The Cougars will begin a new season on Thursday when Washington State takes the field against Rutgers. They will also end a tradition 12 years in the making, playing their last home game in Seattle for the foreseeable future.
With the exception of 2010, Washington State has played one home game at CenturyLink Field every year since 2002, when the venue was known as Seahawks Stadium.
The Cougars will not play a home game in Seattle next season, and athletic director Bill Moos has indicated that the WSU football team is unlikely to cross the Cascades again unless it’s for an Apple Cup.
The Seattle game’s was intended to increase the program’s exposure in the state’s most-populous city, but also to provide an injection of money to a program that needed it at the time.
While never a sellout, the average Seattle game attendance of 50,273 is roughly 15,000 more than the seating capacity of WSU’s Martin Stadium. Even though the team incurs travel expenses for the trip to Seattle, the game netted WSU as much as twice the revenue that a sellout in Pullman brings in.
“(The Seattle game) has served its purpose well and in my time,” Moos said. “Especially during the period of time when we had a lot of things that we wanted to address and really didn’t have the means in which to do that, the Seattle game created a revenue stream so that we could get started on some of these things.”
Attendance dipped against Stanford last season to an all-time low for the Seattle game of 40,095. With a weeknight game during the first week of classes back in Pullman, fewer than 30,000 tickets have been sold for Thursday’s game.
When Moos arrived in 2010, he boosted the game’s attendance by scheduling nearby conference teams such as Oregon State in 2011, Oregon in 2012 and Stanford last season. While those games were moneymakers, the Cougars lost those three games by a combined score of 150-64.
The Cougars’ coffers have swelled thanks to the Pac-12’s recent television deal, allowing Moos to spend more on coaches and facilities. The new revenue also means that the Cougars no longer have to sell a home game for the sake of the balance sheet.
“We probably have a better chance to win if we’re playing at home in Pullman,” Moos said. “And our product is at the point now where we can realistically compete with everybody on our schedule.”
DISH, FOX SPORTS 1 AT ODDS
Washington State’s season-opener is one of six Pac-12 games that are going to be televised on Fox Sports 1, which is in the middle of dispute with satellite TV provider Dish.
Dish claims that it already agreed to pay an inflated price for Fox Sports 1 content, and that Fox is now asking for an additional charge. If the two sides can’t come to an agreement this week, then Dish subscribers will miss Rutgers at WSU on Thursday and the Colorado at Colorado State rivalry game Friday, as well as other college football games throughout the season.
MARTIN STADIUM CHANGES
When WSU plays its first game in Pullman on Sept. 13 against Portland State, fans will see a different Martin Stadium. Not only is there an 84,000-square-foot football operations building towering above the west end zone, additional cosmetic changes are still in the works.
A new brick façade circles the interior of the stands, and the new artificial turf comes with crimson end zones. Construction workers are also currently installing an LED ribbon board on the stadium’s north side to match the ribbon board on the south side, just below the upper deck.
There will be tours of the football operations building provided to fans on Friday afternoons before home games, and Saturday mornings before the game. These tours are only available to members of the Cougar Athletic Fund.