April 20, 2012 in Sports

Forecast calls for throng at WSU scrimmage

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Kyle Mills photo

Washington State head coach Mike Leach will hold his first spring game today at Albi Stadium.
(Full-size photo)

As if he hadn’t already done everything he could to make Saturday’s Crimson and Gray game at Albi Stadium as anticipated as possible, Washington State athletic director Bill Moos expects to receive another boost from an unlikely source:

Mother Nature.

Moos said he already guessed that 10,000 or so fans would flock to Albi at 1 p.m. today to watch the Cougars’ annual spring football game, but with temperatures forecast in the 70s, he said attendance could be higher.

If he’s right, that number would be double the size of last year’s spring game crowd, which was announced at 4,076. A more optimistic take can be found on WSU’s official website, which details in its “Welcome to Spokane Week” announcement that the stadium will be equipped to accommodate an attendance of more than 15,000.

“This is people’s first chance to see the Mike Leach football program,” Moos said Friday. “The curiosity’s there. I think that’s going to help us a lot in regards to our attendance.”

The game itself is the final event of what Moos and the athletic department have dubbed “Spokane Week,” a week of events – some for donors, others for the general public – in the Spokane area designed to generate interest among fans in the area. The highlight may have been on Monday, when former WSU coach Bill Doba and several key players from the 2003 team broke down film of their Holiday Bowl win that season for fans at Northern Quest Casino.

For Moos, Spokane Week, which began last season and will be an annual tradition going forward, is a realization of the priority he placed on the city from the day he was hired.

“It’s important for Washington State University in general, and specifically with me for Cougar athletics that we have a good presence in Spokane, and that we grow our fan base and donor base up here,” Moos said. “It’s the second-largest city in the state and we’re only 75 miles away, so it’s an obvious market for us in regards to filling our venues.”

They’ve taken positive strides toward accomplishing the latter. Moos said the renewal rate among 2011 season-ticket holders is around 96 percent, and that roughly 2,000 new season tickets have been sold since Leach was hired at the end of November.

Contractors have informed Moos that renovations to Martin Stadium’s south side, which include an updated press box and the addition of luxury suites, should be completed in time for the home opener against Eastern Washington on Sept. 8. Moos said all 21 suites have been sold for this season. All 44 loge boxes have been sold, too, along with about 75 percent of the stadium’s 1,200 club seats, Moos said.

For now, the Cougars still have two practices to get through. Leach said the Cougars will scrimmage for about 80-100 plays this afternoon, with the No. 1 offense facing the No. 1 defense, the No. 2 units facing each other, and so on.

They’ll use a clock for the first half, Leach said, and will get reps for other players once their starting units have had the proper amount of work.

Leach is plenty fine with making the drive up Highway 195 to do it.

“Awful lot of Cougs up there in Spokane, and (it’s) a big part of this university and our team and our players,” Leach said. “It always has been. I’m excited to go up there.”

General parking at Albi opens at 8 a.m. Stadium gates open at 10, with beer and concessions available inside. A team autograph session will begin at 11 inside the stadium.

The first hour of the scrimmage will be broadcast live by SWX in Spokane, and streamed online at SWXRightNow.com.

The Cougars will conclude spring practices with a final workout at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Pullman.


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