David Knuff wore No. 98 as tight end for the Cougar football team from 1993 to 1996.
The following season, Knuff’s former uniform number was not worn by any player. However, by season’s end, it was a number seemingly all Cougars were wearing.
Jan. 1, 1998. The day the Cougars 67-year Rose Bowl drought ended.
“There’s no 98 on the team that year but they sold commemorative jerseys,” Knuff remembers. “Thousands of people are wearing these 98 jerseys.”
Knuff even made it in that year’s Rose Bowl program.
“The picture they used is from the previous year,” he explains. “It’s (Ryan) Leaf audibling at the line of scrimmage and I’m turned so you see my number 98.
“People still give me grief about that,” Knuff adds, laughing.
It’s just one of many memories Knuff has while a student-athlete at WSU; however, for him, it's the relationships made that resonates with him to this day.
“The game and the places we played were great, but it’s the relationships I had, and the support I had not only in athletics, but academically, as well,” he explained. “You have friends in every point in life, but from 18 to 22 years old, the friendships I developed in those years are the most formative, and friends I’m still close with today.”
Today, Knuff isn’t wearing No. 98, but he continues to put on the WSU uniform, in a manner of speaking, as the Director of the renowned MBA program at WSU, recently ranked as the No. 1 graduate business program by U.S. News and World Report.
What brought Knuff to WSU as a student, and back as an instructor and Director of the MBA program, are one and the same.
“What made the decision for me to come here was coming to this place, seeing ‘Go Cougs’ in the window and seeing a true college town,” Knuff said. “Growing up in Southern California, there are so many universities and pro sport teams to support. I didn’t feel a loyalty. I come here and everyone loves the Cougs. It really had an impact on me as a young 18-year-old kid and I had to be a part of that.
“Here everyone is a Cougar," he added. "You know they’re a Cougar. They’re going toward the same thing. Everyone’s striving toward a common goal. When you have a common goal it allows people to do great things.”
It’s the nostalgia, relationships, and support Knuff experienced as a student-athlete that motivates him to give back to WSU and to the athletic department as a Cougar Athletic Fund member.
“I looked at it myself and said I got so much support in terms of scholarship and things I received here,” said Knuff, who serves on the board of the Palouse Cougar Club. “I don’t want to take it for granted and wanted to give back.”
Knuff remembers delivering that message to his past teammates in his capacity with the Palouse Cougar Club.
“I had this stat that showed where we ranked in the Pac-12 on giving, and I said ‘Guys, we’ve got to step up,’” he said. “We all have careers now and we have enough money that we can kick in a couple bucks. How much money did we receive in scholarship dollars when we were here? What did the university give to us?’
“Everyone said the same thing, ‘Yeah, you’re right. We received a lot from this university. It’s important we give back as well.”
Knuff’s No. 98 is well-known from a jersey created to commemorate a historic season. A historic season by a team comprised of student-athletes whose scholarships made it possible for them to attend WSU.
A fact Knuff does not lose site of.
“We need to give back,” Knuff says. “It’s important to give back. I’m very fortunate that I was able to receive a scholarship and I’m thankful for that. As I look back on it I say, ‘Wow that was such a blessing. I was so lucky and so grateful for the opportunities that I had, that a lot of people don’t have.
“In order to make that a realization for other student-athletes it’s going to take support from people like myself. I don’t know if I would be here today if I didn’t get a scholarship. I don’t know if I would have finished college. I truly don’t know.”