When the Cougar Mania Strength and Conditioning Complex opened in 1997, it was the envy of college athletics. Consisting of two stories and covering 14,000 square feet, the weight room symbolically told WSU recruits that Pullman was the place to go for big-time college football.
“It was the best weight room on the West Coast and the second or third best in the country,” said Bill Doba, who was the defensive coordinator for WSU’s football team at the time.
Doba caught an early glimpse of the facility’s alluring powers in 1999. A recruit had just flown in from Hawaii and after picking up the player at the airport, Doba decided to kill some time by showing him the new digs.
“He walked into the weight room and went, ‘Wow! I’ve got to play here!’ ” Doba said. “Sometimes an 18-year old kid will make the decision based on the size of the weight room, or locker room or whatever.”
That recruit was quarterback Jason Gesser, and he would go on to lead the Cougars to the 2003 Rose Bowl while winning more games than any other quarterback in school history.
Since then, the rest of the collegiate world has entered an athletic facilities arms race and many schools have caught up with or surpassed the Cougars.
But WSU is once again in the process of building a new weight room to be proud of, thanks to new money from a Pac-12 television deal, conference-wide revenue sharing spurred largely by WSU athletic director Bill Moos’ shrewd negotiations and a recent increase in alumni giving.
Unlike the current strength training facility, which is shared by all WSU sports, the new weight room will be only for football players. It will be part of the new football operations building that is currently being constructed between Martin Stadium and Rogers Field, and players will be able to look out at both fields through all-glass walls.
Moos has said on multiple occasions that the facility is a necessity for WSU to remain competitive and received approval for the $46 million project from the WSU board of regents in November of 2012.
The new weight room will be the same size as the existing one, but with facilities and equipment geared towards football players’ workouts.
Because 120 football players will no longer be using the same weight room as basketball, baseball, and women’s and Olympics sports, those athletes and trainers will have an easier time scheduling around classes and other activities. So will the football team.
“You want to work with everybody so at times you can’t do everything you want to do from a group standpoint, because groups either have to be smaller than you want them to be or bigger,” said strength coach Jason Loscalzo.
That increased flexibility won’t just allow the strength coaches to be more efficient by working out more athletes at once. There are health factors involved as well, since the coaches occasionally have to sacrifice important recovery time or even sleep to get the required workouts in.
“It’ll be huge because we’ll be able to go at the times we want to go. Right now, for instance, we’re practicing at night because of finals schedule,” Loscalzo said on Friday. “If we were to lift tomorrow, with (the current) facility we might have to go at 7 a.m. because those are the only times available.”
The football operations building and football weight room are currently under construction, and are scheduled to be finished sometime next spring.