The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The Cougs should be at the table

WSU continues to defy expectations, winning despite being left behind
The WSU football teams runs out with Mike Leach pirate flags, Sept. 9.

The Cougs have now won back-to-back games against Wisconsin, a longstanding icon of the Big Ten. Despite these consecutive major upsets, top collegiate athletic conferences are yet to extend an offer to WSU for partnership in 2024 and beyond.

This year’s win over Wisconsin truly showed that WSU certainly belongs in a top conference. 

“This moment, it’s everything. We belong in a power five,” WSU head coach Jake Dickert said after the game. “There are a lot of things I would really love to say, but at the end of the day, our team belongs at the highest level.” 

A common criticism of WSU is that the athletes are not on physical par with other schools. Smaller receivers and light linebackers are often pointed to as examples of ways WSU does not recruit on the same level as other schools.

Wisconsin, on the other hand, is a football program that is known for tough, physical, Big Ten football. Traditionally recruiting at levels well beyond what WSU can manage, Wisconsin tends to match up to the reputation. Despite all that, the physicality displayed by the Cougars was absolutely on par with the Badgers Saturday night. 

WSU’s line on both sides of the ball played well through all four quarters. Two fumble recoveries and a touchdown by Brennan Jackson headlined on the defensive side while the offensive line gave ample time in the pocket to quarterback Cam Ward. The big men got the job done, playing smarter to make up for what physical differences may have been present.

Creative playcalling by offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle and defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding kept the Cougs producing consistently for most of the game. 

Ward was tough and made several game-defining plays. Ward threw for 212 yards through the air and added 43 yards with his legs via improvised and designed runs. Another key player was star safety Jaden Hicks. Hicks did his best Jamal Adams impression Saturday, flying to the ball on both running and passing plays. The electric defensive back from Las Vegas looks to be every bit of an NFL-caliber player. 

In terms of actual results, the Cougs have been at least decent most years for almost a decade now. The Cougars made a seventh straight bowl game appearance last season (excluding 2020), and while it is early, signs point to an eighth appearance this year. 

WSU’s appeal is much more than just wins in sports. The whole campus displayed a level of pride last Saturday that made for an environment that was second to none. People notice, not just people from WSU or even from Washington.  

The Cougars sold out Martin Stadium and the scene was very representative of that. The passion that reverberated throughout the stadium showed that this fan base is top tier. In nationwide TV viewership, the Cougs matchup with a Big Ten opponent ranked eighth in all of college football with over 2.2 million viewers.

They have found ways to be successful in recruiting and in the games despite not having the sway and talent of some top schools. For years now, the Cougs have shown why they belong in a top conference both on and off the field. With all of the boxes seemingly being checked for WSU, the question that still looms: what’s next for WSU?

The national spotlight will fall on the Cougs for the rest of the season. If they continue to play well and prove they belong this season, that exposure could be enough to spur an invitation from a top conference. 

Whether it’s the Big Ten that the Cougs have shown to be able to compete with or one of the other major conferences, those in charge would be foolish not to include WSU in the mix. Even just being considered would be more than the Cougs seem to be getting right now, and that is an injustice. With consistent athletic performance across nearly all athletic programs and a fanbase that has been uber-passionate for decades, WSU is more than deserving of a top conference bid.

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About the Contributors
Zach is a junior multimedia journalism major from Clarkston, Washington. He likes football and grew up going to Cougar football games.
MADDY RICE, Evergreen photographer
Maddy Rice is a photographer for the Daily Evergreen. Originally from White Center, Washington, she is a sophomore majoring in Business Managment, with a minor in Sports Managment. Maddy began working for the Daily Evergreen in the Fall of 2023.