Washington State Cougars Football
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Washington State Cougars Football
Washington State Cougars football
Washington State Cougars wordmark.svg
First season1894
Athletic directorPatrick Chun
Head coachNick Rolovich
1st season, 0-0 (-)
StadiumMartin Stadium
(Capacity: 32,952)
Year built1972
Field surfaceFieldTurf
LocationPullman, Washington
NCAA divisionDivision I FBS
ConferencePac-12 (since 1962)
DivisionNorth (since 2011)
Past conferencesIndependent (1959-1961)
Pacific Coast (1917-1958)
Independent (1894-1916)
All-time record
Bowl record8–8 (.500)
Conference titles4 (1917, 1930, 1997, 2002)
RivalriesWashington (rivalry)
Idaho (rivalry)
Consensus All-Americans7
Current uniform
Washington state football unif.png
ColorsCrimson and Gray[1]
Fight songWashington State University Fight Song
MascotButch T. Cougar
Marching bandCougar Marching Band

The Washington State Cougars football program is the intercollegiate American football team for Washington State University, located in Pullman, Washington. The team competes at the NCAA Division I level in the FBS and is a member of the North Division of the Pac-12 Conference (Pac-12). Known as the Cougars, the first football team was fielded in 1894.

The Cougars play home games on campus at Martin Stadium, which opened in 1972; the site dates back to 1892 as Soldier Field and was renamed Rogers Field ten years later. Its present seating capacity is 33,522.[2] Their main rivals are the Washington Huskies; the teams historically end the regular season with the Apple Cup rivalry game in late November.


Early history (1894-1977)

Washington Agricultural College football team in 1900

Washington State's first head football coach was William Goodyear.[3] That team played only two games in its inaugural season in 1894, posting a 1-1 record.[3] The team's first win was over Idaho.[3] The first paid head football coach was William L. Allen, who served as head coach in 1900 and 1902,[3] posting an overall record of 6-3-1.[3]

Washington Agricultural College and School of Science squares off against the University of Washington November 29, 1900 for the State Championship

John R. Bender served as head football coach from 1906-1907 and 1912-1914, compiling a record of 21-12.[4]William Henry Dietz was the Cougars' head football coach from 1915-1917, posting a stellar 17-2-1 record.[5] Dietz's 1915 team defeated Brown in the Rose Bowl, and finished with a 7-0 record. Dietz was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 2012.[6]Albert Exendine served as Washington State's head football coach from 1923-1925, posting a 6-13-4 overall record.[7]

Babe Hollingbery was the Cougars' head football coach for 17 seasons, posting a 93-53-14 (.625) record.[8] His 93 wins are the most by any head football coach in Washington State football history.[9] Hollingbery's 1930 team played in the Rose Bowl, a game they lost to Alabama.[8] The Cougars didn't lose a single home game from 1926-1935.[9] Among the Cougar greats Hollingbery coached were Mel Hein, Turk Edwards, and Mel Dressel.[9] The Hollingbery Fieldhouse that serves many of Washington State's athletics teams, was named in his honor in 1963.[9] He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1979.[9] Like many other college football programs, the Cougars did not field a team in 1943 or 1944, due to World War II.[10] After the war ended, Phil Sarboe was hired away from Lincoln High School in Tacoma to return to his alma mater as the head coach.[10] Sarboe's Cougars posted a 17-26-3 (.402) record in his five seasons.[11]

Forest Evashevski took over as the head coach in late 1949.[12] His 1951 team finished the season ranked #14 in the Coaches' Poll and #18 in the AP Poll.[13] He was 11-6-2 (.632) in his two seasons in Pullman,[13] then left for Iowa in the Big Ten Conference.[12] Evashevski was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 2000.[12] Assistant coach Al Kircher was promoted,[14] but didn't enjoy as much success as his predecessor, going 13-25-2 (.350) in his four seasons as head coach.[15] He was not retained after his contract expired.[14]Jim Sutherland was Washington State's 21st head football coach and led the program for eight seasons, through 1963,[16] with an overall record of 37-39-4 (.488).[16]

