Two years ago, The Spokesman-Review - with a little help from our friends - picked the all-time Washington State University football team to commemorate 100 years of Cougar football.
And now we’ve done it again.
Maybe you don’t think all that much has changed in the time it’s taken Cougar football to age from 100 to 102, and you’re right. On the other hand, if this season has shown us anything, it’s that everything has changed.
So on pages C6 and C7, you’ll find the new and improved - old and improved? - all-time WSU football team.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice only one significant difference.
In picking the team two years ago, the most contentious debate came in choosing a quarterback - the quarterback controversy being a grand old WSU tradition.
Jack Thompson? Drew Bledsoe? Mark Rypien? Timm Rosenbach?
Or Ed Goddard, the only three-time All-American in Cougar history?
Because our panel of advisers cast votes for Goddard as a running back - he came from the single-wing era - we eliminated him and boiled the race down to Thompson and Bledsoe, the only quarterbacks to receive votes other than Rypien.
It was a difficult tie to break, but we settled on Bledsoe. The scale-tippers: he beat the Huskies once and took the Cougars to a bowl game, which Thompson never did, and became WSU’s only overall No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.
Alas, his stay on the all-time team was brief.
We’ve replaced him in the lineup with Ryan Leaf, who has broken a couple of Bledsoe’s records despite being a starter for just two seasons rather than Bledsoe’s 2-1/2 seasons. Leaf also beat the Huskies and - in case you hadn’t noticed - directed the Cougars to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 67 years. He’s also the school’s highest finisher ever in the Heisman Trophy balloting.
But despite this year’s team being the best in school history, we made no other adjustments to the all-time squad - and that’s a testament to the ensemble nature of the 1997 Cougars more than anything else.
Leon Bender was the team’s only other first-team all-Pac-10 selection and we didn’t feel his career stood up to those of Keith Millard, Erik Howard, DeWayne Patterson and Dale Gentry. Likewise, Michael Black is an outstanding running back - but good enough to bump Rueben Mayes, Keith Lincoln and Steve Broussard?
We’ll add them to our honorable mention list instead.
Nor did we waver on the coach. Babe Hollingbery is still the winningest football coach WSU has ever had and he did take the Cougars to the 1931 Rose Bowl. Mike Price has matched the latter feat, but still has a few more victories to go before they’ll be naming a building after him.
Again, we’d like to thank our panel of 14 advisers, named inside, with a particular salute to Carl “Tuffy” Ellingsen, who avidly followed Cougar football until his death this past October.
We’ll check back again - but this time, not for another 20 years or so.
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