Cougars Lose A Legend Stan Bates, Longtime WSU Athletic Director, Dies At 86
Stan Bates, who shepherded Washington State University through the breakup of the old Pacific Coast Conference and back into what is now the Pac-10, died of age-related causes Monday at Whitman Hospital in Colfax.
The former WSU athletic director was 86.
Bates guided Cougar athletics for 17 years - 1954-71 - and then became the commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference, a position he held until his retirement in 1980.
“He was a marvelous, marvelous friend,” said Jim Sweeney, hired by Bates to coach football at WSU in 1968 and now on the verge of retirement at Fresno State, “and a great administrator.
“Everybody loved the guy. He meant the world to people at WSU and the people in the WAC loved him and still do.”
One of the true gentlemen of collegiate athletics, Bates’ specialty as an administrator came to be transitions.
At WSU, the breakup of the PCC in 1959 left the Cougars as independents for three seasons before they were invited to rejoin former PCC schools Cal, Stanford, USC, UCLA and Washington in the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU) - which, the following year, became the Pacific-8 with the return of Oregon and Oregon State. Bates’ friendship with Stanford athletic director Al Masters helped speed WSU’s return.
Later, as commissioner of the WAC, Bates steered the conference through the defection of Arizona and Arizona State with the addition of Air Force, Hawaii and San Diego State - expansion that eventually led to the WAC becoming the largest and most far-flung conference in Division I.
He also had a guiding hand in the addition of the Fiesta and Holiday bowls to college football’s postseason lineup, and after retiring to Pullman continued to serve as a member of the Holiday Bowl selection committee.
And there were always coaching transitions to make at WSU. Bates had to replace two legends - baseball coach Buck Bailey and basketball coach Jack Friel - which he did with Bobo Brayton and Marv Harshman.
Football coaches Sweeney and Jim Sutherland were among Bates’ other notable hires.
“Coaches who worked for Stan knew he’d back them,” said Harshman, who left WSU for Washington shortly after Bates took the job with the WAC. “He wasn’t an old shoe. He could be authoritative, but he was a gentle person - and if he had to chastise or reprimand you, it bothered him more than it did you.”
Sweeney recalled Bates’ kindness toward his late wife, Cile, particularly after losses.
“We’d get annihilated and he’d stay up and sit with her for a half an hour while the seats emptied,” Sweeney said.
Bates was born in Orchards, Wash., on June 10, 1910. He moved with his family to Monroe when he was a sophomore in high school. After graduation, he enrolled at the University of Puget Sound and earned 10 letters in football, basketball and track before graduating in 1934.
Before coming to WSU in 1953, he spent 19 years teaching and coaching in the high school ranks - at his alma mater, Monroe, and then at Snohomish, where he was also the school principal. Among the athletes he coached was Monroe sprinter Lee Orr, later an Olympian and a world record holder for WSU. Bates also coached the State All-Star football team to a 19-0 victory over the Seattle All-Stars in 1949.
As a college administrator, he was president of the Collegiate Commissioners Association and a member of the NCAA Executive Committee.
In 1980, Bates received the James J. Corbett Memorial Award given annually by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) for outstanding achievement and service in intercollegiate athletics.
A charter inductee into the State of Washington High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame, Bates is also in the UPS, WSU, Inland Empire and NACDA halls.
He is survived by Mildred, his wife of 62 years; daughter and son-in-law Suzanne and Howard Meck of Clemmons, N.C.; son and daughter-in-law Bob and Barbara Bates of Colton; a sister, Evelyn Harrison of Yelm; two brothers, W.H. Bates of Anacortes and E.W. Bates of Stockton, Calif., and four grandchildren.
Funeral services are scheduled for Thursday at 1 p.m. at the Simpson United Methodist Church in Pullman. Burial will follow at Pullman City Cemetery.
The family suggests memorials to the WSU Cougar Club or to the Simpson United Methodist Church.
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