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Washington State University History

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Varsity athletics

Washington State University is a member of the Pac-10 athletic conference. The school's mascot is "Cougars" and the school's colors are crimsom and gray. Varsity athletics include men's baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, and track and field, as well as women's basketball, cross country, golf, rowing, soccer, swimming, softball, volleyball, tennis, and track and field. In the past WSU had varsity programs of boxing, wrestling, and gymnastics. In 1937, Roy Petragallo and Ed McKinnon won the NCAA boxing championship, WSU's first national championship.

Sport clubs

University Recreation also supports 26 club sports, including bowling, men's crew, cricket, cycling, equestrian show team, men's and women's flag football, fencing, polo, men's and women's ice hockey, judo, men's lacrosse, logger sports, rodeo, men's rugby, sailing, ski team, men's soccer, women's fast-pitch softball, tae kwon do, triathlon, Ultimate, men's and women's volleyball, water polo and wrestling.

Most popular sports

The most popular sporting events at Washington State are football games. Over the past five years, the Cougar football teams have been distinguished by three ten win seasons, three top ten poll rankings, and bowl game appearances (a Sun Bowl win in 2001 over Purdue University, a Rose Bowl loss the following season to the University of Oklahoma, and a Holiday Bowl win in 2003 over the University of Texas at Austin and future NFL QB Vince Young). The Cougars shared the Pac-10 title in 2002. Much to the dismay of Washington State fans, those three seasons were marred by losses to their archrival, the University of Washington Huskies. Over the last two seasons, the Cougars have stumbled to a disappointing record of 9-13, but have managed to defeat the Huskies both years. The Cougars are coached by Bill Doba.

Men's basketball is the second-most popular sport. The 1990s saw a major decline in support as the team floundered, however, there have been signs of a resurgence under the coaching of Dick Bennett who retired at the end of the 2005-2006 season. Tony Bennett, Dick's son, succeeds his father to become the Cougars 16th head coach. Tony Bennett spent the last three seasons at WSU, including last two as associate head coach. The 2004-2005 season saw a large increase in student support as the team finished within a few wins of a .500 record (along with a stunning upset win at eventual Elite Eight team Arizona). The Cougar basketball team holds the dubious record of participating in the lowest scoring championship basketball game in Division 1 history, losing to the University of Wisconsin 39-34 in the 1941 National Championship game.

The Cougar Women's volleyball team has a cult following. Residents of the all-male dormitory Stimson Hall known as the "Super Fans" attend every game in crimson shirts that spell "Superfans" on the front and "In Your Head" on the back. The Super Fans occupy the front rows of the stands and are notoriously rowdy, jeering heavily towards every opponent. It is rumored the WSU head coach sends advanced notice to the Super Fans as to who the key players are in the upcoming matches.

Baseball was also popular during the Buck Bailey and Bobo Brayton eras when WSU was a powerhouse of the Pac-10. The 2006 season has been the most successful campaign since the eighties, as the Cougars were ranked as high as 28th in the nation after winning the series against Stanford the weekend of March 26th, 2006. Another popular program is track and field, which has given WSU one of its two national championships.


Washington State's biggest rival is the University of Washington Huskies. Arguably, the most important athletic contest for both schools is the Apple Cup: the annual game that pits the Cougars and Huskies against each other, and is traditionally held on the third Saturday of November. WSU owns an all-time record of 28-63-6 against UW, but has held the trophy for two consecutive years (2004 & 2005).

As the two main public universities in the state, WSU and UW have a natural geographic rivalry--complete with a fierce bitterness that dates back over 100 years. As legend has it, UW stole WSU's stuffed cougar several times between 1917 and 1927. One year, UW paraded with the prized possession around Husky Stadium in front of the Cougar Section at the Apple Cup. The WSU students could not tolerate this mockery and a brawl ensued, destroying the cat in the process. As a result, the WSU Intercollegiate Knights were formed to care over the mascot more dutifully.

Strong rivalries also exist between WSU and the other Pac-10 teams of the Pacific Northwest: the University of Oregon Ducks and Oregon State University Beavers. Competition between the schools in football has been very competitive over the years, as the Cougars hold a 46-41-3 advantage in the series against OSU and trail UO by a tally of 37-39-7.

