PULLMAN – The 2009 Pac-10 football season could hold an unlikely distinction. It might be the last ever with the Apple Cup played in November.
With the advent of the 12-game schedule in 2006 and the growing popularity of late-season byes, games are being played later and later. Now next year’s Apple Cup will be on Dec. 4 in Pullman.
Think there will be snow?
Washington State University coach Paul Wulff let that news out last Saturday following the Cougars game with Oregon State and athletic director Jim Sterk confirmed it Tuesday.
“The Pac-10 still hasn’t released (the final schedule), there are some things that still have to be done with it,” Sterk said in a wide-ranging interview. “We’ve looked at it from the standpoint of trying to get byes in the schedule. … and our new commissioner (Larry Scott) has been aggressive with that. But I can confirm (the new date).”
But even if the final schedule ensures two byes for WSU, the Cougars will still be stuck playing a Saturday home game the week before Thanksgiving.
“We did get the week of Thanksgiving off, but we didn’t get that week off,” said Sterk, saying Cal will be in Pullman that week. “With the schedule, it’s a majority rules, so if a majority likes the schedule then it passes.
“I didn’t like the schedule. I was in the minority.”
Last Saturday’s OSU game had an official attendance of 16,167, but the crowd looked to be less than 10,000.
“We’re talking with the university committee about what day events are hosted,” said Sterk, who has mentioned a possible Dad’s Weekend for the game before Thanksgiving.. “The product on the field will be significantly different next year. I am very optimistic about people getting excited about that team.”
Will that “significantly different” product still be coached by Paul Wulff, who has led WSU to a 2-11 record last season and 1-10 in this one? Sterk’s answer: “Yeah.
“Rebuilding a team is tough,” Sterk continued. “No one is happy with where we are right now. … I knew this season was not going to be one where people were happy with the wins and losses. But internally, we’ve seen the change there.
“In order for us to be successful, we need players with longevity in the program. (Our successful) teams have those veterans. These coaches have attracted the type of players … that are very good … and will significantly change the game-day atmosphere.”
Sterk also said he’s seen this scenario before.
“In 2000, I had a lot more fans calling for Mike Price’s head when I got here,” Sterk said, “because the previous two years they had won one league game in conference. … But I could see a difference in the team with the direction of the players and what the coaches were doing.
“I liken that to what is happening now.”