By Bruce Baskin
Bruce Baskin of Chehalis is the son of a Washington State University alum, who taught him the Cougar fight song as a grade schooler. The affliction is considered permanent.
It’s something that can take effect in any number of ways, but it should never be taken as a given. And when we’re talking Washington State University women’s basketball, “home-court advantage” is a misnomer. Playing their home games at 11,671-seat Beasley Coliseum, coach June Daugherty’s Cougars rarely draw 1,000 onlookers. If you take away the 4,571 people at a Nov. 24 doubleheader with the men’s team against Brigham Young, WSU women’s basketball drew a total of 8,246 over 12 home games in 2012-13. That’s an average turnout of 687 hardy souls.
Daugherty can’t be blamed for this. She took over a moribund program three years ago and had a better squad this season than their 11-20 record indicates. They managed to upset 20th-ranked Ohio State in Pullman last season (before 700 attendees) while pulling off wins against solid teams from BYU and Gonzaga. Washington State is no longer the easy “W” for opponents that it used to be.
Even so, fan support at Beasley Coliseum is abysmal. According to a February column by Shaun Knight in the WSU Daily Evergreen, the Cougars ranked an embarrassing No. 126 in the nation in attendance. When your home games are played before gatherings (you can’t call them “crowds”) of less than 6 percent capacity, it’s time to make a change.
It’s time to consider moving WSU women’s basketball to the longtime home of Cougars hoops, venerable Bohler Gym.
Bohler was built in 1928 and hosted WSU basketball before Beasley Coliseum opened in 1973. Bohler, which seats 3,000, received a $19 million face-lift as part of a $37 million Bohler Addition project before reopening in October 2001. For comparison, Beasley Coliseum cost $11 million to build in 1973.
Marcia Saneholtz, WSU senior associate athletic director, said at the time of Bohler’s reopening, “The renovation gives us Pac-10 caliber facilities … It provides our coaches, staff and athletes a great setting where they can work, practice and compete.”
Maybe it should provide a different venue for WSU women’s basketball, too.
No doubt such a proposal will draw criticism from some, who might claim switching to the smaller facility would be a setback for women’s sports on campus. Then again, it’s hard to see how staging home games in front of 10,000 empty seats advances women’s sports.
Recruits witness the lack of support first hand. Why would anyone want to play basketball at a school where apathy toward the program is so obvious?
Title IX guaranteed women athletes access and opportunity, but it guaranteed them neither success nor fan support.
Beasley Coliseum clearly is the wrong place for Daugherty’s team, which is playing in a veritable graveyard with row after row of headstones in matching colors. It’s just too much building. For the good of the program, it’s time to put pride in pocket, say goodbye to Beasley Coliseum and return to Bohler Gym until game attendance outgrows it.
Say what you want about Bohler Gym, but the same 687 fans unable to generate any atmosphere at all in Beasley Coliseum could at least bring a sense of life to the smaller, more intimate facility.
Opposing women’s teams should dread coming to Pullman. Right now, they don’t. For WSU athletics, that has to stop.
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