Q&A with Director of Athletics Jim Sterk
April 17, 2009
How did the idea of the Apple Cup at Qwest Field come about?
It originated from First & Goal. They are the parent company of Qwest Field and we have worked with them for our annual Seattle game since 2002. Our agreement expires at the end of 2009 and we have had annual discussions with them about ways to continue our relationship and enhance our presence at the westside of the state. This is something we do annually with First & Goal. Having the Apple Cup take place at Qwest Field was one option they brought up.
What was your initial reaction when you first were approached with the concept?
It was similar to comments that have come my way in many of the e-mails I received during the past couple of days. My first thought was that this will never happen. Some of the greatest moments in the series occurred at Martin Stadium and made the rivalry what it is today.
Can you understand the negative reaction you have received? Has there been any positive?
Yes. I know the passion Cougar fans have for this game, and they have not been shy in expressing to me their dislike of the possibility of this happening. After I was first approached with the proposal, I sought and received feedback from members of the WSU Advisory Committee as well as from alumni and fans. Basically the context of the feedback was I would be fiscally irresponsible if I did not consider this. During the past couple of days I also have received positive comments as well. I greatly appreciate all the comments, whether they have been for or against, that have been sent to me.
What changed your mind from your first reaction to the proposal?
After my initial reaction, the unprecedented financial challenges facing WSU and, specifically, the Athletic Department caused me to rethink the proposal. It was something I just could not ignore. It would have been fiscally irresponsible of me to do so.
If this becomes reality, would it be a permanent move?
No. This would be for a six-year period beginning with the 2010 game. This means that three games that would have been played in Pullman will be at Qwest Field.
How financially beneficial would moving the Apple Cup to Qwest be for WSU?
Currently, our revenue sharing for each school in the Apple Cup is approximately $240,000 when the game is played at Martin Stadium and roughly $800,000 when the game is played at Husky Stadium. With this agreement the WSU Athletic Department would be provided with approximately $10 million (approximately $2 million each year) of new revenue for moving essentially three games from Pullman to Qwest. In addition, we wouldn't have to set foot into Husky Stadium.
So how can this financially benefit your Athletic Department?
The benefits can be far-reaching and extensive. The revenue that would be gained will assist us with improving all aspects of our department. Revenues can assist in funding of Phase III of the stadium renovation, and can be applied toward work on other facilities. In addition, football supports all of the non-revenue sports in the department and those sports would benefit from the increased revenue brought in.
What affect has the economy had in all of this?
The economic downturn has definitely affected us all, including athletics. If the state's proposed 14 percent tuition increase goes through, it would add over $1 million to the Athletic Department's scholarship bill. Coupled with the sizeable budget cuts the Athletic Department will likely experience in the future, then you can see why I believe it would be fiscally irresponsible of me not to consider this.
Do you see benefits that extend beyond the financial realm?
Absolutely. In regards to tickets, twice as many Cougar fans would be able to see the Apple Cup if it were played at Qwest Field. Under the proposed agreement, both WSU and UW will receive equal tickets to the game. As it stands now, approximately 30,000 seats are available for Cougars when the game is played in Martin Stadium and approximately 5,000 when we play in Husky Stadium.
If this becomes reality will you continue to play the annual September game at Qwest Field?
That is another benefit this can bring. We would discontinue our September game at Qwest, meaning that six games will return to Pullman during the time period of the agreement.
Any other positives that you see?
Yes. The game will be played during the weekend after Thanksgiving so the extended schedule would allow for a needed bye-week later in the season to help the team recover from the rigors of the season. Also, the majority of alumni and students are from the westside, and this would make seeing one Cougar football game easier for them. However, I do understand and do not discount the inconvenience this can cause for our eastside fans.
Any final message you want to deliver to Cougar Nation?
I appreciate all the feedback I received. I know how emotional an issue this is for so many. The Apple Cup has a long and distinguished history, and it is something to be cherished by both Cougars and Huskies. And while the history is important it is my job to also look to the future and the well-being of the Washington State Athletic Department. I have stated before and I'll repeat again that my objective is to arrive at an agreement that is financially positive for WSU, will provide greater opportunities for our fans to continue to see the Cougars play in Seattle and Pullman, and provide the greatest benefit for Cougar Athletics and Washington State University. All decisions I make as the Director of Athletics of this great institution I have the best interests of WSU, our student-athletes, our student body, alumni and fans; the greater Pullman community, and the entire state at heart.