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Athletics

Summer 2006

A course of one's own, or The Coffee-Can Country Club

If I’ve never seen a prettier golf course, I suppose it’s because I built it myself, and because I was eleven.

It was 1966, and in my Salem, Oregon, neighborhood, I was that most exotic of hothouse flowers: a golfer. I loved playing baseball. I loved football, too, at least the passing and catching, if not the hitting and hurting. But I regarded myself as a golfer. Golf was uncanny, old, impossible, beautiful, soul snatching. I knew these things already. In a neighborhood of robust, rowdy, baseball and football-loving brawlers, I was, at best, a curiosity.

The field behind my house, all 290 yards of … » More …

Spring 2008

Bernard Lagat comes home

On his first morning back in Pullman, world track and field champion Bernard Lagat ’01 pulled on his running shoes and said a quick goodbye to his wife, Gladys Tom ’00, and son, Miika.

It was 8 a.m. and about 19 degrees outside. But the morning was clear, and there was plenty of Johnson Road to share with the 17-member Washington State University cross country team.

After years of training in Arizona, Kenya, and, more recently, racing in Athens and Osaka, returning to his old jogging route was like visiting an old friend, says Lagat, who came to WSU in December to be publicly honored … » More …

Spring 2006

Kelly Smith

You don’t want to be around him when he loses…

Kelly Smith harbors such desire to win, that the coach gets testy for days before an ordinary baseball game. From the first pitch to the last, he’s usually demonstrative, typically pessimistic, and occasionally combative. Along the baseline, his eyes seem to radiate heat while his mouth hurls verbal spears.

If you only encountered Smith at the ballpark, you might see why he playfully describes his diamond demeanor with a term that won’t appear in this article.

“I think ‘intense’ is a nicer term,” offered Smith (’80 Ed., Soc. Stud.), a former Cougar star who became … » More …

Summer 2008

Signing Day Central

During the early morning hours of Wednesday, February 6, Rich Rasmussen enters the Washington State University football office carrying two boxes, each containing a dozen donuts, and places them on the front counter.

Rasmussen opens the door to his office, where, taped on its outer side, is a piece of paper:

Core Values for WSU Football 2008:
Compete – Compete to win
Execution – Attention to detail
Effort – Relentless on every rep
Encouragement – Positive response to all situations

Rasmussen turns on his computer, checks his e-mail, and waits for the future of WSU football to commence.

Today … » More …

Fall 2008

ROD: A True Story

Rod Retherford ’84 triumphed as an undersized athlete, but his plucky comeback tale has always been told in spaces that were too small to fully contain it. There were plenty of headlines in 1980 after a bullet ripped through the football player’s shoulder and lodged permanently in his neck, nearly killing him. Media interest soared after Retherford mounted a miraculous comeback and terrorized opposing offenses. When he left Martin Stadium behind, the story surfaced now and then, including a segment in the Legends of the Palouse film series by Jeff McQuarrie ’98. That in turn spurred a Washington State Magazine story» More …

Fall 2008

Dave Edler – “A real tough kid”

During his years as a Cougar baseball player, Dave Edler got chewed out many times by Bobo Brayton for his wild and headstrong ways. Once, Brayton caught his young star using marijuana. Edler told the coach that his father didn’t mind.

“We’ll see,” Brayton said, and phoned Edler’s father in Yakima. That resulted in “the fastest trip a guy ever took to Pullman from Yakima,” Brayton recently recalled with a laugh.

Edler left WSU in 1978, a few credits short of graduation, when he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners. He says he learned lots of lessons from the legendary coach, among them that “the … » More …

Fall 2008

Cougar Crew Days – The old crew’s back in town

Eight graying heads lean forward in unison and then back as 16 oars slide into the water and propel the boat forward. A racing shell of 50-somethings streaks by the Wawawai Landing as a crowd of more than three dozen Washington State University’s men’s crew alumni gather around the boathouse on the shores of the Snake River.

It is Saturday, March 15, and regardless of a chill wind and choppy waters, former team members have come from as far as Brazil for the annual Cougar Crew Days, a weekend event allowing current and former oarsmen, coxswains, and coaches, along with family and friends, to gather … » More …

Fall 2008

Stadium on the rise

In 1978, Sam Jankovich knew something had to be done about the football stadium.

With just 27,600 seats, Martin Stadium was much smaller than its counterparts in the Pacific-10 Conference. Because of a Pac-10 rule requiring guarantees of $25,000 to visiting teams, the Cougars had to truck up to Spokane to play certain opponents, namely USC, UCLA, and Washington, at the larger Joe Albi Stadium.

“If you could not bring in USC, UCLA, and Washington to Pullman, you could not bring the biggest attractions to where you get the biggest crowds,” said WSU’s former athletic director this spring when he stopped by Bohler Athletic Complex … » More …

Winter 2005

Home Stand: Growing Up in Sports

Poetry in motion he wasn’t. At least not on the basketball court, even though 6’ 9” Jim McKean, his fadeaway jump shot, and his rebounding (he still holds the single-game Far West Classic rebounding record of 27, set against Princeton in 1967) were anchors of the rebirth of Washington State University men’s hoops in the mid-’60s.

“He didn’t have real good feet and was not a great athlete,” Marv Harshman, WSU’s head coach at the time, said a couple of weeks before the start of this year’s NCAA tournament. But that wasn’t the whole story.

“He had great hands, and he played with his head,” … » More …

Spring 2006

When Pullman was a ski town

“Everybody still skis tremendously,” says Richter. “They’re all in really good shape.”

In 1952 the Washington State College ski team placed first in the Northern Division, the Pacific Coast Conference, and the North American International Intercollegiate Tournament in Banff, Alberta. In 1953 the Cougars won every University and College meet they entered, including Banff and the National Intercollegiate Championship at snow Basin, Utah. The following year the National Intercollegiate Championship became the NCAA Division I championship, which took place in Reno, Nevada. The Cougars were favored to win that as well. But the coach of the University of Denver team  … » More …