It really doesn't matter to me," senior linebacker Andy Mattingly, who grew up in Mead, said after Thursday's spring practice. "Coach (Paul) Wulff said we'll play in Colfax, Ellensburg, wherever. It really doesn't matter to a player."

But Mattingly does know who the change, proposed for 2010, would affect.

"I think the people it matters more to are the students, people who live on the East Side who would have to travel over there to watch the game," he said. "I feel for the fans, I think they are the one who are going to care the most. They've got to drive. We've got a 20-minute flight over there, it doesn't matter to us."

Junior punter Reid Forrest would rather not play his senior Apple Cup in Qwest instead of Martin Stadium.

"Nothing's final, but I'd like to see it stay in Pullman, though, I really would," said Forrest, who grew up in Ephrata where the classrooms would be half purple and half crimson during Apple Cup week. "Just for the tradition. The Snow Bowl. It's where we go to school. It's our home turf."

Wulff understands the negatives of losing that home turf every other year. It was part of the balance he weighed recently when asked by the administration to appraise the pluses and minuses of such a move.

"Does the value outweigh the negative?" Wulff asked. "That's the bottom line. That's where it's at. And that's been my only part in this process."

Does it?

"At the end, today's day and where we are, economy-wise, and some of the other things you could do scheduling-wise, it could," he said. "And if people knew all the facts, the details of it, it might."

The schedule is one area Wulff concentrated on.

"If the game's played after Thanksgiving, it guarantees that we now have a bye in a 12-week season," Wulff said, "without having them put a regular-season game in December. ... I think that's a big benefit.

"We actually would get an extra game here, because we would no longer play the Seattle game early in September. So every other year, we would actually get another home game. So we could have another home game, possibly, because of that. So there are some positives in that direction from a scheduling standpoint in the big picture."

Senior tight end Tony Thompson has a longer-term view than most.

His father, Jack, one of WSU's best quarterbacks, never played an Apple Cup at Martin Stadium, instead meeting the Huskies every other year in Spokane. And the younger Thompson knows his dad would have loved to experience the thrill Tony had last season when the Cougars pulled out a 16-13 double-overtime win in Pullman.

But he also thinks the Qwest idea has merit.

"I've heard a lot of negative things said about it by the Coug fans," Thompson said, "but to be honest, any opportunity to play in Seahawks Stadium, you've got to jump on that. That is one of the coolest venues in sports.

"You know, 31,000 Cougs, 31,000 Huskies. I don't think it gets much better of a rivalry game than that."

He also doesn't think any venue could ever cheapen the rivalry.

"It will mean just the same because a win is a win," Thompson said. "A rivalry game is a rivalry game, no matter where you play it. I think it is just as important here, there, anywhere."

Thompson just wishes people wouldn't rush to judge the idea.

"Off the bat you hear about it and it's kind of shocking news," Thompson said. "I think people have to learn more about it before they make an opinion."

•••

SPRING NOTE: Saturday's scrimmage, originally scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. in Martin Stadium, will run only for about an hour. After WSU stretches at 11:45 a.m., the Cougars will move directly into the scrimmage, skipping practice drills that were previously slated to take up the first hour.

•••

• As a web-only extra, here are some more of the players' comments …

• Senior linebacker Andy Mattingly's thoughts:

"That's a nice stadium. I kind of like it. I think it's a good idea and it should be a lot of fun, to be able to play in an NFL stadium in front of a packed house every year.

"I love playing over there. We do it every year, but to do it for the Apple Cup, that would great."

He pointed out that future Cougars wouldn't have to play at Husky Stadium anymore.

"That's even better," he said.

• More from coach Paul Wulff:

"It's something that's been in the works. I'm not really informed on the details but it sounds like it's something that is pretty enticing, obviously, for both schools and administrations to want to move forward potentially with this."

"Obviously, there is a great benefit to this. And some things people aren't going to like, from an emotional standpoint. But potentially it could provide some great opportunities as well."

"It was more of a proposal brought to both schools from an outside source. That was talked about by both schools, presented for both to mull over and I was appraised of the proposal and gave my thoughts on it. Everyone kind of went back and forth, spending some time to see if you really play it out, all the good and all the bad that comes from it. That's been my only part in this process."

•••

• That's it for this evening. We'll be back in the morning. Until then …




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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