NOTEBOOK: Fan started ESPN tradition

Saturday, October 18, 2008 | 8:47 p.m. CDT; updated 2:58 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tom Pounds lives in Albuquerque, N.M., and his mother lives in Spokane, Wash. An earlier version of this story had his residence incorrect.

AUSTIN — There it was, toward the back. It waved again, well behind hosts Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit. On Saturday morning, a maroon Washington State flag found its way to another broadcast of ESPN’s popular college football preview show, “College Gameday.”

Come next week, the flag will have followed the crew to their next location, like it has done for the past five years.

The flag has become a broadcast fixture. In October 2003, Tom Pounds, who graduated with an engineering degree from Washington State in 1981, drove from New Mexico to Austin. With him, he brought a homemade Washington State flag to the “College Gameday” broadcast, held that weekend on the University of Texas campus to preview the Kansas State-Texas game. At the time, Pounds figured flying the flag would be a creative way to display his school spirit to the nation.

His precedent caught on. Pounds’ actions intrigued Cougars fans, and the flag began to be shipped around the country to eager alumni to wave at each “College Gameday” broadcast. Since 2004, the flag has appeared at every show.

“We stick around, because we have had some good seasons, a lot of bad seasons and a lot of mediocre seasons,” said Wade Dissmore, a 1997 Washington State graduate from Spokane, Wash., who was in Austin visiting friends. “Being a Coug fan, people don’t understand, it’s a pride issue.”

That pride has allowed the flag to become a protest statement. “College Gameday” has never appeared in Pullman, Wa., since the show began filming from campus locations in 1993. “College Gameday” has twice broadcast from locations involving Washington State - the 1998 Rose Bowl and a 2002 matchup against Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio. Some alumni treat the flag as a symbol of neglect, a way to show ESPN that they haven’t forgotten.

“We were like, ‘That’s fine,” said Joel Harper, a Washington State graduate who lives in Austin. “We’ll go to every ‘College Gameday.’”

“College Gameday” won’t visit Pullman anytime soon. After losing to USC on Saturday, the Cougars are 1-7 and considered one of the worst Pac-10 Conference teams ever. First-year coach Paul Wulff faces a difficult rebuilding project, one that could take years.

But the heartbreak won’t kill Washington State fans’ ambition. Someday they hope the flag won’t fly far from home.

“Being a Cougar fan is knowing what heartache is,” said Shawn Harper, a 1999 Washington State graduate who lives in San Antonio.

“It would be great. There will be a lot of people who have been excited about it.


KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD: Meet Link Morgan, one free soul.

On Saturday, Morgan was part of a group of about 12 vendors who sold handmade goods in a market alongside Guadalupe Street, nicknamed “The Drag,” on UT’s West Campus. Morgan’s booth included beaded necklaces, knitted yarn hats and tie-dyed T-shirts. He once worked for an environmental nonprofit in California but said the rat race made him “jump through too many hoops.”

Afterward, he traveled to several cities around the country and hung out on street corners peddling his craftsmanship. He met his wife, Pixie, while setting up a booth — “It was kind of like a market romance.” — and now the couple’s stand is their only source of income. Believe it or not, he considers the market life tame compared to his former street existence.

“One of the reasons that brought me back was that I could survive with my own hands,” he said. “Doing it legally is a completely different feel. From dodging the cops to having the cops ask if everything is OK. (This) is a huge change.”

LATE-NIGHT TEXAS FIGHT: At about 2:30 a.m. Saturday, a city bus full of drunk college students chanted “Texas Fight” on the drive back to West Campus from Sixth Street, Austin’s signature nightlife location.

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