COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Apple Cup will be Qwest Field fixture in 2010

Starting in 2010, the Apple Cup will move to a neutral site - Seattle's Qwest Field - as part of a six-year agreement between the University of Washington and Washington State, sources confirmed Thursday.

A contractual agreement between the state universities and the Seattle Seahawks' stadium management group - First & Goal - is close to being made official, the source said. An announcement could come as early as next week.

The story was first reported by the Spokesman-Review of Spokane late Wednesday.

If an agreement is reached, it will mark the first time since 1981 that the Apple Cup will be played at an off-campus facility. WSU had hosted the game at Spokane's Joe Albi Stadium from 1956 through that í81 season.

Phone calls to UW athletic director Scott Woodward and WSU AD Jim Sterk on Thursday were not returned, but spokespeople for both schools said no formal agreement has been reached.

Bill Stevens, a WSU athletic department spokesperson, said, "We've had discussions about ways to continue our relationship, and enhance our presence statewide. We're looking at all avenues."

The Cougars have hosted a game annually at Qwest Field since 2002, but the school's eight-year contract with First & Goal ends after the team's Sept. 12 game against Hawaii.

The Apple Cup, in essence, will replace the Seattle game for WSU. The September nonconference contest the Cougars have been playing in Seattle in recent years will instead be played in Pullman.

When asked about the rivalry game moving out of Pullman, one source in the Cougars football office said players and coaches have "mixed emotions" about the move but understand this will guarantee significantly more revenue than playing at Martin Stadium.

Currently, each school gets a guarantee of nearly $250,000 when the Apple Cup is played in Pullman, and $800,000 when the game is hosted by the UW at Husky Stadium.

A source said the Qwest Field game will guarantee each university $2 million, and that was too good to pass up, especially in light of the expected 14-percent hike in tuition costs.

Ticket allotment, the source said, will be split right down the middle between the two schools. Student seating will also still be a priority.

Apple Cup ticket prices are likely to go up ñ they were $50 for general admission for last year's game ñ the source said. What the increase will be remains unclear, as First & Goal will set the fees.