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The Story of the Cougar Shark Attack
Written by OpenToClose   
Sunday, 21 February 2010 14:45

How did the Cougar Shark Attack get started? Have you ever wondered why the Jaws theme plays when we're on defense and the crowd instinctively knows to start the chomp? It's a tradition that does seem out of place considering that our mascot is the Cougar. So, the question is how did it get started?

I've got very clear memories in my mind of when I first observed this phenomena at Martin Stadium but I've never had the chance to confirm my suspicions with the primary suspect. Well, my mission when the Seattle Cougar football event rolled into town was to ask this guy if he remembers the start of the Cougar Shark Attack the same way that I do.


Read on to see if you agree with my memories of how the Shark Attack started or if you have a different theory.


By the way, this is the sort of thing that can quickly become urban legend…..and I kind of like it that way.  Here's how the story goes.


As a teenager I remember very clearly watching a dude that I thought was the biggest badass I'd ever seen roam the Palouse. He seemed to play with an aggression and speed that just gave me pride to be a Cougar fan. That player was Anthony McLanahan. He had the body type, persona, and speed of a guy that would set the tone for a series of linebackers at WSU that sustained us for a decade. The names of Childs, Hayes, Fields, Darling, Gleason, Derting, Moore and many others can trace their lineage back to one guy…..Zeus….that was his nickname.

So, how does Zeus relate to the Cougar Shark Attack? Well, as I was watching games I started to just watch this guy play. It didn't matter what the hell was going on. I just wanted to see what Zeus was going to do next. That's when I started to notice it. McLanahan would make a play and he would do this chomping motion….exhorting his teammates to do the same. I watched for a couple more games and I started to notice that it was catching on. It was becoming the team celebration and they were asking the crowd to do it now. As the season wore on it became an epidemic. We'd see it at timeouts, it was a sort of dance at times and best of all we were seeing the crowd and the team in unison with it.


Fast forward several years. I'm in college at WSU now and the Cougar Shark Attack has become the standard for crowd cheering when we're on defense at football and basketball games but the source of this cheer had become shrouded as years went by. Everyone seemed to have a different idea of how it got started. I always felt like I knew as fact that Zeus had started it all. I would usually keep quiet on the theory unless I was about six beers deep and then I'd go off on the Zeus conspiracy theory.


Fast forward another decade to decade and a half and I'm at A Night with Cougar Football and I'm introduced to McLanahan. The perfect time to test and see if my theory holds water. We talk for awhile about various topics and then finally the topic of Cougar defense comes up. I tell him that I've got to ask about The Cougar Shark Attack. I tell him that as I remember it, that whole thing got started with him. He doesn't even miss a beat and starts giving me the inside scoop on how he remembers starting things. He told me it was actually between three guys. Himself, Ronnie Childs and Mike Zimmer. Mike Zimmer was our defensive coordinator at the time. He's gone on to become one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL and is currently working for the Cincinnati Bengals. As McLanahan tells it, it started in film session. McLanahan did it once and Zimmer picked up on it and made a few comments. The following week it was Ronnie Childs and McLanahan doing it and Zimmer fueled the fire even more in film session. Before you know it, the team is doing it and it spreads to the fans.


Here we are 17 years later and for some odd reason when the Jaws theme song starts playing every Cougar fan knows what to do. It's funny how tradition starts. Here's to 17 more years of Cougs doing the Cougar Shark Attack…..and more importantly let's hope for that theme song to play a lot more frequently at Martin Stadium next season.

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Comments (5)
Like it was just yesterday...
1 Sunday, 21 February 2010 18:53
I remember pretty well that in 92 the band played Jaws when we were on defense and Superman when we were on offense. Guys like McClannahan and Tory Hunter would chop their arms at the crowd and it caught on pretty quick with the fans. I remember doing it at the snow bowl. The 93 season we kinda fell apart after Pattinson went down, and i don't remember the crowds being to into anything after that, but in 94 we had the best defense in the history of the universe and the shark attack really went into high gear. Not long after that Cal started doing it too.
2 Sunday, 21 February 2010 19:51
I had no idea that Cal grabbed it too. That's silly. I've always wondered if we started ....and that's another....Cougar first down. I know Oregon State definitely copied but I remember us doing that for a LONG time. There are obviously an endless number of schools doing it these days but I wonder if we lifted that from someone early on or if we kicked it off.
Good info
3 Sunday, 21 February 2010 23:08
That's some good info OpenToClose. Friends of mine from other Pac 10 schools have always asked what the Cougar Shark Attack was all about - I really had no answer. Good to have some knowledge on the topic. Let's hope we have another dominating (or even decent) defense again soon so this tradition can come back in full force.
Sorry to burst your bubble but . . .
4 Thursday, 25 February 2010 14:41
I've got nothing against the "Shark Attack" but we certainly weren't the first ones on the block to rock it. UNLV hoops was doing this with Tarkanian in the '80s. I sent a link from this article to a group of my WSU friends - all whom graduated circa '91 - '94 - and to a man they all admitted that we shouldn't get points for originality with regard to the Attack. Zeus ruled (as did Childs, Fields, Hayes, et al) but he's high if he think he invented this. Maybe he brought it to WSU but he didn't invent it.
Yeah, but the main thing
5 Saturday, 27 February 2010 07:22
In this story is less about originality, and more about how it got started at WSU. It also bears obvious resemblance to the Gator Chomp at Florida. I think the main point here is just to shed some light on how and when this tradition got going at WSU.

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