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WSU's new football building passes the test

A GRIP ON SPORTS

If you have ever spent any time at all in Washington State's ancient football locker room, you would understand why some upgrades of the Cougar facilities were needed. Not that many of you probably have. Heck I was only in there a few times myself. That was enough. The "ambience" is now imprinted on my brain. Read on.

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• I'm just joking. A little. By "ambience" I mean there is a distinctive aroma to the basement area, one that is hard to describe. There was a M*A*S*H* episode in which Hawkeye tried to put into words how the Army's food smelled and he mentioned a rotten egg, a buried shoe and some other delectable items, but even that type of description wouldn't do it justice. To be fair, most well-used locker rooms have the same "ambience." The problem with WSU's football facilities just a few years ago was simple: They were getting old. And there wasn't enough money being contributed to the program to make changes. Enter the Pac-12's new media contract. And revenue sharing. Voilá, the money was there. And with Bill Moos in the athletic director's chair, the will to spend it was there as well. In the past few years Moos, with the full backing of president Elson Floyd, has put together $125 million worth of mortgage debt – it's called "bonding" in the world of high finance – on the premium seating building on Martin Stadium's south side and the newest construction project, the football operations building on the west side. So what did WSU get for its $61 million, the budgeted cost of the operations building? Well, it's not completely utilitarian but it isn't the Taj Mahal either. It is simply, in this day and age of college football, exactly what the Cougars needed to stay in the Pac-12 arm's race. The five-story building is not a completely self-contained home for the football program – there will not be any classes in the place and the academic support folks will stay in Bohler for now, though Moos has plans (he always has plans) for a change – but it's close. You have 30 minutes to get in a workout between classes? There is always going to be room available. You need a nap? The lockers seem big enough a quick snooze, if you are a kicker. Otherwise, there are couches available. You hungry? Instead of a quick trip to the new Taco Bell opening at the bottom of the hill, there is always going to be healthy items in the nutrition center. The ankle a little sore? There is enough space in the training room that waiting shouldn't be an option. All in all, it's a building designed with the football player in mind. But it's more than that. And it's that extra-added attraction why it's worth the money. Washington State is still going to lose recruits to other schools. Everyone does. But the facility excuse won't fly now and shouldn't for a couple decades. That's a positive. Martin Stadium's new look is also a positive, with the building given it a polished feeling, something that's always been lacking. That's a positive as well. But there is one more positive that has nothing to do with football. With the 105 or so football players and all the support staff needed to keep them humming pulled from Bohler, that old building may finally stop feeling like an overstuffed handbag. Baseball players, golfers, rowers, they will all benefit from the new building even if they never step foot in it. The stress on the Bohler training room, the weight room, the office space, will ease considerable over the next few months. The other sports will have space to spread out. And that's an ancillary benefit for the entire department.

• Remember, there are just a few days left for you to send us your Father's Day memories. And I don't have enough yet. What's the deal? Mother's Day was jammed. Father's Day isn't good enough for you? We want your memories of your dad and sports. Of times good – and bad – you spent with your father playing catch, watching golf, running Bloomsday. Whatever. The time he yelled at an umpire or told you he was proud of you or embarrassed the heck out of your brother. We'll put them together and run them in their entirety here on SportsLink. Some might even be featured in the Review. Don't worry about polish, just share what's in your heart. Send them to me at vincegrippi55@yahoo.com. I'll take care of the rest. Make sure to include your name, as the newspaper needs it for confirmation purposes.

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• WSU: I took the tour yesterday and could sit here and go over all the neat little touches throughout the building, but Jacob Thorpe covered most of them with this blog post. And besides, I figure most of you will be in Pullman at some point so I won't ruin the surprise. You need to wander around and find all the cool little touches that celebrate the Cougars' football history. It's worth the time. Besides the blog post from last night, Jacob has a story in today's paper. And John Blanchette has a column that looks at where such buildings fit in today's college sports landscape. Finally, Tyler Tjomsland has enough photographs to give you a feel for the place. ... I will say this. I've been in a few places like this around the country and there is no real extravagance here. Even in coach Mike Leach's office. Heck, it's not any bigger or more ornate than Tony Bennett's office at UVA and he's not a football coach. ... Bud Withers also has his thoughts on the new building. ... In other news, ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog has some suggestions to make the conference better.

• Shock: Jim Meehan has his weekly notebook, examining the hard-working ethic of defensive lineman James Ruffin. And we don't just mean on the field.

• Preps: The Region team has turned the tide, having won two consecutive Jack Blair Memorial girls all-star basketball games. Greg Lee has the story on last night's 93-92 win.

• Seahawks: With no OTAs yesterday, we can fill in some post-draft blanks, as in the depth charts at tight end and offensive line. ... Bobby Wagner thinks the linebackers are going to better this fall. ... The Hawks are holding a town hall meeting today. ... Russell Wilson knows what's ahead.

• Mariners: Yes, this was the type of game the M's don't usually win. Or haven't won the past few years. They fell behind 4-0 after one but still rallied for a 7-5 victory in Atlanta. The bad news is yesterday's starter experiment, Triple-A callup Erasmo Ramirez, didn't post the outing they hoped for. ... To make room for Ramirez, a struggling Nick Franklin was optioned back to Tacoma. The move was also a message, one that manager Lloyd McClendon made emphatically. ... The M's have an afternoon game in Atlanta today, which is a morning game here. ... The draft is coming up.

• Sounders: With Clint Dempsey away (and on Sports Illustrated's cover), others have had to step up for the Sounders – and will again this week against Chicago. ... Another man's power rankings. ... It looks as if the Sounders may be home a lot during the U.S. Open Cup. If they keep winning.

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• It's Wednesday and I'm back on the radio this afternoon with the Patchin, Lukens and Osso show. We'll talk Mariners, Cougars, Seahawks, you know, everything we write about in this space. You can listen here between 3 and 6 p.m. if you like. 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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