Previously an assistant at rival Washington, Bert Clark was WSU's head coach for four seasons,[17] posting an overall record of 15-24-1 (.388).[17] His best season was his second in 1965, when the WSU "Cardiac Kids" went 7-3;[17] they defeated three Big Ten teams on the road,[18] but lost to rivals Idaho and Washington. It was Clark's only winning season, as he failed to win more than three games in the other three.[17] Clark was not retained after the end of his fourth season.[18]

Montana State head coach Jim Sweeney was hired prior to the 1968 season led the Cougars for eight seasons,[19] with an overall record of 26-59-1 (.308).[19] His best season was 1972 at 7-4,[19] which was his only winning season.[19] Sweeney resigned shortly after the 1975 season,[20] and was succeeded by Jackie Sherrill, the defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh, but he stayed for only one season.[21] The Cougars were 3-8 in 1976,[21] then Sherrill returned to Pitt as head coach.[22]Warren Powers, an assistant from Nebraska, also stayed for just one season (1977),[23] then returned to the Big Eight Conference as head coach at Missouri.[24]

Jim Walden era (1978-1986)

Jim Walden was promoted to head coach following the departure of Powers.[25] In nine seasons, Walden led the Cougars to one bowl appearance, the Holiday Bowl in 1981, a memorable loss to BYU.[25][26] It was Washington State's first bowl in 51 years, since the 1931 Rose Bowl.[25] (The Pac-8 did not allow a second bowl team until 1975.) Walden won Pacific-10 Coach of the Year honors in 1981 and 1983.[25][26] Walden's final record at Washington State was 44-52-4.[25][26] Players coached by Walden at WSU include Jack Thompson, Kerry Porter, Rueben Mayes, Ricky Turner, Ricky Reynolds, Paul Sorensen, Brian Forde, Lee Blakeney, Mark Rypien, Dan Lynch, Pat Beach, Keith Millard, Erik Howard, and Cedrick Brown.[25] Walden left after the 1986 season for Iowa State in the Big Eight.[25][27]

Dennis Erickson era (1987-1988)

When hired in early 1987, 39-year-old Dennis Erickson said it was his lifelong dream to become the head football coach of the Cougars.[28] His contract was a five-year deal at an annual base salary of $70,000, with up to $30,000 from radio, television, and speaking obligations.[29] Erickson was previously the head coach at Wyoming for one season, preceded by four on the Palouse at neighboring Idaho.[28]

Erickson's Cougars posted a 3-7-1 record in his first season, but improved to 9-3 in 1988,[30] capped with a victory in the Aloha Bowl, the Cougars' first bowl victory since January 1916.[30] Although stating publicly a week earlier that he would not leave Washington State,[31] Erickson departed for Miami in March 1989; his overall record with the Cougars was 12-10-1 (.543).[32][30]

Mike Price era (1989-2002)

Former Cougar player and assistant Mike Price returned to Pullman in 1989; he was previously the head coach for eight years at Weber State in Ogden, Utah.[33] Price led the Cougars to unprecedented success, taking his 1997 and 2002 teams to the Rose Bowl, both times losing.[33] The 1997 team was led by star quarterback Ryan Leaf, the second overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers.[34] Those teams finished ranked #9 and #10 in the Coaches' and AP Polls, respectively.[33][35] Price also led the Cougars to victories in the Copper, Alamo, and Sun Bowls,[33][35] and had an overall record of 83-78 (.516) at WSU.[33][35] It was during the 2002 season that Washington State received its highest ranking ever in the modern era in the AP Poll at #3.[33] Price left after the Rose Bowl for Alabama,[33] but was fired before ever coaching a game for the Crimson Tide, due to an off-the-field incident in the spring.[36]

Bill Doba era (2003-2007)

Defensive coordinator Bill Doba was promoted to head coach following Price's departure.[37] Things started out well in 2003, as they went 10-3 to finish ninth in both major polls.[38]The Cougars slipped to 5-6 in 2004 and 4-7 in 2005.[38] A 6-6 season in 2006 followed,[38] and after finishing the 2007 season at 5-7,[38] Doba was fired with an overall record of 30-28 (.517).[39]