WSU’s closest geographic rival is the University of Idaho, a land-grant school only eight miles away in Moscow, Idaho. The “Battle of the Palouse,” which is the annual football game between the two universities held at Martin Stadium in Pullman, has encouraged some creative activities between the schools. Starting in the 1910s, the student body of the losing school would walk the eight miles between the towns. This now is done in a shared spirit between the WSU Student Alumni Connection & UI Student Alumni Relations Board, as they relay the game football from Moscow to Pullman before the start of the game. The student body presidents have recently stoked the rivalry by making bets, such as the president at the losing school having to shave his/her head. The editors of the student newspapers have also gotten in on the action, making unique bets, which have even involved marriage (WSU can afford to make more outlandish bets as it holds a 67-17-3 lead in the all-time series).

1915 Football National Championship

Recently there has been a case made about Washington State's claim to the 1915 National Championship. The legendary Washington State Warriors that won the 1915 Rose Bowl finishing 10-0 and outscoring its opponents 204-10 was in fact one of three teams that went undefeated that year, the other two being Cornell University (currently recognized as the 1915 champions) and the University of Pittsburgh. In 1915 Washington State College was awarded the opportunity to play in Rose Bowl and was set to play Brown University, which had lost only one game, to Harvard University (who in turn lost to Cornell 10-0) by a score of 16-7. Cornell and Pitt at that time were busy bickering over where the site of their football game would take place and eventually the season had come to an end before a desicion could be made. Washington State wound up beating Brown in the Rose Bowl 14-0 which garnered huge headlines around the country at that time. However a 1915 national championship was never awarded until 1935 when a Princeton University graduate submitted the first national polling of that season, quite disputed because in previous seasons he claimed that Princeton had won 22 National championships before 1933. However the poll was acknowledged and Cornell was given the championship twenty years after the 1915 season. Recently experts have come up with ground breaking evidence that could include Washington State in that circle of National Champions. One example is that a comparison of points scored between teams Washington State played and teams Cornell played (some of which played each other in the post season) actually favors Washington State. Another was that fact while Cornell and Pittsburgh never actually played a post season together, Washington State did in fact play a powerhouse East Coast team and defeated them soundly. If the claim is acknowledged by the University and/or the media Washington State will not only have received its first National championship but will have become the first team to have won the National Championship and the Rose Bowl in the same year.[1]

Spirit and traditions

File:WSU Crimson & Gray.gif


The first school colors were pink and blue, said to be chosen by the first WSU President when he was so in awe of the blue and pink sunsets of the Pullman area. Research has not uncovered the exact date when the official colors changed, although Crimson and Gray are thought to have been the colors by 1916, when the then-WSC "Warriors" won the Rose Bowl.

Cougar mascot

The first mascot was a terrier named "Squirt". It is believed the terrier was selected because someone brought their pet dog to campus.

The mascot became the Indians during the decade (1910-1919) called the "Carlisle Connection". Three football coaches arrive from the famous Carlisle Indian College in Pennsylvania: Frank Shivley, William "Lone Star" Dietz and Gus Welch.

Following the first football game between WSC and California in 1919 (WSC beat the Cal Bears 14-0), an Oakland cartoonist portrayed the Washington State team as fierce Northwest cougars chasing the defeated Golden Bears. A few days later, on October 28, WSC students officially designated "Cougars" as their team mascot.

In 1927 during the Homecoming football game against the University of Idaho, Washington State Governor Roland H. Hartley presented a cougar cub to the WSU students. Butch was originally to be called "Governor Hartley," in honor of its donor. The governor gracefully declined and suggested the name "Butch," in honor of Herbert "Butch" Meeker of Spokane, who was WSU's gridiron football star at the time.

Governor Clarence D. Martin presented Butch II to the student body in 1938. Butch III and IV were twin cubs presented by Governor Arthur B. Langlie in January 1942. Governor Langlie also presented Butch V in 1955. Butch VI, the last live mascot on campus, died in the summer of 1978. Governor Albert Rosellini had presented him to WSU in 1964 from Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo.

Today, the mascot is a student wearing a cougar mascot costume. The student playing the mascot is anonymous; their identity only revealed after their last big event, usually the last home basketball game of the season.

Herbert "Butch" Meeker

As not too many mascots are named after students, this is of special note. Butch, was a stand-out football player in high school in Spokane, but he wasn't getting much attention from college football recruiters. So his high school coach gave a call into the University of Washington. UW declined to offer Butch a spot on the team, citing his small size. However, WSC did.

