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Know your enemy: Washington State edition

WSU lead

Boise State is back home this week and looking to extend their win streak as the Cougars of Washington State come to town. The Broncos and Cougars haven’t met on the field since 2001 and last time they did, things didn’t go too well for the Broncos. Will this year be different? There’s only one way to find out...but until we do, let’s get to know our enemy.


Ten things you might not know about Washington State or their lentil-laden land-holdings

10) The town we now know as Pullman, Washington was established around 1876 by a lentil loving group of settlers and was initially named Three Forks because of the convergence of Missouri Flat Creek, Dry Fork, and the South Fork of the Palouse River...and because of the great silverware drought of '76.

9) By 1884, the town had swelled to 200 people (50 less than it has today) and included a general store, a post office, and lentils as far as the eye could see—did I mention the town is known as The Lentil Capital? I probably should've mentioned that. Anyhoo, that same year Dan McKenzie and Charles Moore (who was from Moscow, so you know he fell off a dormitory balcony at some point) arrived in the town and decided they should name the fledgling settlement "Pullman" after American industrialist George Pullman. You see, George Pullman was a big wheel in the railroad industry on account of him designing and manufacturing the Pullman Sleeping Car, and McKenzie and Moore thought the homage might persuade Pullman to build major railroads in his eponymous town. It didn't. The railroad route went to Spokane but the new name stuck and the city was incorporated in 1886.

There is another utopia named after Pullman...a company town he built south of Chicago that housed his workers. In the company town, workers had to buy all their goods and housing from the company, and there was no free press so they couldn't complain about it—awesome! After Pullman cut salaries by 30% (but kept rent and store prices the same)...his indentured servants went on strike, and Pullman, being the benevolent leader he was, pressed president Grover Cleveland for federal troops. He got them...and 34 people were killed in the ensuing violence. Turns out, George Pullman was an excellent dude to name a town after...just ask the good residents of Hitler, Nebraska.


“I build the best sleeping cars 7 cents of labor can buy”

8) Four years after Pullman became...well...Pullman, the Washington legislature thought it high time to grant some land for a college but had not yet designated a location for said college. The previous year, the Idaho territory had granted land in neighboring Moscow for the establishment of some sort of flagship and Pullman wanted a piece of that action, so the town leaders donated 160 acres of land to persuade the state to pick Pullman for the state lentil college. This time, the plan didn't backfire in favor of Spokane, and in 1891, Pullman was chosen as the site for the college. By the following year, Washington Agricultural College and School of Science opened to a student body of 59. As is the custom, in 1905 the school was renamed the fitting "State College of Washington" and became colloquially known as "Washington State College"...a moniker it kept until 1959, when it became Washington State University or "Wazzu", (a quaint, old-timey term for the anus).


7) Washington State (Washington Agricultural College and School of Science) played their first "season" of football in 1894...a two game murderer's row of a schedule that featured the University of Idaho and Spokane High School (they're so smug with their railroad and all). The team was coached by one William Goodyear and I suppose it was an Okayyear as they defeated Idaho but lost 18-0 to Spokane High School. By this point, I'm sure you're all having a chuckle that in 1894, the University of Idaho's football team was weaker than a high school team, but I assure you that is still the case.

6) Washington State's athletics teams weren't always known as the Cougars. Their first official mascot was a terrier named "Squirt" that someone had brought to campus—I'm not sure what the actual team nickname was at this time, but I'm going to assume for my own amusement they were "the squirts". From 1910 to 1916, the nickname was "the Indians" and this was due to the school having a string of head coaches from the national football powerhouse Carlisle Indian College. In 1919, when Washington State played Cal for the first time, a cartoonist portrayed the WSC team as fierce cougars chasing the Golden Bears of Cal...the cartoon-loving student body voted to change the nickname to the Cougars a few days later. By the way, that cartoonist also lent the nickname to the Kent State Marmadukes.

The Cougar mascot has been known as "Butch" since around 1927 when then-governor Roland Hartley presented the student body with a cougar cub (there was a fire sale at Pullman Cougar Emporium). The students wanted to name the cub the a bit on-the-nose "Governor Hartley", but Hartley suggested the name "Butch" after the school's star player Herbert "Butch" Meeker. The students—not eager to look a gift cougar in the mouth—acquiesced.

coug cartoon

5) If you don't think Washington State has a rich football history then think again, buddy. I'll have you know that the just over a century ago, in 1915, the Cougars or Indians or whatever they were known as at the time (I've already forgotten) went a perfect 10-0, with their season culminating in a Rose Bowl victory and free lentils for all. The Indians or Warriors outscored their opponents 204-10, which when adjusted for inflation is 2,340-126. The only bummer for WSC was that two other teams went undefeated that season—Pitt and Cornell, and when national polling was retroactively applied to the '15 season in 1935, Cornell was named the national champion and Pitt and WSC were told to go suck an egg.

nard dog

4) Washington State's bitterest rival off the field is the University of Idaho, which is just seven miles away. The Cougs and Vandals fight annually for 12-packs of Natural Ice at a stateline convenience store. On the field...WSU's bitterest rival is the University of Washington, with whom they play out an annual rivalry game known as the Apple Cup. The Apple Cup (known then as the Lentil Goblet) was first played in 1900 and ended in a thrilling 5-5 tie. Since then, the game has played out 107 more times with Washington most often the victor (70-32-6). In fact, since the game's inception, WSU has never strung more than two consecutive victories do you like them apples?

3) Cartoonist Gary Larson, of Far Side fame, is a WSU is Edward R. Murrow, of 'being Edward R. Murrow' fame. The school also claims Microsoft bigwig Paul Allen and Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson. Furthermore, did you know that the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA finals?

2) The Cougars play their home football games at Martin Stadium (capacity: 32,952), a stadium ranked 12th in Athlon's prestigious list of top 12 stadiums in the Pac-12. The stadium is named after Clarence Martin, a former governor of Washington and, ironically, a UW-grad. Martin Stadium opened in 1972...with a loss to Utah and replaced the wooden Rogers Field that had been extensively damaged by a fire in 1970. Fun fact: the University of Idaho has "borrowed" WSU's field more than once in their history. First, in 1969...when Idaho's Neale Stadium was condemned due to soil erosion the Vandals used Rogers Field for their "home" games and then between 1999 and 2001, the Vandals again borrowed WSU's field to skirt NCAA attendance requirements. Don't worry, their attendance woes are long since past.

1) We've had some fun at Washington State's (and Idaho's) expense today, but let it be known—Boise State is 0-4 against the Cougs and WSU represents both the last regular season non-conference home loss for the Broncos (2001) and the last time the Broncos were shutout in a game (1997). You sure don't have to hate the Cougs, but don't take 'em lightly.