Sep. 12—Washington State is doing everything in its power to show it still belongs on the biggest stage of college athletics.
In beating No. 19 Wisconsin 31-22 on Saturday, the Cougars defeated one of the premier teams of the Big Ten Conference for the second straight season. The same conference four of its current Pac-12 members — Washington, Oregon, USC and UCLA — are jumping ship to next year.
The win catapulted WSU to No. 23 in the AP Top 25 poll Monday. It's one of eight Pac-12 teams in the ranking this week — the most in conference history.
Yet, WSU remains as one of two schools (along with Oregon State, which is also ranked) left behind by an abandoned conference.
"At the end of the day, our team belongs at the highest level. That's in my heart," WSU coach Jake Dickert said after Saturday's win. "I believe that and I say it with a meaning. With all that's going on, I think it's another way our guys went out and proved who we are."
Senior edge Ron Stone Jr., who had two sacks that resulted in forced fumbles in the win, echoed Dickert's sentiments.
"I think it was a great build up to show the world what we're capable of," Stone said. "I think there's a lot of people out there that might've doubted us but we never doubted ourselves. ... We think we belong on the field with anybody else."
The Pac-12 leadership failed its schools and its fans, and only the Cougars and Beavers are paying the price.
WSU and OSU took a positive step Monday when a judge granted a temporary restraining order in favor of the two schools against the Pac-12. The order prevents the departing conference members from meeting as a board until further notice.
But that's like putting a Band-Aid on a broken arm. It's not going to do much long term. That Pac-12 still has just two teams beyond this academic year.
And for WSU, it's not just football that's shown it deserves to keep its place among the Power Five.
The WSU women's basketball team was honored on the field Saturday in recognition of its Pac-12 championship last spring. Cougar hoops legend Klay Thompson was on hand for the brief ceremony, bowing in homage to coach Kamie Ethridge's championship group.
WSU's volleyball team is currently ranked No. 11 in the NCAA and recently defeated a top 10 BYU team.
WSU's women's soccer team is currently ranked No. 15 in the nation.
No other Pac-12 university has three teams in the Top 25 in football, volleyball and soccer.
The Cougars constantly do more with less.
As much as I loathe the often-uttered "Cougs vs. everybody" slogan that's so popular in Pullman, it seems more appropriate now than ever.
Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2277, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @StephanSports.