Arrow-right Camera
Subscribe now

John Blanchette: Washington State can still have it all at Alamo Bowl

Look, the Washington State Cougars will still spend their Christmas in a hotel, get the traditional goody bags and sample talent shows, boat rides and other bowl-week amusements.

Mike Leach will still get his precious December practices.

Fans can party it up every bit as much – and maybe better – on the Riverwalk as they can in Buckhead or Old Town Scottsdale.

And better still? They can feel insulted by it all.

That’s almost as good as cash in Wazzuworld.

College football’s playoff and bowl destinations were parceled out Sunday, and to no one’s surprise the Cougars’ entreaties to have their visas restamped were ignored. Having dropped Wazzu to 13th in last week’s rankings, the playoff committee eschewed further review, as that would suggest fallibility on its part and give credit to anything football related in the Pac-12 Conference.

Some lines just can’t be crossed.

If you’ve been keeping up with your homework, you’ll know that the Cougs needed to be in the top 12 of the final CFP rankings to be included in one of the so-called New Year’s 6 bowls – specifically, the Fiesta or Peach, the ones not already designated as playoff semifinals or pledged to conference champions.

At No. 13, they may as well have been holding a C boarding number on Southwest, bound for middle-seat hell.

OK, not quite.

Their consolation prize is actually the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, a perfectly respectable game in a fun city in that sweet spot between Christmas and New Year’s. Washington State was in the second Alamo ever played, a 10-3 win over Baylor in 1994, although Riverwalk nightspots jammed with Coug travelers were even bigger winners.

And not wanting to be an ingrate tourist, WSU athletic director Pat Chun on Sunday declared the Cougs to be “pleased” and “honored” with their assignment to San Antonio.

Then came the “but” moment. Sir Mix-A-Lot has never rapped about a bigger but.

“We’re very disappointed with where we ended up being ranked,” Chun allowed.

This is all very nuanced. It has to be, since it borders on the inexplicable.

Wherever the Cougs were going, it wasn’t to be part of the national championship conversation. Were they ranked 12th, they wouldn’t be disappointed that they weren’t ranked 11th – because all they needed for NY6 status is 12th. But the only thing the rankings are good for is settling bowl destinations – plus some change for expenses which, in the end, get divvied up like the revenue.

And it’s not just bad form to dis your hosts, it’s bad strategy to suggest to your players that they shouldn’t be enthused about their lot. Bowl teams can be seeing grudgingly going through the motions every December.

So it becomes all about respect, and the 10-2 Cougs getting none relative to a few three-loss teams.

A chip on the shoulder won’t hurt come kickoff. But Chun – to his credit – made it clear he understands where respect comes from.

“For Washington State and the rest of the Pac-12, this is an important bowl season for all of us,” he said. “We can easily infer that where we’re ranked is maybe a reflection of the perception of the league and the good thing for us is that we have an opportunity as a conference to make a national statement. “

You remember last year’s statement: 1-8 in bowl games.

“And Washington State was part of that equation,” Chun said, noting that, “Performance matters.”

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott went to bat for the Cougs with the CFP committee while toweling off from the dungstorm he’s been weathering, and Chun was cool with his advocacy. But apparently it was as credible as Champagne Larry’s public posturing, so maybe the league’s dismal football profile and all the issues – officiating, replay, TV strategy, extravagance – raised this season will give the league’s presidents the courage to question their guy’s leadership.

In the meantime, however, there’s a more urgent mission.

“We have an opportunity to get our 11th win and our team is real focused on that,” Chun said. “And it’ll be fun for us to be able to take our football coach … back to a state where he built a great rep.”

Well, OK. Just remember, the last time a Leach team got an Alamo invitation, he was fired before he could get to the game. No doubt he’ll be prodded into another rant about how Texas Tech still hasn’t paid him what he’s owed, but maybe this would be a good time for him to talk about his 10-2 and undersold football team instead, unlikely as that is.

“We don’t want another school to go through what we just went through,” said Chun, “and having to justify where you’re at.”

Hey, you’re in San Antonio, Cougs. You can have a fiesta there, too.