Monthly Archives: March 2014

Leadership from the athletic department

There is a lot of talk about the direction of Oregon State sports and most of it is not positive.  In the midst of a very disappointing basketball season, a disappointing football season, and  with very real and self-imposed monetary reasons that will result in neither sport making major coaching changes any time soon, many fans feel powerless.

And angry.

That anger tends to find its ways to the desk, inbox, voice mailbox, and carrier pigeon route of Bob DeCarolis. Lately, common mutterings and hand-wrung exclamations about the future revolve around one common thought: “Can Bob hire a good basketball coach?”

The trend points to yes, but it is a trend of one and it revolves around the success Scott Rueck has achieved with probably the worst foundation in Division 1 sports when he took over.  Unfortunately, there were two questionable hires and two or three bad extensions prior to that which really worries many.  Now I don’t blame Bob for the hiring of Craig. He literally could not find many other options. The extensions after the fact are what gets many fans’ blood boiling.

Bob has a lot of tough decisions, starting yesterday with his meeting with Craig and in the next few years. How he handles the basketball situation will be a lot of how his legacy as AD will be viewed. With four capital projects in the works, an almost entirely new athletic landscape during his time and countless firsts and new achievements under his watch, it seems like a “no-brainer” that he would be remembered fondly.

But his legacy with basketball, despite a new practice facility, is not positive and should they bumble the next few steps and set the program back to the cellar, it will be the reason he gets mixed reviews in our memories.

Unfortunately, fan popularity is not all that leadership is. Leadership also requires a little Machiavellian decision making.

Real Leadership means making decisions DESPITE fan interests because it is what is best for the entire department.

Spending $4 million on a program that may not return the investment even with improved play is what is weighing in the balance.  With 2013 ending as another year in the red, is it worth buying out a coach that is hemorrhaging fans when that same investment in recruiting and marketing might improve football? Would the excitement of a new coach breathe enough new life into a program to add 3,000 people on average to every game?  Would the fans still take a wait-and-see approach and be cautious? Since that buyout would also mean you would need the new coach’s salary add on top of that, and since you don’t want to go on the cheap, does that turn into $5+ million? In order to get that five million in the next year, you would have to average how many fans? 7000 per game?  8000?

So what is the return on investment for firing Craig? Is it enough to warrant the cost when that same money could be added to football operating costs to get more recruiting support, improved coaches salaries and maybe get a quality opponent to come out West to visit us?  Or may be if you need to go in debt $5 million more, it is better to spend it on getting the Valley Football Center remodel going?

Fans don’t want that, fans don’t want to see the program deteriorate more, but when you are looking at the numbers, regardless of how they ended up as they are (*cough* extensions *cough*) is it worth it? That is the decisions real leaders have to make and that is where Bob is at. Appease fans, but lose money, or save  money and appease the fans of your most profitable sport? Or just don’t go into more debt and hope that football delivers on its promise to improve this year. And not just with a win over Portland State.

Every decision made is not in a vacuum, it all has to tie together and make sense for what you have. Leadership means making tough decisions, and sometimes those are not popular.  Sometimes you are wrong, and then you have to deal with your mistakes and do what is best with that new reality. That is where we are — mistakes of the past leading to tough decisions.

Lets see what the Athletic Department comes up with. Regardless, it is going to be wrong to someone because there are no right answers for everyone. I have a feeling it will be the fans that are most disappointed.

Top 10 Things to Watch for during Spring Ball

Spring ball is just around the corner. So I thought I’d create a Top 10 list of things to watch for during camp. Without further ado…

10. Spring Game Format: In recent years, it hasn’t been much of a game. In fact, last year’s was a glorified practice. It has been due to not having enough players, which is understandable. But it also can be argued that the Beavers are hurt by not scrimmaging enough, especially its defense. It would be nice for that to change this spring.

9. What’s the Vision?: What a better time to release some renderings of the Valley Football Center renovation project? It would drum up some much-needed support for a facilities revolution. The athletic department needs to sell a grand vision to fans and recruits. VFC plans would be a great step toward doing that and securing donations when the time comes.

8. Run, Baby, Run?: Will Storm Woods continue to hold off Tarron Ward for the starting RB job? But also, is spring ball where Chris Brown makes his move on the depth chart? He might have the best pure running skills of the bunch, but must work on the other things such as blocking. But the coaches have said they plan to give Brown a shot this spring.

