By Sarah English/For The Independent
In 2002, Washington State University secured their Rose Bowl appearance by beating the University of California-Los Angeles Bruins. Last weekend the Cougars reached the halfway point on this year’s Road to the Roses, having beaten UCLA in the Homecoming game last weekend at the midpoint in the season.
A season, incidentally, with seven home games—more than is typical. The last time the Cougars played seven home games was in 1999, when they ended the season not with the Apple Cup game against the rival school in Seattle, but with a win in Hawaii against the Rainbow Warriors two days after Thanksgiving. The quarterback for that game was Jason Gesser, who led the Cougars in their Rose Bowl appearance at the end of the 2002 season.
Many alumni are grateful for the excuse that home football games provide to return to campus. A popular Facebook meme states, “You spend four years trying to get out of Pullman, and the rest of your life trying to get back.” Perhaps because it really is something special and so many alumni look for any excuse to return, Washington State University became the first school in the Northwest to celebrate Homecoming, in 1913. With special events put on by the colleges, opportunities to see friends and professors, and a pep rally around a bonfire like no other, a Homecoming game is an especially compelling reason to return to your alma mater.
The same holds true for Jenkins High School Cougars. As Chewelah School District Superintendent Rick Linehan has observed, alumni “make a better effort to get to Homecoming games. They are willing to make the trek in from out-of-state.” As many Chewelah residents will remember, “Our [Jenkins High School] Homecoming was awesome; it was just early,” said Linehan. Homecoming was the last game played on the football field in its current state. It will look very different next year with the addition of a track within the boundaries of the bleachers.
The value of home games for their emotional boon to the players, such as the added pleasure of playing in front of friends and family and with no fatigue from travel to an away game, and economic benefits to the town from the sale of goods to visitors, is evident to Linehan, himself a college football player. He noted that the committee that worked on the passage of the levy for the track was very clear about not wanting to lose a season’s worth of home football games—and the perks—when developing the construction timeline. After all, having the ability to compete at home was the impetus for the new track. “We had state champions [in track] and their families were never able to watch their kids at home,” Linehan said.
Looking forward to the Apple Cup, Linehan said, “I do believe that it will be a great game and a high scoring game. The last team with the ball may be the winner and I think the winner will be going to the Rose Bowl.” Home field advantage goes to the Cougars. Though there’s no place like Martin Stadium in Pullman for games, Pasadena will make a great home-away-from-home come January 2. Go Cougs!