SEATTLE — In the final days leading up to Washington State’s football opener Thursday night against Rutgers at CenturyLink Field, the story might be more about people who won’t see the game than those who will.
Tickets have moved slowly, and although WSU officials have been advised that there’s generally a strong, late push at the gate at this stadium, that hasn’t yet materialized. Late Monday, the count stood at only 26,000.
“I don’t think we’ll get to 40,000,” said WSU athletic director Bill Moos, who was in Seattle on a long-scheduled media blitz.
If the game — matching Big Ten newcomer Rutgers against Mike Leach’s third-year WSU program — doesn’t hit the 40,000 mark, it would be the lowest attendance in the 12-game history of the Cougars’ appearances in Seattle that began in 2002.
Last year’s game, against No. 5-ranked Stanford, drew only 40,095, but that came with an asterisk, as unusually heavy wind and rains struck the Northwest on a late-September day in which all four Pac-12 teams in the region were hosting games.
Meanwhile, the possibility exists that DISH subscribers won’t find the game available on Fox Sports 1 television because of a dispute over a surcharge DISH is declining to pick up.
Four games to be shown on FS1 could be impacted this weekend, including Colorado-Colorado State on Friday night.
One source indicated the two sides are not believed far apart, and an agreement to lift the blackout could come shortly. Without a deal, potentially 14 games involving Pac-12 teams this fall on Fox Sports 1 could be affected, as Fox Sports is contracted to carry 22 Pac-12 games, a minimum of eight on Fox over-the-air outlets and the rest on Fox Sports 1.
The first conference game that would be affected would be UCLA-Arizona State on Sept. 25.
DISH corporate-affairs spokesman John Hall said the issue is “over the idea that Fox is paying these inflated prices for certain sports, and demanding that we pay an additional charge for certain sports events, which is what we’re unwilling to do.”
Two years ago, when the Pac-12 began warring with DirecTV because the company wouldn’t come to an agreement to carry the fledgling Pac-12 Networks — they’re still at an impasse — the league recommended that Pac-12 fans switch carriers.
WSU is an 8 1/2-point favorite over Rutgers. Because drawing well in Pullman for a Labor Day-weekend game seemed questionable, Moos moved the game to Seattle and had hoped to avoid the issue of fans leaving the area for a three-day holiday by playing the game on Thursday night.
Moos told The Times recently this is likely the last WSU game in Seattle for the foreseeable future.