Paul Wulff era (2008-2011)

Former Cougar center Paul Wulff was hired away from Eastern Washington in Cheney to succeed Doba.[40] Wulff struggled mightily as the WSU head coach, failing to win more than four games in a single season.[41] His overall record at Washington State was 9-40 (.184),[41] the lowest winning percentage of any head coach in Washington State football history,[42] and he was fired after the 2011 season.[43]

Mike Leach era (2012-2019)

In November 2011, it was announced that Mike Leach would replace Wulff as head coach.[44] Leach had previously spent ten seasons as head coach at Texas Tech.[45] In 2012, the new coaching staff installed an Air raid offense; an exciting, up-tempo, pass-oriented offensive attack which led the Pac-12 Conference in passing offense.[46] In his second season in 2013, Leach led Washington State to the New Mexico Bowl, the first bowl game for the Cougars in a decade.[46] Leach received a two-year contract extension that November, after leading the Cougars to their best record since 2006.[47]

In 2015, Leach guided the Washington State Cougars to their first bowl victory since the 2003 season.[48] In that same year, the team also posted a 9-4 winning season and was ranked in the AP Poll, Coach's Poll, and College Football Playoff ranking. Leach was named the Pac-12's co-Coach of the Year,[49] as well as the Associated Press Pac-12 Coach of the Year.[50] After the season, his contract was extended through the 2020 season.[51]

In 2016, sandwiched between a two-game losing streak to begin and three-game losing streak to end the season, the Cougars rode an eight-game winning streak to a place in the Holiday Bowl, but lost to Minnesota 17-12.[52] They finished with a 7-2 Pac-12 record and overall record of 8-5 for 2016.[53] Huge wins over Oregon and #15 Stanford contributed to the Cougars' best finish in Pac-12 conference play since the 2003 team went 6-2.

After the suicide of projected starting quarterback Tyler Hilinski in January 2018,[54] graduate transfer Gardner Minshew from East Carolina was recruited by Leach to fill the void. Minshew and other veteran players, such as sixth-year linebacker Peyton Pelluer, rallied the team in honor of their former teammate Hilinski and led Washington State to a memorable season for Cougar football fans. With a 28-26 win over #24 Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl, Washington State won eleven games for the first time in school history and finished the season 11-2.

Nick Rolovich era (2020-present)

Nick Rolovich, the current head coach at Washington State University.

After the 2019 season, Mike Leach departed Washington State to accept the head coaching job at Mississippi State. Less than a week after Leach's departure, athletic director Pat Chun announces the hire of Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich.[55]

Conference affiliations

Martin Stadium, from northeast corner in 2014

Washington State has been a member of the following conferences.[56]:74-78

  • Independent (1894-1916)
  • Pacific Coast Conference (1917, 1919-1958)
  • Independent (1918)
  • Independent (1959-1961)
  • Pac-12 Conference (1962-present)
    • Athletic Association of Western Universities (1962-1967)
    • Pacific-8 Conference (1968-1977)
    • Pacific-10 Conference (1978-2010)
    • Pac-12 Conference (2011-present)


Conference championships

Dating back to their days in the Pacific Coast Conference, Washington State won four conference titles through the 2017 season.[57]

Season Conference Coach Record Overall
1917 Pacific Coast William Dietz 3-0 6-0-1
1930 Pacific Coast Babe Hollingbery 6-1 9-1
  1997^ Pacific-10 Mike Price 7-1 10-2
  2002^ Pacific-10 Mike Price 7-1 10-3
^ Co-championship

Division championships

Season Division Coach Opponent CG result
  2018^ Pac-12 North Mike Leach N/A - lost tiebreaker to Washington
^ Co-championship

Bowl games

Washington State has made 15 bowl appearances, with a record of 8-7.[58]:88-94 The Cougars have played in four Rose Bowls three Holiday Bowls the Sun Bowl (2 wins), Alamo Bowl (2 wins), Aloha Bowl (1 win), Copper Bowl (1 win), and New Mexico Bowl (1 loss).[59] Prior to the 1975 season, the Pac-8 allowed only bowl team, to the Rose Bowl.

