USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten isn’t the end of football WSU


You’ve probably never heard of the Dixie Rotary Bowl. You may not have heard of Robin Ross, although he was the second team all-Pac-8 in 1974-75 for the Cougs. So maybe you have.

Coach Ross and the Dixie Rotary Bowl is all I’m thinking about right now.

I grew up going to Western Washington University football games. My dad played for a year at the time (and I wore his letter jacket for 9 months in 5e to note). The leader of my Young Life high school was an All-American for WWU. I wouldn’t call it a religion – it’s not like Bellingham was Tuscaloosa – but I remember the taste of Polish sausage, mustard and raw onions the Lions club served me when I walked past a game the Saturday. I had a physical education teacher who was playing for a title at the time, I think.

It was important, that’s what I’m saying. At least for me.

The 2008 WWU season ended with a victory at the Dixie Rotary Bowl. I remember wondering when Division II bowling started being a thing when I read about it, but I was happy that the program had some success nonetheless.

Then one day in January 2009, head coach Robin Ross walked into a meeting with university president Bruce Shepard and the Dixie Rotary Bowl became the last football game WWU would play.

Just like that.

Ross and his team were in rookie lounges in the weeks leading up to the meeting. Ross commented to the student newspaper that it was “a blind shot”. It was still legal in 2010.

It also describes how I feel after LA suddenly became Big Ten territory.

I don’t really understand how the defection of a few Los Angeles-based schools feels like the end of a program. I know this is definitely not the end of WSU football. We still have a lot of games ahead of us. Where they will be, who they will be against, and how much economic power they will control remains to be determined.

The scuttlebutt is that this could be the end of the Pac-10/12/8 all together, and if it’s true that two middle 20se century programs leaving can burn the whole place down, well maybe it was too messed up to last, anyway.

Amid the uncertainty, it feels like the ceiling is dropping around the WSU program. Lower TV rights deals mean lower payouts, lower payouts mean worse facilities, less money for coaches, less exposure for rookies and generally less reason for people to come and find out why we all love Pullman.

Which is a shame.

With the transfer portal sending players anywhere in the blink of an eye, and name, imagination and likeness deals pouring seven figures into the game’s top athletes, it’s far too easy to imagine the coming darkness. Feeling a little too close to an Idaho program that dropped a division and, well, didn’t quite find the success it was looking for.

Washington State football will go on, but just like those raw onions at WWU games are part of my story, big-time football on the Palouse feels the same. Pete Carroll running through the Martin Stadium tunnel is important. Brady Hoke doing the same… can still be fun. I suppose.

The change happened before. Coach Ross played in the Pac-8. I played in the Pac-10. It’s been the Pac-12 for over a decade. Things change, WSU football has always gone on and never really backed down.

It’s not time to lose your mind now. WSU is, by no conceivable definition, WWU.

But I was once in Coach Ross’ office, when I was 17. He told me they would like to have me, but he knew what kind of athlete I was. So he mostly wanted to let me know that he was there for any advice or help while I was going through the process.

I was a local kid and he wanted to do me good, and the whole process of full-scale college football was murky and surprising, so here’s his phone number, and, shoot, his office wasn’t over a 15-minute walk from my high school. Do not hesitate to pass if necessary.

I liked Coach Robin Ross at that time. I liked the idea of ​​Pac-10 football a lot more.

In the end, I could end up losing them both.


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