I've had the opportunity speak with Washington State athletic director Bill Moos to talk about the Cougars bowl situation, future construction plans and his vision for branding and marketing Cougars athletics going forward. Of course, the vast majority of what he said didn't make it into paper. With that in mind, I've transcribed the rest of those interviews in a Q&A format, which you can read after the jump.
(How do you go about selling bowls on the idea of hosting WSU when you don't know which bowl games will be available?)
My practice is to look at what the possibilities are throughout all scenarios and then try to make the case for why we’d be a good fit. But some of it would be for naught if next week plays out that conferences are contracted to those bowls can fill the slots. I want to be in a position where if that isn’t the case people are aware of Washington State and what we’ve accomplished this year and what we can provide for a bowl.
You’ve got to just cover all the bases and hope that one of them pans out.
(Some recent projections have WSU being left out of the bowl picture. Do you feel that's realistic?)
I feel that we’ve got a very good chance to play in another game and I feel that we’ve got a lot to sell in regards to the improvements we’ve made this season, our dynamic coach and our record-setting quarterback. And the fact that we’ll travel well, especially considering that we haven’t been to a bowl in 10 years. Our fans are excited and ready to join us so I think that we’ve got a lot to sell.
(Will WSU's ability to get fans to the game be a big selling point to bowls?)
I think our Cougar fans will travel very well. We already have north of 1,000 ticket-requests and that was all done last week, last Monday, and I’ve made the appeal for more people to do that so that we look appealing in regards to the interest of our fanbase. But I think that you add to that the many friends and fans of Mike Leach in Texas, if we get down close to or in Texas for a bowl game, those numbers will be increased by Mike Leach fans.
(I understand some fans sent venomous letters to the athletic department and are no longer permitted to buy bowl tickets. Is there anything these fans can do to get back in the program's good graces?)
There’s been a lot mentioned and said about the NBT (No Bowl Tickets) file which I’m probably going to lighten up on and I would encourage anybody that wants to support our football program to join our Cougar Athletic Fund and certainly those that have joined it or those that intend to will get priorities through format to get as good of tickets as we’ll have at whatever bowl we hopefully are playing in.
(How are branding and marketing important to the longterm success of a football program?)
It’s really essential in my opinion in giving the program an identity. I’ve preached this for years, you can't get where you want to go until you know who you are. So the branding aspect of it I’ve always felt was critical, having something that’s unique to your program that’s consistent across all the sports, that the fonts are consistent whether it’s on a uniform or on a letterhead or in the end zone or on the baseline. So it’s all about an identifiable mark and brand that people know, ‘Hey. This is Washington State.’
I learned a long time ago from Phil Knight that you don’t need a sign on the Eiffel Tower. When you see the Eiffel Tower, that’s the Eiffel Tower. That’s Paris, France. When people see our mark and our colors and everything that’s consistent, we want them to know that’s Washington State.
(How important is it to have people throughout the state wearing WSU merchandise and visibly supporting the Cougars?)
I think it’s huge because you see the mass numbers of people who just by wearing a sweatshirt or a ballcap are identifying themselves as Cougars. Now, what I’ve preached is that’s not enough. To be a true Cougar you have to have skin in the game and that means you have to be a CAF member, a season-ticket holder, whatever you can do to help the program and we’re getting that message across pretty well. We now have the largest donor base we’ve ever had in the history of Cougar athletics. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s not large enough, we want that number of annual giving each year to fully pay for our costs of scholarships, which is just over $9 million and we’re raising a little over $6 million now on an annual basis. So we’ve got a gap of right around $3 million that our goal is to close.
(What's the tangible value of being perceived as the best program in the state?)
My feeling is that you’ve got to build a program from the inside out. The most important accomplishment to do that is to consistently be competitive and take your share or more of winning the state of Washington. And that’s not just on the field of competition but in marketing and recruiting and fundraising. We’re geared to do that, wherever I’ve been that’s been the primary objective to getting started, and that’s been to be the program in the state that’s synonymous with winning.
(Are there a segment of college football fans that aren’t beholden to UW or WSU that can be drawn in by success?)
Yeah, I think that there are those who do not have an allegiance due to being an alum. We’ve attracted a good many fans who like what we’re doing and how we’re doing it and the fun and excitement of our events and that number is growing as we proceed through our blueprint. But people will jump on the bandwagon when you’re going to Rose Bowl and you’re the sexy school and it’s the place to be and the thing to do.
And I use Gonzaga basketball as an example of that. They’ve done a fabulous job of marketing their program years back and reinvesting in it and you look at the people that are in the McCarthy Center that they fill consistently, I’d venture to say that there might be 40 percent of those or more that aren’t graduates of Gonzaga. But that’s the place to be, that’s the sexy program and I tip my hat to them.
(What do rivalry teams do to boost the program in the long term?)
It’s all part of the game plan. Last year’s Apple Cup victory, we hung our hat on that. We went into the Apple Cup having had a disappointing season to that point and we found a way to win it. Our players realized, perhaps for the first time what 100 percent effort can do. It rallied our people in regards to our fanbase, and it sent us into the offseason with a little skip to our step in regards to our players in the offseason and going into spring football, and for our folks selling tickets and trying to attract donors.
(Are there any other capital projects WSU fans should expect in the near future?)
The regents just approved our soccer project, which we’re excited about. Another one that could and would enhance football especially in recruiting is a permanent indoor practice facility, and we’re having discussions about that. We’re tying to piece together opportunities for funding models that could get that done. There’s still work to be done but we’ve really come from the outhouse to the penthouse in the last couple years.