Dec. 24, 2002
DAY 2 (Christmas Eve) The Regent Beverly Wilshire was void of Cougars early in the morning, with the exception of the coaching staff, who were hunched over video projectors in the offensive and defensive meeting rooms by 7:00 a.m. About 90 minutes later you could find players walking, not yet completely awake, toward the taping room.
Many also were headed to the player hospitality room, where they could find a pool tables, a foos ball table, televisions, and the desire for this early morning appointment - juice, apples, bananas and plenty of pastry, thanks to Cougar Mania honcho Ernie Housel. Housel, with the tenacity of a bulldog, makes sure the Cougar players have as many comforts as possible during their down time. He has a cooler stocked with soft drinks and Gatoraide, plus a cooler with pizzas and plenty of microwaves for everything that needs to be heated or cooked.
The buses rolled at 9:30 a.m. sharp and within 30 minutes were pulling into the LA Coliseum for the first real practice, complete with pads. A few players started practice without their regular practice jerseys, the result of a missing bag of laundry that the local company left back at headquarters. But thanks to the efforts of Milton Neal's equipment staff, few knew anything was missing, with quickly produced practice jerseys handed out to those who were missing their regular wear. Shortly after practice was underway, the missing jerseys arrived.
It was a relatively quiet practice, with few onlookers - just a few members of the media who have arrived early to cover the Cougars, a few family members from Southern California, and a couple of former Cougar players, including defensive back Chris Moton, who remembered being recruited by Jim Walden, then played for both Dennis Erickson and Mike Price. Moton will never forget the LA Coliseum. It was about the 30 yard line opposite the tunnel entrance where he blew a knee that every so often still reminds him of that game against the USC Trojans. Moton says his recreation now includes playing quarterback for a "nationally ranked" flag football team. Now they are ranking flag football teams?
Once practice was done, some players headed for a weight room set up by the Rose Bowl Association in a tent at the end of the field near the Olympic Torch. A few were requested for media interviews, while the rest showered and headed out for lunch.
Once Tuesday's practice was completed, the Cougar players were released for Christmas, with many headed home from the LA Coliseum. All must be back in time to board the buses at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. Several locals took teammates home with them for the short Christmas break.
DAY 1 After nearly two days of relaxation at the Coeur d'Alene Resort, the Cougar football team embarked on the one-hour bus ride to the Spokane Airport, while at approximately the same time many staff and support personnel left Pullman for the same destination.
Both groups arrived at the Cougar charter about 11:30 a.m. and by shortly after noon, the huge DC-10 was air-born for LAX in Los Angeles. The flight was uneventful and smooth, with many players opting to watch an in-flight movie, listen to their personal CD players, or take a nap. Or for some a little of all three.
Touching down about 2:30 p.m., the Cougar football team took five buses and headed across town to the Los Angeles Coliseum, their practice home until the Jan. 1 meeting with Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. The rest of the travel party bused to WSU's home for 10 days, the Regent Beverly Wilshire (RBW) on Wilshire Blvd. and near Rodeo Drive in the Beverly Hills area.
The Tournament of Roses made hotel arrangements for all Rose Bowl participants, placing WSU in the RBW and sending Oklahoma to the Park Hyatt hotel in Century City, about a mile from the Cougar hotel. The media covering the Rose Bowl is housed in the Century Plaza Hotel, also located at Century City, which was the site in 1997 of a huge Cougar Rally.
The Cougar coached drilled the football team for about 30 minutes, with most of the work spent on small unit drills or special team work. At the end, 10 50-yard sprints were in order, just to get the kinks out after a two-plus hour flight and then bus ride through the traditional traffic of LA.
Then back on the buses and off to check in at the RBW. After being issued room keys and storing their belongings, the Cougar players and coaches gathered in a large ballroom and were introduced to the Rose Bowl queen and her court. Marcus Trufant and Jason Gesser represented the Cougars on stage, with the queen presenting Gesser with a banqet of roses prepared in the form of Hawaiian lei.
Once the festivities and numerous media interviews were finished, the players were free of team duties and headed out for a look around the hotel and the many tourist attractions of Beverly Hills. Walking around the hotel, you just knew many of the players were looking for Julia Roberts, who filmed Pretty Women in the same hotel. A week earlier Larry King was observed eating breakfast at the RBW during the Cougars' Rose Bowl advance. The odds are good, according to locals, you can see someone famous in the hotel just about every day of the week.