Wazzup with Wazzu: The flag at every College Gameday
On October 4, 2003, fans watching ESPN's College Gameday broadcast from Austin, Texas, for the Kansas State-Texas game saw something a little out of place -a flag emblazoned with the Cougar logo of Washington State.
Pullman, Washington, where Wazzu is located, is a long way from Washington, and Wazzu doesn't even play in the same conference as Kansas State and Texas. So, what possibly could bring a Cougar, as well as a giant logo flag, all the way to Austin?
The idea was born on a message board site called cougfan.com where a fan suggested that a Cougar flag be flown at College Gameday locations to get ESPN's attention in hopes that they would bring the show to Pullman since Washington State was having a great season.
Tom Pounds, a Wazzu alum living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, took that idea to heart and created his own Crimson colored Cougar logo flag. Pounds then drove 800 miles to Austin to wave the flag, since named Ol' Crimson, at College Gameday.
Inspired by Pounds' action, several other cougfan.com members banded together to create the Ol' Crimson Booster Club, a group dedicated to making sure the flag would be waved at every College Gameday broadcast until Howard, Herbstreit and Corso found themselves making picks in Pullman.
However, the streak went on and on, and the Gameday busses never pulled into Pullman.
Yet, the flag remained, waving on in the background of College Gameday, becoming just as much a part of the show as punny signs and headgear picks.
"It's taken on a life of its own," said Cameron McCoy, a 1998 Wazzu graduate and Coordinator of the Ol' Crimson Booster Club. "It's part of our tradition and part of our university."
McCoy is in charge of finding alumni to wave the flag at Gameday locations week after week, but, lately, they've been finding him.
"I’ll get emails the week before saying if they go to this place or that place, I want to do it," he said, "It's not nearly as difficult as in the early years to find someone to wave the flag."
But, in those early years, finding a waver could be quite a struggle.
"There have been some heroic moments. There's a guy named Andrew Pannek who worked for an airline and would take the red eye down, drive through the night to wave the flag at [locations]," McCoy said. "There have been some real heroes who kept this thing going."
Pannek worked for Delta Airlines in the early years of what is affectionately called "the streak" and felt, almost dutifully, that he should use the opportunities afforded to him to help Cougar Nation.
"I was able to fly at a moments notice most times, and, with the opportunity to fly afforded to me," said Pannek, "I thought I might be able to go to the places where we didn’t have any people."
Pannek went to 12 College Gamedays in the early years and said he endured a lot of sleeping in airports and "more than once" driving all night to get to the location.
But, to make 170 consecutive appearances over 12 college football seasons, these Coug fans have to be that dedicated.
"Cougs are a loyal bunch. Its kinda hard to explain," McCoy said. "Everyone loves their school, but there's just something rabid about Coug fans."
And, even though the ESPN busses havent pulled up to the Washington State campus, Ol' Crimson believe they may have accomplished something even greater.
"Every Saturday, I know it's more than just getting Gameday to Pullman," McCoy said. "If people don’t see that flag, then my phone starts blowing up. It just confirms itself every single Saturday."
While the club's stated goal is still to get Gameday to Pullman, they won't be too upset if it doesn't happen for a while.
"Even if Gameday does come to Pullman, I don’t know of any plans that are in the works to end the streak," Pannek said, "At this point, I don’t know if it could."
The Ol' Crimson Booster Club has done much more than make their campus the center of a single television broadcast. They've given their school national fame, created a sort of collective legacy and vaulted their flag and logo to iconic status.
After 12 years and 170 Saturdays, one final wave at Pullman just won't do.
"I don’t think [getting to Pullman] really matters anymore," McCoy said.
"Its part of tradition now. Its part of the show."