From 2015 through 2018, the Cougars made four consecutive bowl appearances for the first time in program history, all under current head coach Mike Leach. He is currently tied with Mike Price for overall bowl appearances at five; the other five head coaches with bowl appearances made one each.

Season Coach Bowl Opponent Result
1915 William Dietz Rose Brown W 14-0
1930 Babe Hollingbery Rose Alabama L 0-24
1981 Jim Walden Holiday BYU L 36-38
1988 Dennis Erickson Aloha Houston W 24-22
1992 Mike Price Copper Utah W 31-28
1994 Mike Price Alamo Baylor W 10-3
1997 Mike Price Rose Michigan L 16-21
2001 Mike Price Sun Purdue W 33-27
2002 Mike Price (5) Rose Oklahoma L 14-34
2003 Bill Doba Holiday Texas W 28-20
2013 Mike Leach New Mexico Colorado State L 45-48
2015 Mike Leach Sun Miami (FL) W 20-14
2016 Mike Leach Holiday Minnesota L 12-17
2017 Mike Leach Holiday Michigan State L 17-42
2018 Mike Leach Alamo Iowa State W 28-26
2019 Mike Leach (6) Cheez-It Air Force L 21-31

Head coaches


Seasons Coach Years Record Pct.
1894 William Goodyear 1 1-1 .500
1895 Fred Waite 1 2-0 1.000
1896 David Brodie 1 2-0-1 1.000
1897 Robert Gailey 1 2-0 1.000
1898-99 Frank Shively 2 1-1-1 .500
1900, 1902 William Allen 2 6-3-1 .650
1901 William Namack 1 4-1 .800
1903 James Ashmore 1 3-3-2 .500
1904-1905 Everett Sweeley 2 6-6 .500
John Bender 5 21-12 .636
1908 Walter Rheinschild 1 4-0-2 .833
1909 Willis Kienholz 1 4-1 .800
1910-1911 Oscar Osthoff 2 5-6 .454
1915-1917 William Dietz 3 17-2-1 .875
1918 Emory Alvord 1 1-1 .500
1919-1922 Gus Welch 4 16-10-1 .611
1923-1925 Albert Exendine 3 6-13-4 .348
1926-1942 Babe Hollingbery 15 93-53-14 .625
1943-1944 World War II - no teams
1945-1949 Phil Sarboe 5 17-26-3 .402
1950-1951 Forest Evashevski 2 11-6-2 .632
1952-1955 Al Kircher 4 13-25-2 .350
1956-1963 Jim Sutherland 8 37-39-4 .488
1964-1967 Bert Clark 4 15-24-1 .388
1968-1975 Jim Sweeney 8 26-59-1 .308
1976 Jackie Sherrill 1 3-8 .273
1977 Warren Powers 1 6-5 .545
1978-1986 Jim Walden 9 44-52-4 .460
1987-1988 Dennis Erickson 2 12-10-1 .543
1989-2002 Mike Price 14 83-78 .516
2003-2007 Bill Doba 5 30-29 .508
2008-2011 Paul Wulff 4 9-40 .184
2012-2019 Mike Leach 8 55-47 .539
2020-current Nick Rolovich



Washington State has had a rivalry with Washington since first playing 120 years ago years ago in 1900. The series is 73-32-6 (.685) in favor of Washington, with the Huskies taking the last six games, through 2018. The teams played for the "Governor's Trophy" from 1934 to 1961.[60] The game was renamed the Apple Cup in 1962 because of Washington's national reputation as a major producer of apples. Since 2011, the game is commonly played on the Friday after Thanksgiving.[61]


The two land-grant universities are less than eight miles (13 km) apart on the rural Palouse in the Inland Northwest; the University of Idaho campus in Moscow is nearly on the Idaho-Washington border, and Washington State's campus is directly west, on the east side of Pullman, linked by Washington State Route 270 and the Bill Chipman Palouse Trail. The first game was played 126 years ago in November 1894 and resulted in a win for Washington State. The series has been played intermittently since 1978, It was revived as an annual game for a full decade (1998-2007) and the Cougars won eight of the ten. However, with Idaho's return to FCS in 2018, the future of the rivalry is uncertain.

