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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

WSU’s football success has financial impact

PULLMAN – The economic theory underpinning major college athletics centers around the redistribution of wealth, at its surface.

Pac-12 TV money is given out equally among the member schools regardless of marketability. Bowl and playoff money is likewise distributed regardless of whether or not a team made the postseason, and football’s revenue is used to subsidize Olympic sports.

But the underlying principle that drives the college football economy is “to the victors go the spoils,” and the largesse from the Washington State football team’s eight victories this season is trickling down to the other stakeholders in Cougars football.

Dave Walsh manages Washington State Connections, a store specializing in Cougars apparel that has branches in Everett, Seattle and Spokane. Walsh says that while his affiliation to the school prevents him providing specific numbers, anecdotally he’s sure that demand for Cougars merchandise is up significantly, thanks to WSU’s 8-4 record.

“I’d definitely say we saw an uptick in sales when we became bowl-eligible to begin with,” Walsh said. “Two years ago we also went to a bowl game but we squeaked into that one. This year there’s more euphoria with the way the wins piled up, and beating Oregon, beating UCLA, that kind of thing.”

WSU athletic director Bill Moos says that the athletic department’s fundraising arm, the Cougar Athletic Fund, has grown by more than 1,000 members in the last three months alone, giving it more than 7,000 total members.

“I think we’re doing a very good job of striking while the iron’s hot,” Moos said.

Much of the new monies will be dedicated to the eventual construction of an indoor practice facility for the football team. With snow blanketing Pullman, the Cougars spent Thursday’s practice inside their inflatable practice bubble, highlighting the need for an upgraded facility.

“We also are exploring some other avenues with our partners from IMG in regards to some corporate-naming opportunities that would provide a hugely significant commitment to our indoor practice facilities,” Moos said.

While data on donation levels and ticket sales is not immediately available, Moos said that he expects to set a record for season-ticket renewals for the upcoming season, which will see seven home games played in Martin Stadium, including the Apple Cup.

The Cougars are one of five Pac-12 schools whose attendance was 90 percent of capacity or better over the past two seasons.

WSU is about to break ground on Phase 2 of its soccer facilities upgrade, a $1.6 million facelift that will add grandstands, a press box and concessions. Construction is scheduled to begin in February.

The Cougars are also fundraising for a $6 million baseball clubhouse. Moos said that his staff has completely taken over fundraising for that project, rather than ask first-year coach Marty Lees to raise the money. Former coach Donnie Marbut noted, prior to his dismissal last spring, that he had been responsible for much of the fundraising himself.

And then some of WSU’s new money will, of course, be invested back into the product. WSU’s coaches earn sizable bonuses for making a bowl game – $75,000 for head coach Mike Leach – as well as whatever raises might be given to Leach and his assistant coaches.

“We’ve got a great chemistry on this staff and it has shown on the scoreboard,” Moos said. “I really think we’ve played with a ton more energy and I’ve got to believe that has to do with our coordinator and our coaches, and also our players have responded to what has been asked of them and they’re excited about the coaches we have.”

Moos indicated that both he and Leach plan on exercising a rollover option in Leach’s contract so that it will remain a five-year contract.

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