No rest yet for struggling Cougars football team
Changing the Cal-WSU football game's date put $400,000 in the Cougars' coffers but meant the team must play 11 straight weeks.
Cal @ WSU, 1 p.m., FSN
PULLMAN — Up until early March, this Saturday was supposed to be a day of raking leaves, cleaning out gutters, or changing the oil in the snowblower. Anything but a Washington State football game.
Up until early March, this was one of WSU's two scheduled bye weeks.
But after March, when Washington State, California, Stanford and the Pac-10 Conference came to an understanding, the Cougars' two bye weeks became back to back, Nov. 20 and 27.
To review, seven months ago Bill Moos had just started as WSU athletic director. California was scheduled to travel to Pullman on Nov. 20. The Bears were scheduled to play Stanford on Dec. 4. Stanford's finals start Dec. 6. The Cardinal had a bye Nov. 20. Cal and WSU both had byes Nov. 6. Stanford wanted to play the Bears on Nov. 20.
A deal was struck. Washington State and California would play Nov. 6, the Bears' game with Stanford would move to Nov. 20 and $400,000 would be sent to Pullman for the Cougars' trouble.
A win-win? Maybe, except WSU became the only BCS school to play 11 consecutive weeks, which would have been a complete NCAA football schedule up until just five years ago.
"I knew it was going to be challenging from the moment it was discussed," said coach Paul Wulff this week. "For a football team to go 11 straight weeks at this level is a huge mental and physical challenge."
Wulff's foreboding has proved to be true, as the Cougars (1-8 overall, 0-6 in Pac-10 play), relatively healthy for much of the year, have seen their injuries mount the past couple weeks.
"A bye would help right now, with so many guys nicked up," Wulff said.
But that won't come for two weeks, then WSU will have back-to-back Saturdays off before the season-ending Apple Cup on Dec. 4.
The change was made for two major reasons, Moos explained.
"One was to help accommodate Cal and Stanford," he said earlier this year. "And they gave us some financial considerations. Along with that, it was my opinion — it was one of the first decisions I made — it allowed us to have a two-week break and our players can go home for Thanksgiving."
Whatever the reasons, WSU doesn't have a bye this Saturday. Instead, a 4-4 California team visits. "We're going to have to grind ourselves through the strain," Wulff said.
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