Last Monday, August 21st, was the first day of the Fall 2017 semester at Washington State University. I stepped into a different world on Terrell Mall (a major pedestrian mall on WSU’s Pullman campus) that day than I had every other day that summer.
Terrell Mall was a sea of students. Freshmen students, grad students, Greek students (in the fraternity/sorority sense), international students, and everyone in between. Students were everywhere, and I briefly got that awful claustrophobic feeling people like me get in big crowds of people.
Not only was there that claustrophobic feeling of being in a large crowd, but also a sense of dismay that summer was officially coming to an end. Not necessarily in terms of the summer season, as we are in the midst of the Palouse’s hottest time of the year. No, in the sense that summertime in Pullman is over.
Everyone’s returning to school.
Folks who live in Pullman year around grow to love summertime, and some protect their summertime with a vengeance, not wanting students to know how nice summer on the Palouse can be, because otherwise everyone would want to stick around. The heat doesn’t really set in until August, giving year-around residents the most beautiful, temperate, green, lush, and vibrant months of the year on the Palouse, May through July, all to themselves. Not to mention a break from the hubbub of the fifteen to twenty-thousand person population influx the school year brings.
That’s not to say there aren’t a growing number of students that stay in town over the summer and take classes, there are plenty. But probably just a matter of a few thousand. The masses leave when classes end in May, and a peaceful feeling sets over not only Pullman, but neighboring Moscow, Idaho as well, which experiences the same cycle with the University of Idaho.
The small-town lifestyle Pullman and Moscow residents grow to love is at its best in the summer, and when the students return, there’s something of a collective, albeit conflicted, groan. The parties return to College Hill in Pullman, traffic ramps up around town, and the quiet, peaceful summer nights are gone for another nine months.
Although there is a sense of dismay that comes with the end of summer and the return of the students, there is an undeniable excitement that comes with the return of the student population as well.
One reason for this, of course, is it signals the return of Cougar football. Through all the pain and heartache we as Cougar football fans have experienced over the past 15 years, Cougs take their football seriously, and this year, Coug fans have a legitimate reason for excitement heading into the season.
Ranked #24 heading into the season (the first time WSU has achieved a pre-season ranking in the top 25 since the Jason Gesser and Bill Doba days of the early 2000’s), the Cougs are a contender in the Pac-12 conference, and anything less than 8 wins and a solid bowl game would be a major disappointment. With debatably the best quarterback in the conference, Luke Falk, heading into his senior season and being a fringe Heisman contender, Coug fans have a lot to be excited for in 2017.
Let’s not forget Vandal football as well, as Idaho is coming off a bowl-game victory themselves last season and are set to be a contender in the Sun Belt conference under the guidance of senior quarterback Matt Linehan (son of Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator and Sunnyside, Washington native Scott Linehan).
While football is huge on the Palouse, that’s not the reason the students are here. The students are here for something far more important and far reaching: to receive a world-class college education from some of the best educators and researchers in the world.
That is by far the most exciting aspect of the students’ return.
With the turn of every new school year, a new crop of young minds spill onto campus with the opportunity to not only better their own lives and find career paths, but an opportunity for them to contribute to society on a local, national and even global level, as there are Cougs (and Vandals) scattered around the world in all walks of life, making a difference, and making the world a better, more productive place.
Being a Coug (and a passionate one at that), I’m of course partial to the successes that WSU’s alumni have achieved locally and around the world. That includes the more famous alumni such as Paul Allen, Sherman Alexie, Edward Murrow, Patty Murray, Gary Larson, Keith Jackson, John Olerud, and even Dolph effin’ Lundgren, who have achieved great success in their careers, and touched the lives of many.
That’s not to mention the thousands of others that maybe haven’t achieved the level of fame that some of WSU’s alumni has, but have contributed immensely within their own communities. That is the biggest impact WSU could ever have, the collective effort of Cougs around the world working hard to make a difference and contribute within their own communities. This pride in WSU and being the best we can be is why you can go halfway around the world and hear someone yell “Go Cougs!” if you are donning the Cougar logo on your shirt.
So with that, we welcome another school year at WSU and on the Palouse, and with WSU football set to take on Montana State this Saturday at Martin Stadium, I only have one thing left to say…