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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: Lifting the WSU athletic department out of debt is going to be a Sisyphus-like task

Martin Stadium in March 2020, on WSU's campus in Pullman.  (TYLER TJOMSLAND)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Yesterday it seemed as if there was nothing to cover. Today there is too much. As we look out our window as the showers begin, we wonder. Is that what it means by “when it rains, it pours?”


• To be honest, we don’t have much in common with the faculty members at Washington State University. Except maybe the beard and corduroy coat with elbow patches. After all, we threw away our pretension pipe years ago.

Just kidding. About that. But there is no kidding around about the faculty’s issues with the athletic department budget, a subject Greg Mason delved into again today.

And with those who wonder how the university is really going to address the millions and millions of dollars in debt, we are simpatico.

It’s something we’ve been harping on for years, back when the debt was just $50 million or so. Now it looks as if it could grow to more than $200 million before this century is half through.

Of course, we probably won’t be around to see if the Cougars can pay Peter from Paul’s wallet, but it’s a fun exercise to contemplate. Actually, fun isn’t the right word. A phrase might be better. As in “What a waste of time.”

There is no chance the money the athletic department owes the university administration will ever be completely paid back. There is too big a hole to dig out of and – this is important – continue to offer sports at the university. There is no way Washington State will ever have enough money coming in to do both, as it would take about $10 million dollars a year extra to make a dent in the debt. And the athletic department will never have an extra $10 million to throw that way. Not for one year, not for the more than 20 years it might take.

And don’t even think about dumping athletics. If the entire department were shut down, the debt would remain. With no revenue at all to pay off even a portion of the debt.

You know that corduroy jacket? We used to wear it when we read “Catch 22” and other great works of literature. The lessons we learned apply in this case.

So the administration will continue to make plans, to issue press releases, to make it look as if it is working on the problem. But progress? That is nearly impossible without a bailout from the state or the students, both of which are in no mood to help.

• We have a solution for the Mariners’ hitting woes, one that fits in perfectly with the franchise’s solutions from the past. Hire Ichiro as the hitting coach.

Oh, he probably won’t help the M’s hit better. But just his presence will divert attention from the club’s inability to hit – at least for a while. And by the time people start focusing on it again, maybe it will be time to elevate Julio Rodriguez from the minors.

Such things fit with the M’s seeming corporate motto: “If you can’t fix the problem, divert attention.”

• We will never get used to the PGA Tournament in May. At least we haven’t yet. The tourney is this weekend. It is being held hard by the Atlantic Ocean in South Carolina. If the wind blows, low scores will fly away. If the conditions are calm, birdies will land.

No matter what happens, we have one player we are rooting for and one we think will win. They are not the same person. Jordan Spieth, still looking for the final leg of the career Grand Slam, is the former. (Along with, as is the case every week, Clarkston’s Joel Dahmen.) Patrick Reed is the latter.

Yes, we know. Reed isn’t our favorite player. We just have a feeling he’s the guy to beat this weekend. And, no, it does not make us happy.


WSU: As we mentioned above, when we linked Greg Mason’s story before, the athletic department’s budget woes are not going to go away anytime soon. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college sports, the national response to the conference’s new commissioner will set the agenda for a couple years. … How good are Washington’s cornerbacks? … The change concerning intra-conference transfers allows a UCLA quarterback to play this fall. … A former Washington safety is headed to Utah. … Oregon has an anchor in the middle of its offensive line. … In basketball news, the NCAA has added more recruiting weekends in July. … It’s hard to trust former Arizona star Gilbert Arenas about anything. But he’s probably telling the truth here. … The Oregon women are still looking to add to their roster. … The NCAA softball matchups really hit Washington and Oregon hard. But the teams are now ready to play.

Gonzaga: Larry Weir talked Bulldog hoops with Alyssa Charlston on the latest Press Box podcast. … Around the WCC, BYU picked up a transfer from Milwaukee.

Preps: Talk about stories, here are a whole lot of them. We start with Justin Reed’s feature on Gonzaga Prep wrestler Q’veli Quintanilla. … Then we move to Ryan Collingwood’s report on Davenport’s Darby Soliday, who is headed to Idaho State, as well as more in this track and field notebook. … Keenan Gray also has a story on track and field. … Dave Nichols adds a roundup of Wednesday’s action. … Finally, we can pass along this report on GSL golf.

Indians: For the first time this season, Spokane has won two consecutive games. A great pitching performance last night keyed the Indians’ 5-3 win over Everett. Dave has the story.

Chiefs: With the Stanley Cup playoffs underway, Dan Thompson takes a look at the former Spokane players who are chasing a NHL championship.

Mariners: Tarik Skubal has been awful this season. But the Detroit pitcher was dominant against the M’s in the Tigers’ 6-2 victory. … It’s just another example of Seattle’s dormant offense. Can anything be done? Larry Stone doesn’t think it will be easy to fix. … Hitting is scarce all over baseball. One way to change the home-run-or-nothing culture is being tried in the minors, including here in Spokane. … If something doesn’t change, a no-hitter a day is possible.

Seahawks: When a local player signs on with the area’s pro football team, that’s a big deal. … One free agent shares an alma mater with Pete Carroll.


• We’re meeting an old player for coffee this morning. This is happening more and more as we get older. And if we retire to someplace warm for the winters, we expect the trend to continue. Not that we’re complaining, mind you, but if it happens too often, we may have to switch to de-caf. Until later …