Traditions identify us as members of Cougar Nation and connect us to the greats who have come before us. A flag deserves a 2 am wake-up call, a shark attack in wheat field country is expected, and a tailgate isn’t a tailgate without Cougar Gold. Quarterback Luke Falk has touched former play-caller Connor Halliday’s fingerprints on the paw of the Cougar Pride statue during the Cougar Prowl and “Voice of the Cougars” Glenn Johnson has sung the same Fight Song as “Granddaddy of them all” Rose Bowl-namer Keith Jackson.
Some traditions are so ingrained in our culture that no explanation is needed. So many Cougar faithful have joined in when Johnson announces “And that’s another… Cougar First Down” since 1982 that this year’s Cougar Athletics billboards simply use the first half of the sweetest phrase uttered on Cougar football Saturdays.
Other traditions are newer and have a you-had-to-be-there-to-understand origin. Sharks in the middle of wheat country? Who knew? The snapping jaws arm movement started with the Palouse Posse, the dominating defense of the mid-1990s, and was backed up by the ominous music of the Cougar Marching Band. The Cougars went to the Rose Bowl at the end of the 1997 season.
Cougar fans have been building up our strength for all that chanting, cheering and attacking by sharing Cougar Gold with friends before games since the 1940s, and enjoying other game day delicacies prior to that. Tailgating is one tradition that Kevin Herda has practiced since his student days. Going to the Fieldhouse before games now is “like going to a family reunion,” seeing so many friends and eating well, says Herda.
Sometimes traditions are tweaked to honor the past while fitting present circumstances. This year’s Cougar Prowl route takes the team through Herda’s tailgating spot, the Hollingbery Fieldhouse, named for the winningest football coach in school history who also took the Cougars to the 1931 Rose Bowl. This is a more direct path to the stadium and football glory than the previous Prowl path, established in 2010.
In 1998 the Victory Bell was moved from the top of College Hall to the front courtyard of the Lewis Alumni Centre so that all who wished could participate in the celebratory ringing. The Touchdown Cannon was also moved, from the top of the Compton Union Building to the top of the Terrell Library, in 2010.
Another Cougar icon that has moved around a lot is the Washington State University flag. A WSU flag has appeared on every ESPN College GameDay since 2003—a proud tradition of 179 appearances to date. Former Jenkins Middle School teacher Tom Graham flew the flag in Fargo, North Dakota, its 150th appearance on the show. “To have the opportunity and privilege to ‘Fly the flag on Game Day’ should be on every WSU alum’s bucket list,” says Graham. “Like I said earlier, my wife said ‘Yes,’ our children were born, and I flew the flag on Game Day!”
You will see many WSU flags lining the #RoadtotheRoses. You might also see some Shark Crossing signs, too.
Photos and videos from the game are on Facebook at The Independent (Chewelah, WA) and Northeast Washington Cougs!
By Sarah English/For The Independent