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Originally published Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Apple Cup could move to Qwest Field

The possibility of playing at Qwest Field, with a big increase in guaranteed revenue, would nix the use of home stadiums for the Apple Cup game between Washington and Washington State.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Apple Cup games at Qwest Field?

Washington and Washington State are discussing the possibility of moving the traditional football game to the Seahawks' home field sometime after the 2009 season on what could be a multiyear basis.

While stressing that nothing has been finalized and the move is only one of several possibilities designed to enhance the UW-WSU rivalry, school officials confirm that the notion of a move to 67,000-seat Qwest has been discussed.

Athletic directors at both schools declined to comment on the matter Wednesday night. But UW spokesman Richard Kilwien said, "We're really looking at a number of different things and that's on the table, but it's not by any means anything that's done. It's just a concept that's been floated."

The Spokesman-Review in Spokane reported an agreement was near and said each school would be guaranteed about $2 million per year from it, compared to $800,000 apiece when the teams play at Husky Stadium and some $240,000 when they meet in Pullman.

The Boeing Company has sponsored the game since 2007 as part of a four-year deal. Kilwien said questions of whether there would be additional sponsorship or how many years the contract could run were "way beyond where we are on it."

One school official said there have been internal discussions about the possibility of a deal ranging from 4-6 years.

WSU released a statement from athletic director Jim Sterk that puts the idea of a move to Qwest in the context of the Cougars' annual game at the stadium. Since 2002, WSU has played an early-season game at Qwest, but it has always been a nonconference affair.

"Our current agreement with First & Goal, the parent company of Qwest Field, expires at the end of 2009," Sterk's statement read. "We have annual discussions with First & Goal on ways to continue our relationship and enhance our presence statewide. As part of those discussions, I look at all avenues, with my overriding goal being the betterment of Cougar athletics and its student-athletes."

Sterk added that "it would be premature to discuss any specific games or dates at this point."

First & Goal officials had no comment.

The game has been played at home sites since 1980, the last of 13 consecutive times the Cougars "hosted" Washington in Spokane. In 1982, after strong efforts from WSU athletic director Sam Jankovich and football coach Jim Walden, the Cougars' home game returned to Pullman and that year produced one of the memorable upsets in Apple Cup history, WSU's 24-20 victory.

Rick Neuheisel, former Washington coach, proposed Qwest as a permanent site for the game late in his tenure but it was never acted upon.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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