PULLMAN - The Washington State Cougars held a press conference Tuesday to kick off an ambitious fund-raising drive to expand Martin Stadium, and athletic director Jim Sterk later said that any talk about playing future Apple Cups at Seattle's Qwest Field is finished.
Both developments were overshadowed by word that the career of junior running back James Montgomery may be in jeopardy after he underwent emergency leg surgery that possibly saved his life.
Close friend Dwight Tardy, a senior running back, said team doctor Ed Tingstad told him Montgomery “probably could have died” if a Sunday morning operation had been delayed too long. A wait of one to two hours might have led to amputation, Tardy said Tingstad told him.
“He (Tingstad) was pretty rattled and shook up,” Tardy said. “He started crying.”
Trainer Bill Drake confirmed the gravity of Montgomery’s injury, adding, “There’s a lot of good news right now. His leg is saved.”
Tingstad, an orthopedic surgeon and WSU running back in the 1980s, performed the surgery at Pullman Regional Hospital.
Drake said it will be six to 12 months before it will be known if Montgomery can play football again. The Rancho Cordova, Calif., native leads the Cougars with 168 rushing yards (including 118 against Hawaii) and a 24-yard average on kickoff returns in three games.
Coach Paul Wulff said Montgomery, a transfer from California, had increasing discomfort after being injured in Saturday’s win over Southern Methodist. Montgomery, who didn’t known when he was injured, suffered acute compartment syndrome, pressure in a small area and impaired blood supply.
“I feel terrible for James,” Wulff said. “He has worked so hard since the minute he stepped on campus and is the complete package in terms of a student-athlete.”
Montgomery is likely to be hospitalized for several days.
Sterk said the combination of lower construction costs and better financing options has prompted the Cougars to renew efforts to add premium seating to Martin Stadium.
The third phase of stadium upgrades was postponed last winter. Sterk said the project likely will cost between $30 million to $33 million, down from an estimated $40 million a year ago.
Phase III will be financed in part by the sale of 2,200 premium seats, including suites and loges above the north (student) side of the stadium. Sterk said he does not expect state aid.
Sterk said $16 million has been raised, counting $2.5 million in pledges. The Cougars wanted commitments for 80 percent of the premium seats before starting work, but Sterk said he may be able to work with a lower figure.
If construction begins by March or April, the project could be finished in time for the 2011 season, Sterk said.
Sterk flatly stated for the first time that future Apple Cups will remain on campus.
Qwest Field made a lucrative proposal earlier this year to move the annual WSU-Washington game to Qwest for six years. Talks broke off when the Huskies demanded more than half the tickets to accommodate their season-ticket holders.
“I don’t think that will be revisited,” Sterk said before stressing that talks are definitely done. Each school stood to net $11 million more in six years than playing on campus, Sterk said.
Sterk said WSU plans to continue playing home football games at Qwest every other year after its contract with Qwest expired. WSU has played at Qwest eight years in a row.
Sterk has talked to Oregon about playing a conference game at Qwest next year.
Tardy said he’s been playing with a high ankle sprain all season. … Wulff said true freshman running back Carl Winston may play. Winston will travel with the team for Saturday’s nationally televised game as 12th-ranked USC (7:15 p.m., FSN). … Wide receiver Gino Simone is cleared to play after he missed Saturday’s game with a concussion.