Seeds are planted for WSU athletics’ success


Redshirt senior wide receiver Gabe Marks catches a pass during a game against Oregon State at Martin Stadium, Oct. 17, 2015. The nine-win Cougar football team is the headlining act of a promising WSU athletics program.

Despite appropriate investments made in funding the Cougar Football Complex, the renovating of Lower Soccer Field and increasing of salaries for coaches, the second-consecutive annual posting of a $13 million deficit left a black eye on the WSU athletic department last month.

Look no further than the buffoonery engulfing the men’s basketball program to epitomize its catastrophic side effects. Of the 11 players Head Coach Ernie Kent has signed in his two years in Pullman, six have already transferred away.

He is not going away anytime soon either.

Athletic Director Bill Moos extended his contract through 2021 and just finished paying an annual $1.8 million buyout of former head coach Ken Bone’s contract.

This may get a whole lot worse before the skies begin to clear with the assistance of president-elect Kirk Schulz.

Aside from that dilemma, the next few years of Cougar athletics and the 2016-2017 season in particular looks particularly auspicious.

Helmed by the football team’s six-win improvement last fall, the university’s reputation in athletics received a boost in national recognition.

Programs like women’s soccer and rowing, which have been models of consistency have maintained their top-25 status in the 2015-2016 season, while rebuilding team’s in men’s golf, women’s basketball and volleyball primed themselves for breakout campaigns this fall with the development of elite underclassmen.

Everything is in place for another leap forward in the overall prominence of WSU athletics.

Through savvy coaching hires, like women’s soccer Head Coach Todd Shulenberger, garnering recruiting classes across the board of higher standings and facility upgrades, the WSU sports scene has the potential to be rocking come August.

Even with its current financial crisis, the athletic department has a chance to witness a decade’s worth of retooling and the systematic development of its programs come full circle to credible fruition.

The variable dictating where all of this potential goes, however, is how tangible a level of maximization transpires. An investment only goes as far as its buyers take it.

If women’s basketball Head Coach June Daugherty’s stellar recruiting class, which features five-star point guard Chanelle Molina, can gel alongside her up-and-coming underclassmen international talents, then the team may end up closing out tight ballgames in conference play rather than coming up short so many times.

For volleyball, the experience sophomore outside hitters McKenna Woodford and Casey Schoenlein bring back from playing on the U.S. Collegiate National Team can pull along some of the program’s younger players while injecting new perspective into its senior class. It is a recipe to keep improving in the win column in Pac-12 play.

All signs point toward another stellar fall for both the football and women’s soccer teams. It’s all here – the seeds planted by Moos and company for a revitalization of Cougar athletics are ready to sprout.

Past efforts redefining the Cougar identity in athletics have guided the university to its present standing of waiting to unlock untapped potential.

In each of the university’s NCAA sports, there resides the opportunity for even greater improvements this coming year. The 2015-2016 season performed the leg work in the WSU athletic department taking another step toward elite standing, and the 2016-2017 campaign can further entrench the university’s name among the best on the West Coast and nationwide.

We’ll just have to wait and see where the participating players and coaches take this northbound train. It’s up to them to capitalize on years’ worth of fermentation.