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Q&A with WSU interim AD Anne McCoy: Permanent AD candidates, football TV deals and House vs. NCAA

Jun. 1—PULLMAN — In late March, former Washington State Athletic Director Pat Chun left for the same job at rival Washington, prompting deputy AD Anne McCoy to step in as interim athletic director.

In the two months since, McCoy has made a few key decisions. She replaced former WSU men's basketball coach Kyle Smith with David Riley and helped negotiate the Cougars' football games to be broadcast on The CW, Fox and Peacock, among other moves.

McCoy stopped by The Spokesman-Review office this week for a Q&A. Here is the interview, edited lightly for clarity and brevity.

Spokesman-Review: What do your days look like now and is the experience any different than you expected going into it?

Anne McCoy: That's a good question. I feel like it's absolutely been a whirlwind. But in a lot of ways, this whole last year has been a bit of a whirlwind. So I feel like for the last two months, it really has been a lot about just reconnecting as an athletic department and just kind of looking back on the last year and saying, "Wow, what just happened? And where do we want to go moving forward?"

I think letting our staff know that it's OK to recognize it was a lot and then just kind of letting the dust settle and deciding where we want to go forward. I think the biggest thing is just making people remember that Washington State University is a great place, and it's still a great place, and it will be a great place. Some things may be a little different, but college athletics has never been just a stable, constant thing. I think it's always evolving. This is just a little bigger and different nationally than people have ever really seen.

S-R: What was the prevailing reaction among the athletic department when Pat left for the job at UW, and what was the process for you to step in as interim AD?

McCoy: I think it's fair to say people were surprised that Pat left for the University of Washington, and that just goes to show the amount of passion that's within this state, with our two fan bases, and just our alumni and our fans. But I think ultimately people feel that if that's what Pat felt was best for he and his family, then they're supportive of him to make that decision.

It's hard because it was only he and his family's decision to make, not anybody else's. It is hard that it's still within the state, so to speak. But at the end of the day, he has to do what he feels like is the right decision for himself and his family.

As far as the process of moving into the interim, President (Kirk) Schultz called later that day, after Pat's announcement, and asked if I'd be willing to serve as an interim. I basically, immediately have said, I'm happy to do whatever I can do to serve the university — with kind of two questions.

The first being, it's such an interesting time right now that I didn't want to step in the interim, if my role would be only to keep the proverbial ship off the rocks. I felt like our department needs to continue moving forward, we need to continue making decisions. And we can't be in limbo while there's an interim athletic director.

So if that is very much his mindset. He said no, absolutely, that I would expect decisions to be made, to continue moving forward, not to be in limbo. And then the other question was that, if I would be interim, I still would want to be considered a candidate. I feel like the time and place, and my background and expertise — but also my love for the university. I feel like I wouldn't want to take the opportunity to serve if it meant right then making a decision about the future role, so to speak.

I also feel strongly that I want to do the job and what's best for Washington State University. Being interested in the job long term will not impact the decisions I make in the short term, because to me, it has to be the same person — who you are as the interim, and who you would be as the longtime permanent candidate, or permanent athletic director, those should be the same people, as far as how I make decisions, how I approach things.

S-R: Do you have any timeline on when the AD search might be complete?

McCoy: I don't. I think President Schulz has talked about maybe by the fall, having the next steps in place or a decision. I think right now, my focus has been only on being the interim athletic director and not being a candidate for the athletic director position, if that makes sense.

S-R: With the football team's games against Texas Tech and UW next season landing on Fox and Peacock, do you have an estimate on the revenue that will generate for the school?

McCoy: Some of those finer details are still being worked out as we get updated revenue projections from the conference for next year. There's a lot of moving pieces with it right now. So we don't really have a succinct number relative to that particular piece. And quite honestly, we're much more focused on the exposure it's going to bring us. I mean, the chance to be in literally every home in the country because of the breadth of exposure is just hugely valuable right now to us relative to just keeping Washington State University out there and available for fans to see, and even people that might be just curious about these two schools they've been hearing about now out west.

S-R: How much of a priority was that exposure, and how did you balance that against trying to squeeze as much revenue out of the deal as you could?

McCoy: There's no question the exposure was really important right now. I never want to minimize how important revenue streams are. But at some point, we're at an interesting crossroads of, is it six of one, half a dozen of another? Or is it, one is really outweighing?

I think for us, right now, the exposure was more important because of this two-year window we're navigating with the grace period with the NCAA. It's important to have all paths available to kind of evaluate and determine what's best for Washington State. The less time you have to spend educating people on who you are or what you do is hugely important. So one of the ways to do that obviously is just brand awareness, and mindfulness of seeing us out there easily on TV, out and about in the media everywhere.

One of the things we've been talking about, too, is just that connection with the fans, and with the alumni and the people who are already Cougs — but maybe haven't been able to see the games as readily, or are kind of now doubling down on their passion as alumni because of everything we're going through. Or when their office counterpart gets to say, "Oh, we saw your alma mater on Saturday," or whatever it might be. I think the more that we can be out there talked about nationally and relevant is really important right now.

S-R: How much was exposure factored into getting several of next year's games scheduled for afternoon kicks, and what do you foresee the impact of those start times being?

McCoy: That, I think, is going to be absolutely huge. I think (there are) two pieces to that. I think the ability to have as many of our home games times set in advance is really important for our fans to be able to plan and travel and know what to expect. I think the fact that many of them are going to be earlier day games will be really beneficial, because that works in every time zone.

And I think it's, to some degree, people's vision of a more traditional college football Saturday. I think Friday night games are fun and Saturday evening games are fun. But I don't think people want a whole season of them if they can avoid it. So I think it'll be really beneficial and good in the long run, very much so.

S-R: It seems like there are more questions than answers when it comes to the House vs. NCAA settlement at the moment, but how would you describe that case's impact on WSU?

McCoy: When you qualified that at the beginning, I thought, "Oh, I know what you're gonna ask," because it really is. There's so many pieces that we just don't know yet. And they're huge pieces that will impact how it affects us, what decisions we make regarding it and everything else. ... I think how that exactly looks for Washington State is very much still to be determined.

S-R: Where would you anticipate some of those payments to student-athletes coming from? It seems like the Pac-12 reserve funds would be the most obvious answer.

McCoy: I think some of the revenue stream may be the NCAA basketball money relative to some of the withholdings of different monies. But we really don't (know). I mean, at some point, it would likely be one additional budget menu item that we would have to see how we were going to either participate in or fund or whatever else.