Get ready for December 13th, where the Cougs play the Hardwood Classic in Seattle against… the Bobcats!!
That’s right. Adam Morrison returns to Washington. It’s Emeka Okafor against Aron Baynes. Michael Jordan’s NBA team against Tony Bennett’s rising NCAA squad. Must see TV at the KeyArena (the worst sports venue in the history of the world, according to David Stern!).
Wait, what’s that?
The Montana State Bobcats?
Um, OK. Super.
Well, at least it’s over Christmas Break so that students and their families can pack the place.
What’s that? It’s the Saturday before finals week and the exact same day as Fall Commencement? Even President Floyd probably won’t be at the game now.
Um… so who do the Zags play in Seattle? UConn? Oh, just excuse Butch for a moment – he has to go into that corner and cry for a little bit…
Sarcasm aside, it’s time WSU got serious about making the Hardwood Classic a real showdown against a BCS-conference opponent. No offense to Montana State, but a trip to Pullman is shorter for you guys anyway. It’s like the Seattle football game where the Cougs played the Vandals.
Actually, blaming WSU is unfair. I know Sterk and I know Floyd, and they do everything in their power to try and bring schools to Pullman (or Seattle or Spokane). The man I will blame instead is the promoter, John Hines, who provides this gem of a quote to the Seattle Times:
“I talked to every big school in the country, and nobody wants to play Washington State,” said Northwest Sports and Entertainment promoter John Hines. “If there was one or two with a sliver of hope, the dates just didn’t work out.”
First, Hines contradicts himself. If the “dates just didn’t work out”, then obviously there were schools interested in playing WSU. Secondly, how does no one want to play a team that has made two straight NCAA tournaments in a place that’s 10 times easier to get to than Pullman? I don’t buy the “scared to play WSU” counter-argument, because we lost three starters and will probably be (erroneously) picked near the bottom of the conference by the media next season.
(author’s note: Also, you’re a promoter. How are you promoting a game by saying that no one wants to play one of the opponents?? Why not spin it this way: “Washington State drew serious interest from some larger universities, but the scheduling just wouldn’t work itself out. We’re still excited about a matchup of two quality Northwest teams playing in the heart of Seattle. The Cougs have a phenomenal program now, and we know the fans will get their money’s worth.” That is how you promote a game.)
To me, and a number of commenters on the Cougfan boards, this is spin. We couldn’t make it fit with other schools, and they couldn’t make it fit with us. Saying the primary reason for this was that teams didn’t want to play the Cougs is a misleading statement.
The promoter has failed, and it’s up to WSU now. We have to find an opponent in a BCS conference who we can play on the road first, and who can then guarantee us a return trip to Seattle. Make the dates work in advance, and make it happen. Sterk and the athletic department have done well getting this event organized, but it’s time to use the Cougs’ newfound prestige to reel in another quality opponent.
The game will still be fun; the Citadel game proved that by drawing the largest “home” game crowd in WSU history. They witnessed a rout of a poor freshmen-stocked team from South Carolina, and got to cheer and drink and see Kevin Durant on the sidelines in a Burnt Orange sweatshirt. Everyone had a good time. The concern I have for next season is that a smaller number of people will be having that good time because of the date, the less-hyped Cougar team, and the opponent.
It’s time to get motivated for the 2009 Hardwood Classic. This is a great opportunity for WSU to build its brand, to get on ESPN, to draw record crowds. Take a mulligan on this year. The promoter, the school, and the schedulers need to put their heads together and make this event a true “classic” – not just a token Cougar game in Seattle. It can be done.