PULLMAN – For fans attending today’s Washington State football game at Martin Stadium, there will be reminders of Cougar football past, but also a plenty of examples of the push to the future.
Perhaps the best representative of that is Cougars head coach Paul Wulff. The former WSU lineman will run out of the tunnel of Martin Stadium for the first time as head coach of his alma mater.
The last time Wulff was on the Cougars sideline of a game at Martin Stadium was in 1989.
“It’ll hopefully be a lot of fun,” Wulff said. “We’ll have the crowd behind us. It will be the first time I’ll really get to experience it. We had that in Seattle, but to be able do it in Martin Stadium. It will be special.”
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But even with so much focus on Wulff the coach, there will still be a strong recollection of Wulff the player as the 1988 Aloha Bowl winning team he was a part of will be honored at halftime.
“A lot of my former teammates, so that will always be great to have that and be part of that,” Wulff said. Wulff said he’d heard more than 40 players off that team will be returning to Pullman.
“I’m excited to see those guys,” he said. “I’m going to greet them when they report at 11 and spend a half-hour with them.”
Wulff will try and maybe squeeze in another 10 minutes with his teammates at some point after meeting with some recruits that are on the official visit.
The 1988 team snapped an 82-year bowl victory drought.
That team, which defeated Houston, 24-22, was coached by Dennis Erickson and featured what he’s often referred to as the “best” offensive line he’s ever coached.
Wulff, along with Cal offensive line coach Jim Michalczik were starters on that line.
“I know Dennis talks a lot about the line and he could tell you more about it than me,” he said. “The line was good because we had a big physical presence on one side and an athletic presence on the other side. We used to flip flop that line strong to weak so we could do a lot of different things.”
All five starters, including Wulff, along with both tight ends, signed NFL contracts after their careers were over. While Wulff probably wouldn’t mind having a few like his linemates suiting up on Saturday, he may have a few players talk to the team.
“I don’t have anybody officially scheduled to talk,” he said. “I’m anxious to find out who’s here and see who’s willing to come in.”
While Wulff equals part past and future for the Cougs, he knows that he’s not the only change to the WSU football future, perhaps not even the most significant change that will be on display today.
Martin Stadium is also moving toward the future, undergoing a facelift in certain areas. The renovations were started in 2006 with initial plans for repairing basic amenities. Most of them have been finished in preparation for this season.
“We’ll be able to break in that,” Wulff said. “It will be a great change for the fans.”
WSU athletic director Jim Sterk is still looking for funding for “phase III” of the renovations which “will provide the stadium the amenities needed to keep pace competitively with our Pac-10 counterparts.”
Some of those amenities include premium seating at the north end of the stadium, luxury suites and boxes and club seating.
But even with just the first two phases complete, Martin Stadium looks a little newer and sharper than in years past, and that means plenty for the fans, but also perspective recruits.
“It adds to a great gameday environment,” Wulff said. “Most kids want to have the whole package. They want the solid education, they want to play in program that’s fun and has a chance for success and gameday is a big, big part of it. It’s an experience that’s second to none. If you add to that environment with the facility changes that are going to be taking place over the next few years. I would definitely want to have that on my side and use it to my advantage.”