PULLMAN – The Washington State football team will be given the royal treatment in Albuquerque this week, with a host of welcome events scheduled for the team by their host, the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
Before the Cougars take the field against Colorado State at 11 a.m. on Saturday, there will be welcome receptions, pep rallies, battling bands, team dinners and a visit to a local hospital.
In short, a lot of distractions. This is a business trip, after all.
“We don’t want to go down there just to have fun,” running back Marcus Mason said. “We want to have fun by winning the game.”
Still, WSU’s coaches want their players to enjoy the experience of going to the program’s first bowl game since 2003. The team will fly to New Mexico on Tuesday following one final practice at Martin Stadium.
They will practice again on Wednesday morning, and then have some time to kill before preparing for the welcome reception and team dinner, the first of a litany of events the bowl has planned for the teams.
“It’s one of the better ones that you can go to,” linebackers coach Ken Wilson said. Wilson was a coach at Nevada last year when the Wolf Pack lost to Arizona 49-48. “They do a great job with the bowl, the functions are good for the kids, not too many of them, you get a lot of preparation and you’re the first game out.”
The team will have another dinner on Thursday, and then a press conference and luncheon at the Isleta Resort and Casino. Then three athletes and a coach will head to the University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital for a visit.
At 4 p.m., the Cougars will head to the Old Town Plaza for a pep rally and battle of the bands.
In addition to the sightseeing and festivities, the Cougars can look forward to a great deal of swag coming their way. Gifts totaling up to $550 in value will be showered on the players by the bowl directors, and WSU players can look forward to a number of Oakley products as well as some electronic items.
“Guys are like, ‘Dude! You hear we’re going to get this?’ ” kicker Andrew Furney said. “And this and that. Of course, it’s kind of up in the air. We don’t really know everything we’re going to get, but we heard it’s quite a bit and we’re pretty excited about it. Christmas a little early, I guess.”
Still, the Cougars say the best gift is one only they can give themselves: a win in their final game.