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Know your enemy 2017: Washington State edition

Already on week two of the season? Where does the time go? The Broncos have a tall-order in front of them this week as they tackle the Air Raid amidst an Air Quality crisis. I won’t pretend to know the outcome, but you can at least know your enemy. Some facts, as they are historical, remain there are a few re-run factoids mixed in, but don’t worry...they’re good ones.

Ten things you might not know about Washington State or their Palouse post

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 that’s what the guy who named the town had in his bindle when he stumbled upon the site.

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 Stalin, North Dakota.


“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) The NCAA basketball tournament has been around since 1939 and its winner is universally regarded as the national champion...but they played basketball prior to 1939 as well—most likely in singlets and by tossing an inflated pig's bladder into a peach basket. Yes, prior to the Big Dance (which in the early days was called The Big Charleston) some pretty exciting 30-point basketball games were being staged and in 1917, WSU's season was just "bully". The Cougars went 25-1 that season and though they didn’t receive a crystal peach basket for their efforts, they were retroactively named national champions by the Premo-Porretta Power Poll and the Helms Athletic Foundation. The Premo-Porretta Power Poll (say that five times fast then mop the spit off your monitor) analyzes historical data and nominates a national champ based on said data given that no national tournament of any kind existed for basketball prior to 1938. So using SCIENCE, the PPPP consider the 1916-17 Cougar team the champs...which backs up the findings of the Helms Athletic Foundation. In modern parlance, this is known as a "mythical national championship"...but it still means a lot to the long-dead players on the team who are hoisting their crystal peach basket in heaven as we speak (what a bunch of showboats).

3) WSU has had their own creamery on-campus since 1923 when the Dairy Department (this was the 20s, remember) set up shop in Wilson Hall (they'd been renting a building in downtown Pullman prior). In the 1940s, the US government funded WSU's research to find a way to keep cheese in tins because the government didn't really have anything else to do in the 1940s. One of the cheeses to emerge from this research was seriously good (unless you're lactose intolerant) and it was dubbed Cougar Gold (not because of the color...but after Dr. N.S. of the researchers). You can still get a tin of Cougar Gold today along with other types of "Cougar Cheese" (yuck) if you so desire—just say “pass me a can of Cougar Cheese” at any reputable establishment worldwide and get ready to LIVE.

The cheese stands alone

2) WSU's colors are the regal crimson and gray, but once upon a time, those colors were just a tad less tough. Early on, WSU adopted pink and blue as their color palette—an ensemble that only a tutu could make more menacing. WSU's first president's wife chose the colors as she felt they closely resembled the Palouse sunsets, which is preposterous as we ALL know that sunsets everywhere are blue and orange. In 1900 a student election changed the colors to their current iteration and nary a sunset on the Palouse has been enjoyed since.

1) WSU is home to its own 1,000 kW TRIGA-type nuclear reactor and particle accelerator at its Nuclear Science Center. The reactor was built in 1961 with some dough from the Atomic Energy Commission and the National Science Foundation and went critical that same year. In 1969, Congress mandated that all "research" reactors should be converted to use only low-enriched uranium rather than highly-enriched uranium and WSU sprung into action and made the switch 39 years later.

Frankly, I think it's only a matter of time until WSU uses their reactor to create a race of pink and blue-clad nuclear supermen with which they will field a football team. Conversely, they may use it to figure out a way to pack Cougar cheese into an ever smaller tin. The world stands ready.