Individual accomplishments

Heisman Trophy voting

Eight Cougars have finished in the Top 10 of the Heisman Trophy voting.[62]Ryan Leaf had the highest finish in the Heisman balloting in program history,[63] at third in 1997.

Consensus All-America selections

There have been seven Washington State players named consensus All-Americans through the 2017 season. Cody O'Connell was named twice. Jason Hanson (1989) and Cody O'Connell (2016) were unanimous selections.[64] Additionally, Washington State has had 39 first team All-America selections through the 2017 season.[58]:120

Player Position Seasons Selections
Rueben Mayes RB 1982-1985 1984
Mike Utley G 1985-1988 1988
Jason Hanson K 1988-1991 1989^
Rien Long T 2000-2002 2002
Jerome Harrison RB 2004-2005 2005
Cody O'Connell OT 2013-2017 2016^, 2017
Hercules Mata'afa DE 2015-2017 2017
^ Unanimous selection

College Football Hall of Fame

Four players and three coaches from the program have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.[65][66][67]

Player Position Seasons Inducted Ref.
Mel Hein C 1929-1931 1954 [65]
Turk Edwards T 1929-1931 1975 [65]
Babe Hollingbery Coach 1926-1942 1979 [65]
Rueben Mayes RB 1982-1985 2008 [65]
William Dietz Coach 1915-1917 2012 [66]
Mike Utley G 1985-1988 2016 [67]
Dennis Erickson Coach 1987-1988 2019 [67]

Pro Football Hall of Fame

Two Cougars have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.[68]

Player Position Seasons NFL Team NFL Years Inducted
Mel Hein C 1927-1931 New York Giants 1931-1945 1963
Turk Edwards T 1929-1931 Washington Redskins 1932-1940 1969

Canadian Football Hall of Fame

Four Cougars have been inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

Player Position Seasons CFL Team(s) CFL Years Inducted Ref.
Byron Bailey RB 1949-1951 B.C. Lions 1954-1964 1975 [69]
George Reed RB 1959-1962 Saskatchewan Roughriders 1963-1975 1979 [69]
Brian Kelly WR, coach 1975-1977 Edmonton Eskimos 1979-1987 1991 [69]
Hugh Campbell WR, coach,
1959-1962 Edmonton Eskimos,
Saskatchewan Roughriders
1964-2006 2000 [70]

Retired numbers

The Cougars have retired two numbers.[71]

No. Player Position Career
7 Mel Hein C 1927-1931
14 Jack Thompson QB 1974-1978

AFCA National Coach of the Year

The AFCA Coach of the Year Award is given annually to a college football coach by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). Mike Leach is the first and only coach in the Washington State football program history to have received this distinguished award.[72]

Year Coach Record
2018 Mike Leach 11-2

Pac-12 Coach of the Year

Five Washington State football head coaches have received the annual award a total of eight times as the conference's Coach of the Year.[73]

Season Coach Record
1981 Jim Walden 8-3-1
1983 Jim Walden 7-4
  1988^ Dennis Erickson 9-3
1997 Mike Price 10-2
2001 Mike Price 10-2
  2003^ Bill Doba 10-3
  2015^ Mike Leach 9-4
2018 Mike Leach 11-2
^ Shared honor

Notable players

Past uniforms

Future opponents

Non-division conference opponents

Washington State plays each of the other 5 schools in the North Division annually and 4 of the 6 schools from the South Division. Each season, Washington State "misses" two schools from the South Division: either UCLA or USC and one of the four Arizona or Mountain schools. This cycle repeats after eight seasons.[74]

2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026
Arizona State Arizona at Arizona Arizona at Arizona Arizona at Arizona
at Colorado at Arizona State Arizona State at Arizona State Arizona State Colorado at Colorado
Utah at Utah Utah Colorado at Colorado at Utah Utah

Non-conference opponents

Announced schedules as of June 17, 2020.[75]


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External links

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