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

A Grip on Sports: Washington State football’s strength lies in numbers, as does the Mariners during recent surge

Washington State Cougars running back Max Borghi (21) pauses on the field during a timeout as game attendees use their cell phones during a crowd activity during the second half of a college football game against the Washington Huskies on Friday, Nov 26, 2021, at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash. WSU won the game 40-13  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Where are we headed today? Just about everywhere in a metaphorical sense. We have thoughts from all over. Including Pullman.


• With all the Power 5 conference realignment going on, it seems a foregone conclusion the Washington State Cougars are going to be left behind. The idea is their television market isn’t big enough to attract any suitors. But does that matter?

Times have changed a bit. Media companies are moving away from that antiquated way of projecting potential – media markets – and toward counting eyeballs. In other words, who really moves the ratings needle?

The Athletic’s Andy Staples wondered what the answer was among schools not in the Big Ten (or headed there) and SEC (ditto). What he found is interesting.

He looked at televised football games from 2015 to 2021 (leaving out the COVID-19 year of 2020) and counted the number of them with at least one million viewers. Which schools appeared in the most?

The top five, not surprisingly, were Clemson (34), Florida State (31), Washington (28), Oregon (26) and Miami (22). Big cities or big – and successful – brands.

Next on the list was Washington State (21).

Yep, the Cougars were ahead of the seven other remaining Pac-12 schools. Not Utah. Not Arizona State. Not Cal or Stanford. Washington State. The Spokane media market is not huge but the WSU draw sure seems to be.

It may not be enough to entice the Big 12 or the ACC but even if it’s only through watching on TV, Cougars always seem to find their way back home.

• Don’t look now but the Mariners are on a roll.

They have won 14 of their last 17 games after Eugenio Suarez’s 11th-inning three-run home run lifted them past visiting Toronto 5-2. That puts them at 43-42 and pulls them within two games of the American League’s final wild card berth.

Six consecutive wins – including two against the team ahead of them for that final postseason spot – will do that. So will winning nine of your last 10. Is there a chance this is just a mirage? Sure. But it’s worth enjoying nonetheless. And, with most of July, August and September ahead, may give us a fun summer as well.

• Remember when the city of Tacoma built the Chambers Bay golf course with the idea of attracting U.S. Opens to the Puget Sound area? The city earned one. But the course, which opened in 2007, didn’t fare all that well in the court of public opinion during its time in the spotlight.

The 2015 Open is remembered more for its problems (uneven greens that looked spotty on the telecast, problems for spectators and some seemingly unfair holes) than Jordan Spieth’s victory.

Since then the USGA has named quite a few U.S. Open sites for the future, passing over Chambers Bay each time. It is, however, still in the picture. Next month it will host the U.S. Women’s Amateur, as the course tries once again to show it belongs on the biggest stage.

It would be good for Northwest golf if it did.


WSU: The Washington State TV numbers doesn’t seem to impress Jon Wilner. Or even figure in his equation as he answers questions about the Pac-12’s future. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, what are Washington’s best options? … Five-star quarterback recruit Dante Moore committed to Oregon on Friday. … The Lincoln Riley era at USC is about to begin. … Basketball may be king at UCLA but it was a passenger on the realignment bus. And is at every school. … The changes are hard to comprehend for longtime Pac-12 fans.

Gonzaga: We admire Theo Lawson’s ability to wrangle a business trip to Las Vegas. While there, he is taking in the former GU players’ NBA summer league experience. First up is Andrew Nembhard, who made his Indiana debut last night.

EWU and Idaho: Around the Big Sky, Weber State released next season’s conference basketball schedule.

Indians: Spokane needed a good game from its starting pitcher. Will Ethridge delivered. Then the Indians needed to hang on. They did, defeating Tri-City 6-4 at Avista. Dave Nichols has the coverage.

Chiefs: Two Spokane players, Graham Sward and Mason Beupit, were chosen in the NHL draft yesterday. Dan Thompson has all the particulars.

Mariners: As we mentioned (and linked) above, the M’s won 5-2 in 11 innings. Suarez’s game-winning home run came off reliever Sergio Romo, who Seattle cut last month. … Even though Ty France is back, the M’s are happy to have Carlos Santana available.

Seahawks: A former Seahawk who played on their first Super Bowl team has died. Jimmy Williams was 43.

Kraken: Seattle picked up a handful of players in the draft’s second day, hoping to fill holes uncovered during the Kraken’s inaugural season.

Sounders: Going into today’s key rivalry match with Portland, a rivalry unmatched in the MLS, Seattle has been able to use Kelyn Rowe in many different roles.


• A quick note. We won’t be here tomorrow. We have an early commitment and will have to take the day. See you Monday. By the way, tomorrow would have been my father’s 98 birthday if he were still with us. Until later …