Butch became the star of the team and an All-American. In his senior year of 1927, the 5-foot-5, 145-pound halfback led the football team to a successful 6-1 season. Most importantly, he scored the winning touchdown against UW. Butch was also Student Body Vice President and a member of Crimson Circle, the prestigious senior men's honorary.

Football touchdown traditions

After every Cougars touchdown, a cannon operated by the ROTC fires a blank off the Compton Union Building and the cheerleaders do a pushup for each point in the cumulative score.

Victory Bell

In the late 1800's the bell was mounted on the ground in the center of campus to start and dismiss class. Later, it was placed on top of Old College Hall when automatic bells were used, and then on Bryan Hall. The bell was first rung in victory after WSC beat the Washington Huskies by the women's basketball team in 1902. Later, the members of the Intercollegiate Knights rang the bell following a football win. It was subsequently moved to the present College Hall, and now rests on the west side of the Alumni Centre where it is rung by the Student Alumni Connection after each football win.


Wazzu is a nickname for Washington State University. The term is an attempt to pronounce the University's acronym, WSU, as a single word. The best known parallel is Mizzou for University of Missouri-Columbia.

In 2002, then new University President V. Lane Rawlins sought to reduce use of "Wazzu," a move which carried some weight as the University owns the trademark. Following a firestorm of protest from students and alumni, the effort faded, though as of 2004 the word "Wazzu" is noticeably absent from Cougar uniforms and printed WSU publications. The term was thought to have strong connotations with WSU's reputation as a "party school", a reputation that Dr. Rawlins has been working to change during his term as University President.

Palouse Walk

The Palouse Walk tradition started when the sports editor of the Argonaut, the U of I student newspaper, challenged the Evergreen's editor Lloyd Salt. The challenge was that the person would have to walk the eight miles to the winner's campus if their team lost. The Cougars won and McGowan walked the eight miles to WSU. The Idaho Walk lasted through until the 1974 football season. The Cougars only walked three times in that 36-year span.

Intercollegiate Knights

Intercollegiate Knights was a selective organization of men in the junior class that existed from the early 1920s to the 1960s. Two stuffed cougars served as mascots between 1919 and 1927. They were the target of several attempted cat-nappings so the "Cougar Guard" was formed to protect them. The group eventually became the Cougar Guard Chapter of Intercollegiate Knights.

Senior Bench

A gift from the Class of 1910, the Senior Bench is adjacent to yet another WSU tradition, "Hello Walk." Only WSU seniors were allowed to sit on the bench. Any other students observed occupying it were subject to discipline by the Student Vigilante Committee.

Green beanies

In 1922, freshman had to go through a rite of passage to be accepted by the rest of the campus. According to the May 20, 1922 Daily Evergreen, freshmen had to accomplish three tasks to "bask favorably in the public eye." They had to paint their class numerals on a 100-foot tall chimney known as the "totem pole," though the Sophomore Class would try to thwart their efforts. The second trial involved meeting the Sophomore Class for midnight combat. The losers were thrown into Silver Lake, a man-made lake located where the Field house stands today. And finally, an official, "lawfully regulated" contest of some sort between the same two classes was held. The freshmen were then obliged to wear their green caps the Monday following registration, rain or shine. On Campus Day, held in May, the freshmen rid themselves of the hats by way of incinerating them in "frosh-fire."

Cougar Gold

The WSU Creamery has also garnered a reputation for fine dairy products, most notably the Cougar Gold Cheese sold at the Creamery store as well as available for online purchases. The cheese is regionally famous and fetches the price of $18 for a 30 oz can. Marketed as, "a white, sharp cheddar with a taste that resembles Swiss or Gouda. Aged for at least one year." The cheese also comes in various flavors, including, American and Smokey Cheddar, Viking, Dill Garlic, Sweet Basil, Hot Pepper and Crimson Fire. [2]

Presence on ESPN College GameDay

The popular ESPN College GameDay program has as of 2006 never broadcasted from WSU. An unofficial, but well organized effort to place the WSU flag in view of the GameDay cameras for every broadcast has been acknowledged by the GameDay crew, but the show still has no plans to broadcast from Pullman. [3]

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