The phrase “Coug’d It” has been a part of Washington State University’s culture for decades.
But its origin remains a matter of debate – and controversy.
John Blanchette, a sportswriter for The Spokesman-Review, defined “Coug’d It” in a 1985 column: “I was going to buy a lottery ticket, but I decided against – and the guy in line behind me bought one and won a million bucks. I Couged,” Blanchette wrote after a disappointing loss by the Cougars.
Though it’s unclear if Blanchette invented the phrase, several sportswriters in the Northwest, such as Art Thiel, Bud Withers, and Greg Witter, are convinced he popularized it.
“It’s amazing how much legs the phrase has had. It’s stood the test of time somehow,” said Withers, a Seattle Times reporter.
A University of Washington graduate trademarked the phrase during his years there so he could print it on purple-and-gold t-shirts. A horse named “Coug’d It” raced at Emerald Downs racetrack. It’s even on the online slang dictionary, urbandictionary.com.
On the eve of this year’s Apple Cup, many Cougar fans – and the WSU Athletic Department – are hoping that the phrase can be buried in the past. The team is bowl-eligible for first time since 2006.
Rod Commons, WSU sports information director from 1976 to 2007, said on more than one occasion, the department had a campaign both internally and externally to try to squash “Coug’d It.”
WSU Athletics declined to comment.
Blanchette said the term is endearing, but “Coug’d It” is anything but heartwarming to some WSU fans.
Mark O’English, an archivist at WSU Libraries, dug up Blanchette’s article for a university exhibit this fall on strange ideas and phrases. However, the archivist was careful not to publicize the exhibit’s inclusion of “Coug’d It” due to the sensitivity about the phrase on campus.
“We don’t want to upset those people so we chose just to have it a small part of the exhibit. We promoted everything else,” O’English said.
It still remains a mystery where the phrase originated, but Cougar fans can still appreciate one thing.
“I’ve never ever heard anyone say anything bad about this place who’s graduated from here. And so you have that consolation, even though there are those athletic challenges that sometimes don’t work out,” Blanchette said.
The Murrow News Service provides local, regional and statewide stories reported and written by journalism students at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University.