I went to Washington State University, but I root for Stanford. Pretty disloyal, right?
Like clockwork, every season I get at least 2 or 3 snide comments from my fellow WSU alumni, calling me a traitor for rooting for Stanford. Whether it’s one of sorority sisters, someone I had a class or two with, or someone I met only once at a party in sophomore year whose name I don’t remember, my fellow alumni never fail to remind me that I went to Washington State University, and that I’m a “traitor” for rooting for Stanford.
In 2009, I transferred from University of Colorado to Washington State University, quite reluctantly. I hadn’t even considered Washington State when graduating from high school, as I had no desire to live in what I deemed a tiny college town surrounded by wheat fields where there was nothing to do. I was not excited to move to Pullman Washington after having lived in Boulder, but having been from Washington State, I made the move because of the financial impact going to an in-state school would have on my family.
When I arrived in Pullman, my hesitance melted away- quickly. I went through sorority recruitment, and was lucky enough to join Alpha Phi. My sisters made the transition from Colorado to WSU much easier than anticipated, and right away I realized how lucky I was to be in a “tiny college town surrounded by wheat fields”. Because of how isolated Pullman is, your options for entertainment are limited. There were frat parties, days at the Dunes, and lots of Busch Light all around. And then there was football. Every Saturday in the fall, students of WSU gather at house parties, greek live-outs, The Coug, or in Martin Stadium, and all root together for their boys in Crimson and Grey. It’s a pretty magical thing being in the student section, feeling the combined energy of thousands of people all banding together for one unit. Together on those game days, we were one determined team, celebrating our wins together, and drinking away the losses together. It was an incredible tradition to be a part of. When I graduated in 2012, I thought I would be a Coug fan forever.
In 2015, I “met” (we had gone to high school, but never really knew each other) my husband. He introduced me to a whole new world of football. While I had rooted for the Cougs in college and since then, I didn’t really know the rules of football, understand the landscape of college football, or have any clue about what goes into running a college football program. That all changed when we moved in together 6 months into dating, and he started working as a recruiting assistant for Stanford’s football team that fall. That season, when WSU played Stanford, I felt extremely torn. I had spent the last few months getting to know the coaching staff and their families at Stanford, and had been made to feel like part of the program. But for the 6 years prior to that, I had cheered for, traveled to watch, and been a Coug. It felt wrong to root for anyone but them. I rooted for Stanford anyway, but felt awful the whole time.
The following summer, my husband (boyfriend at the time) was offered a chance to be a volunteer defensive assistant for the team. He didn’t just take the opportunity he was given- he took it and ran. I’ve never seen someone dive headfirst so quickly into something with such passion. His life became dedicated to understanding the playbook, getting to know the players he was coaching, and doing everything he could to learn all he needed to to be an affective assistant on staff. It was incredible to watch, and made me work that much harder in my own career. He already had been, but solidified himself that much more as my driving force and inspiration in life. He began waking up at 4:30 or 5:00am to be in the office with plenty of time to get his work done before the first meetings of the day, and I wouldn’t see him until sometimes 12:30 or 1:00am that night when he crawled, exhausted, into bed. It was a tough time for us at first, as it was hard to not feel like I had become his second priority after football. That season was admittedly very difficult, and at times I wondered if I could do a lifetime of this kind of a schedule. But, what got us through that first season was the intoxicating intensity of game days, and being a part of the program that he was so tirelessly dedicating himself to. I got to know some of the other spouses of the coaches, and realized quickly that I was not alone in all that I was feeling. By the end of the season, I was saying “we’re on staff at Stanford” instead of “my fiancé is on staff at Stanford”.
I wish I could show the people who call me a traitor what it’s like to be a part of this. I wish they could see us wives having a therapeutic wine night together on a night during training camp when we know our husbands won’t be home before 1am. I wish they could feel the energy when you’re boarding the team plane on your way to a bowl game. I wish they could be there on family dinner nights when we get a short 30 minute meal with our husbands before heading home alone, knowing they won’t be home before you’re asleep. I wish they could feel the joy of a win after your husband has put in a 100 hour work week toward that game- or the crushing blow when you walk away with a loss and you feel like all those late nights weren’t even worth it. I wish they could understand that Stanford not only pays our bills, but also gives us the opportunity to travel the world. This past August, I had the privilege to travel with the team to Sydney Australia, where we kicked off the season against Rice University. I wish they could understand that we, the wives of college football coaches, are not fans. We are part of the team.
This is mine and Nathaniel’s third season with Stanford football, and I could not be more proud to call it our home. So, If cheering for Stanford on game day makes me a traitor to my alma mater, then so be it. Because I think it makes me a pretty damn good wife, and at the end of the day that’s what matters.