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Pac-12 football notebook: Arms race in Pac-12 keeps recruits happy

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 20, 2015

PULLMAN – Washington State coach Mike Leach takes every opportunity he is given to tell people that the football facilities at WSU are the best in the Pac-12.

He does so because the facilities are just as much about attracting new talent as developing the talent that is already on campus, and recruits can only be wowed by new, expensive weight rooms, locker rooms and cafeterias if they know about them.

“Initially they think you’re bragging until they come up here and see that it’s a fact,” Leach said. “The more that happens the more it helps recruiting.”

So, Leach brags about his facilities to get the word out and pique the curiosity of those he hopes to impress with their grandeur.

With around $100 million spent since his arrival in the form of upgrades to Martin Stadium, a football operations building and other athletics-related improvements, he’s got a case to make that they’re as good or better than any of WSU’s rivals.

But it’s not a point the other Pac-12 coaches are willing to concede.

Oregon, for example, is unlikely to admit that there’s a football facility as eye-catching as the 145,000-square-foot Hatfield-Dowlin complex.

When the Cougars travel to Arizona this weekend, they’ll get a look at a recent $72 million expansion to Arizona Stadium that includes underwater treadmills in the training room, interactive touch screens that give lessons in the history of the program and an upscale lounge for fans.

“I’m sure they feel that way and we probably feel that way and Oregon probably feels that way,” said Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez. “I think everybody’s got pretty nice stuff. I’m kind of partial to ours but it looks like everybody in our league has either gotten new stuff or is getting it.”

While the amenities are nice, coaches say that facilities are an important indicator to recruits of how much a school supports its football team. Surely, the thinking goes, a fan base that will buy such nice stuff for its players will also turn out on game day and recognize their accomplishments on the football field.

With all the programs constantly upgrading, there is constant upward pressure to keep pace or risk getting a reputation as a school that doesn’t care as much about football as the others do.

“I think right or wrong, outwardly it shows how much the university cares about your program and athletics in general,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “That goes into where we work out, where’s our locker room, how good is the equipment, where do I get food? All those things now have to be in house and readily available. You have to demonstrate that you’re taking care of them. That’s what the recruiting process is: If you come here, we’re going to take care of you.”

Pac-12 integrates athletes into conference voting

On Tuesday the Pac-12 became the first major conference to formally incorporate student athletes into its voting structure with the formation of the Student-Athlete Leadership Team.

SALT consists of two athletes from each member school and 12 members will attend every Pac-12 Council meeting. The SALT members will also meet as a subgroup in San Francisco.

Representing Washington State on SALT are Kelsie Taylor, a senior member of the track and field team, and Alexis Thode, a junior on the women’s soccer team. They are both kinesiology majors.

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