Back from the ranch
by Jim Moore '78 | © Washington State University
Sometime before May 1, Bill Moos ‘73 will become athletic director at WSU. So much needs to be done, but with Moos, it all seems possible.
This is because he’s done it before. Moos helped turn Oregon into a Pac-10 and national power before leaving in 2007. He oversaw $160 million in facilities improvements that included the renovation of Autzen Stadium. The Ducks won 13 Pac-10 titles in various sports in his 12 years as AD. You could argue that it was the best era in Oregon history.
“I’m proud of my legacy there,” Moos says. “I had great imagination and I’m competitive as hell. You put that together with a supportive administration, and you can be dangerous.”
The sequel could be better and more fulfilling than the original. WSU President Elson Floyd is completely supportive and will no doubt give Moos the same creative license that he had at Oregon. Then there’s the not-to-be-overlooked factor that resonates with most alums—the guy’s a Coug who is motivated to leave his mark on a school that has meant the world to him. Talk about a dangerous combination.
That’s why everyone was so excited before Moos was even hired. Usually athletic-director searches are conducted behind closed doors, and we don’t see the winner until he’s announced at a press conference.
With Moos, Floyd was so inundated with calls and emails from alums that he paraded him through Pullman on a day in which WSU and the prospective new AD gauged each other’s interest.
But you already knew the mutual-interest level was off the charts. So the day turned into a Bill Moos Love Fest in which the wandering son was welcomed home. It surprised no one when Moos was hired a few days later.
I spoke with him in early March while he was tending to business on his cattle ranch off the Palouse Highway, 12 miles south of Spokane. He grew up on a cattle ranch and likes having his own now. He was getting yearly $200,000 direct deposits from Oregon, which was part of his non-compete buyout when he left Eugene.
At 59, he could have kicked back on his 66 acres and called it good, and no one would have blamed him for retiring early and enjoying life. But the pull from WSU was too strong for him to pass up.
“I’m the kind of guy who never wants to be a ‘gee-iffer,’ ” Moos says. “Most gee-iffers are 40 pounds overweight and waiting for softball season to start. At this stage of my life, when I do get to be 65, I don’t want to look back and say I had a chance to do something for Washington State and not taken the opportunity.”
He has hoped and prayed for this job for almost 50 years.
“I’ve basically wanted it since I was 12,” says Moos, who grew up in Edwall, the son of two Cougs.
It killed Moos when WSU chose Rick Dickson to be its new athletic director in 1994. Moos was AD at Montana and had done a good job there. He seemed to be the perfect fit. As chapped as he was then, Moos is philosophical now.
“I’m far better prepared for this task than I would have been in ’94,” he says.
When I spoke to him, I hoped Moos would be in the mood to challenge the Huskies, just as he did when he took over at Oregon.
“We said we were going to put Washington in our sights and that we were coming after them,” Moos says. “We caught ’em sleeping and took ’em over.”
But he’s more diplomatic this time around, saying: “Right now we’re taking aim at the Cougars. We’ll focus on what we need to improve on, and once we establish those areas and develop a plan to attack our own shortcomings and get healthy, then we’ll aim to get competitive in the conference. We’ve got to take little steps first. We’re not in a position right now to take on anybody.”
Whatever those steps are—and facilities improvements figure to be high on the list— Moos is expected to attract a more receptive audience. The Cougs are last in the Pac-10 in athletic donations, but that could change with Moos in charge—he’s a dynamic, charismatic, make-things-happen kind of leader who figures to boost contributions.
He will explore every avenue, and yes, he’ll even get in touch with Paul Allen, the Microsoft billionaire who once went to school at WSU and now owns the Seahawks and Trail Blazers. Moos’ relationship with Nike founder Phil Knight was a key to Oregon’s success.
“I’ve got a great deal respect for what (Allen) has accomplished,” Moos says. “I have to get up to speed with the dialogue that has occurred with Paul Allen before I make any suggestions. I would love just to meet him. He’s one of us, he’s a Cougar, and he obviously has some interest in sports.”
With Allen and others involved, it will start making Cougar athletics more attractive.
“You can raise a lot of money when people are fearful about missing the party,” Moos says. “Right now there’s plenty of room in the ballroom.”
That won’t last. Moos envisions a sold- out Martin Stadium for every game and a packed-to-the-rafters Friel Court. When he spoke to the crowd at the Husky-Cougar basketball game in February, the standing ovation moved him.
“Hopefully, three years from now, they’ll stand again,” he says.
And 10 years from now when he’s back on his tractor, Moos pictures himself saying: “Gee, we did that?”
During the Bill Moos Love Fest, he reminisced about the days when he walked up those same steps to the CUB as a student- athlete.
“I was dreaming of one day wearing a Gray W sweater,” Moos said, “and not only did I earn one, now I’m going to be handing ’em out.
“It’s going to be fun to roll up my sleeves and get after it.”
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