IT MEANS HAVING a sense of humor, and knowing what it feels like to be the underdog. Most of all it means kinship from surviving and growing together in the Palouse.
It's been almost 20 years, but what football coach Jim Sweeney said during a visit to Chip Hanauer's dormitory hasn't been forgotten by the unlimited hydroplane driver, a graduate of Washington State University.
"I remember him saying that to recruit to Pullman, `you have to fly them in in the dark and you have to fly them out in the dark,' " Hanauer said.
The isolation of the school, located in the midst of the Palouse wheat fields, farther from a metropolitan area than any other Pac-10 school, has long been an obstacle to attracting top athletes. But that very isolation seems to bond Cougars everywhere.
"One of the beauties of Pullman is that everybody is kind of trapped there so you get the flavor of college life as opposed to being in a college in a big city where there are so many places to disperse," said Hanauer, one of about a dozen WSU graduates interviewed for this story.
Hanauer said he went to WSU because he knew if he stayed around his native Seattle his love for racing boats would be overwhelming.
"I thought the only way I was going to get through school and apply myself was to get out of town," Hanauer said.
That his theory worked will be documented tomorrow night when Hanauer, a 1976 graduate, receives a WSU Alumni Achievement Award
during the Cougars' Apple Cup rally at the Westin Hotel. He said he's "a little ashamed" about it all.
"I'm sure people have come out of WSU and developed ways to produce more grain per acre and found cures in veterinary medicine that never existed," Hanauer said. "All I've done is turn a boat left."
What does it mean to be a Cougar?
"It means you've got to have kind of a warped sense of optimism and a good sense of humor," Hanauer said.
And that's not all:
Dr. Dan Doornink, Yakima physician (and former Seattle Seahawk):
"It means that when you see a Husky in the office you charge him double right off the bat and you do their sigmoidoscopy first."
Nancy Litzenberg, accountant, past Cougar Club president:
"It means friendships and camaraderie because you can go anyplace and say you went to WSU, and it's like you have something to talk about. There is instant bonding."
Keith Jackson, network sportscaster:
"One of the things I liked about it (WSU) and took away from it and have constantly tried to sell is the smaller, rural, college campus - where a six pack and a blanket still is in style.
"I think there is a much greater feeling of `college' where you are removed from the urban pressures. I think you can play a sport at a school like a Wittenberg or a Denison or a Montana or a Washington State and enjoy it without the kinds of pressures you get in Seattle or Los Angeles."
It was at WSU where Jackson, a 1954 graduate, met his wife, Turi Ann. She is a member of the WSU Foundation board of directors.
Greg Witter, public-relations executive, Alaska Airlines:
"It means we love an underdog, particularly one that delivers now and again," Witter said in an article he wrote for WSU alumni journal. "We are walking paradoxes - harsh critics, yet staunch defenders of our team. We are both optimists and pessimists, playing Pollyanna before one game, Sisyphus the next. The fight song gives us goose bumps.
"The true believers (are) the ones who get an emotional rush when Bob Robertson clears his throat."
Mark Kaufman, former publicity director at the former Longacres race track:
"It means you know how to appreciate the good things that happen - any win is a reason to celebrate."
Kathi Goertzen, KOMO-TV news anchor:
"Having sat through so many football games in Martin Stadium and having been disappointed so many times, I guess that results in some allegiance. Being a Cougar is a very emotional experience. It becomes part of your makeup - you become a woman and you become a Cougar."
Dr. Stan Coe, veterinarian, Elliott Bay Animal Clinic:
"I guess what it means is all of the happy memories I have of going to school there and the closeness that you develop with people because you're all in the same boat. Most of the friends I associate with are Cougs I met over there."
Jay Rockey, public-relations executive:
"It means having pride in the school and caring about building the school because WSU needs a lot of help from its alums to grow and develop. You could say that about any school, but I think WSU really needs it and is getting it, not only in the form of financial contributions but in contributions of interest, time and resources."
Pat Scott, president and CEO of Fisher Broadcasting (KOMO):
"It means having fun and generally always being the underdog, with a capital DOG. And for me, because of the station's involvement with the Huskies, it means being purple and gold for 10 games and crimson and gray for one."
Bob Gary, Seattle School District administrator:
"Being a Cougar means a hell of a lot to me."
A 1952 graduate of Seattle's Garfield High, Gary was offered an athletic scholarship (track) by WSU "at a time when Washington wasn't recruiting African-American athletes."
He said going from inner-city Seattle to rural Pullman became a positive experience.
"I think it was the best thing to happen to me. I got through it (graduated) and I had people who were interested in my education and in me as a person."
------------------------------------------ Coming tomorrow It wouldn't be fair unless we took a look at the other side of the Apple Cup, now would it? Tomorrow in The Times: What it means to be a Husky, along with their favorite Cougar jokes.