Nov. 8, 2004
By Jason Krump
WSU Athletic Media Relations
Washington State football season ticket holders received something extra when they opened their 2004 ticket package.
Enclosed in the packet was a letter entitled "With Good Sportsmanship, We All Win." The letter, which was signed by each of the alumni directors from the Pacific-10 Conference, states the importance of achieving the goal of good sportsmanship within the conference.
The letter is just one aspect of a combined initiative by the WSU Athletics Department and the WSU Alumni Association to make the Cougar game-day experience better for everyone.
And one way to do that, says Executive Director of Alumni Relations and Alumni Association Tim Pavish, is for fans to display good sportsmanship.
"I believe WSU can set an example for other universities to follow in pursuing a more positive atmosphere in all of our sports venues," Pavish said. "Loud, enthusiastic fans are great for Cougar Athletics, but when we abuse visiting fans, coaches and players we're not helping our teams win. In fact, that kind of behavior might even fire up the opposing teams, and it certainly hurts WSU's reputation.
"We want Martin Stadium and our other venues to always be a competitive advantage for the Cougars," Pavish added. "However, when the opposing fans leave, we want them to say, `We may have lost the game, but the Cougars treated us well; they're a class act.'"
Pavish pitched the idea of a sportsmanship letter to his fellow conference alumni directors. He composed the letter and gathered all the signatures from the directors. In addition to WSU's season ticket packet, the letter was included in every Pac-10 school's ticket package.
Pavish's involvement in the sportsmanship initiative was prompted by what he witnessed while attending the WSU-Ohio State football game at Columbus in 2002.
"I was really shocked by how poorly WSU fans were treated at Ohio State," Pavish said. "WSU is said to have the best game-day atmosphere in the Pac-10, so when we treat visiting fans the way the Ohio State fans treated us, we're only hurting ourselves."
In addition, recent incidents at WSU brought the issue first-hand to the school.
"We want our fans to be loud, we want them to be a part of the game and to give us a home field edge," Assistant Director of Athletics for Events and Facilities Operations John David Wicker said. "But at the same time we don't want to witness behavior such as foul language, flipping people off and throwing things. That's not part of the game and it can cost us in many ways."
Wicker cites incidents such as the bottle throwing episode that occurred after the 2002 Apple Cup, which was mentioned in the NCAA's report on sportsmanship and fan behavior that was released in 2003, and fan behavior at the Stanford men's basketball game last year.
In order to achieve the goal of good sportsmanship at WSU, Wicker is heading a committee that includes athletic administration, student groups, student-athletes, police, university administration and alumni.
"The broad goal is to clean it up," Wicker said. "We want to make it okay for fans to bring their 7-year old child to the game and not have the child come home with a new volcabulary."
In order to achieve this, the committee is working to implement procedures to promote good sportsmanship.
Among these are video messages from coaches and players that will be played during games, Cougar ambassadors out on game day to welcome visiting fans, the displaying of banners and posters with messages to promote positive sportsmanship, and 30-second spots that air during the pre-game radio broadcasts.
Wicker says that video messaging may be executed this season while the long-term goal is to have the project done by May so it can be implemented next year.
The push toward good sportsmanship at WSU is not just limited to football, says Pavish.
"We are looking for ways to enhance the experience at all men's and women's athletic events," he said.
While positive fan behavior at WSU is a primary goal with the initiative, Pavish hopes the effects will spread throughout the conference.
"The goal is not only to enhance the game-day experience at WSU but at all of the schools in the Pac-10."