7. John Garrett: All eyes will be on new offensive coordinator John Garrett, who comes to the Beavers via the Cowboys, where he was the tight ends coach. How will he mesh with the other coaches? How will he relate to the players? And most of all, how will he go about helping add new wrinkles to the OSU offense. Hopefully, the TEs really flourish this spring.

6. Leaders WANTED: Brandin Cooks and Rashaad Reynolds were two of the Beavers’ top leaders last season . Who will replace them in those roles? Past OSU squads have struggled, in part by not having strong leaders. It will be especially important for someone to emerge on the defensive side because Scott Crichton is also gone.

5. Bold(en) Next Steps: While the Beavers have some intriguing prospects at wide receiver, they don’t have a lot of experience. So they will need Bolden, who improved as last season went on, to step and become the big-play threat Cooks was. That means establishing a rapport with Sean Mannion. If he doesn’t, it could be a rough season for the offense.

4. Linebacker Chemistry: Michael Doctor missed all of last season and DJ Alexander missed a lot time. The good news is that enabled Jabral Johnson to get a lot of playing time last season. He’s slotted to be OSU’s starting middle linebacker. But this talented trio will need to get used to playing with each other (and also stay healthy).

3. Backup Duty: Sean Mannion is firmly entrenched as OSU’s starter heading into the 2014 season. But the  backup position isn’t nearly as settled. So hopefully, Brent Vanderveen and Kyle Kempt will get a lot of reps and show that they can be capable backups. Otherwise, fall camp will be really interesting. Besides, everyone always focuses on the QBs 🙂

2. Fillin’ the O-Line: The Beavers are looking to replace three starters from last season. While it’s hard to take a lot from Spring Ball, it’s crucial period for the offensive line. The unit needs  all the time it can get to gel, because it’s going to play a major role in the run game improving this season. There’s some very promising talent here that should develop well.

 1. The Other Guys On paper, the Beavers appear to have pretty good depth on the defensive line. So why is it the No. 1 thing to watch for? Dylan Wynn is primed for a monster year, Jawsha James showed a lot of promise late in the season, and Jalen Grimble is supposed to be legit. A physical, athletic line will boost the entire D, so let’s hope the defense rules spring ball!

What do you think of this list? What will you be looking for during spring ball? Go Beavers! (RW)

Rambles & Rants: OSU Hoops

There’s been no shortage of commentary in the media regarding OSU basketball coach Craig Robinson in recent days. Everyone has an opinion from Kerry Eggers to BuzzFeed. Both of the linked articles are great reads. They bring up good points, but the one thing that either piece fails to address  has been driving me crazy. To the point that I am kind of pissed off about it.

If people, be it journalists or or message board fans, want to complain about Robinson and insist he be fired, do us a a favor and suggest a list of replacements – and I mean realistic candidates, not pipe dreams.

My best friend keeps throwing out Bobby Knight’s name. Not happening (maybe I need to choose better best friends). The game has probably passed him by and besides, as cash-strapped as OSU is, can the athletic department afford to replace all the chairs Knight could destroy?

Some people have mentioned the tourney’s current flavor of the week, Dayton coach Archie Miller. Not happening. Darlings of the tournament, such as Miller, can usually pick and choose from any openings they want, and more importantly get paid way more than OSU can offer.

There’s been mention of Gary Payton. Shouldn’t happen. Just because he’s an OSU legend and one of the best NCAA and NBA point guards of all time doesn’t mean Payton would be a great coach. Case in point: my favorite 90s NBA player, Clyde Drexler, was a huge flop coaching his alma matter, Houston. And nobody’s questioning his greatness.

And then there’s my personal favorite: there are those who suggest OSU women’s basketball coach Scott Rueck. Don’t get me wrong, he’s done a marvelous job and he clearly can coach. But the women’s game way, way different than the men’s game. And if somehow, this were to happen, would the men’s team respect Rueck? Let him continue turning the women’s team into a force 🙂

So please, if you want Robinson fired or refuse to acknowledge the good he’s done during his six years at the helm of the Beavers, at least be part of the solution and come up with some realistic replacements for him.

Until then, I don’t want to hear it. (RW)

Another disappointing March…

March Madness is underway. While a large majority of Americans will breathe, eat, and sleep college hoops the next several weeks, I am not sure I’ll join them. The truth is, I’ve never been able to get into the madness. And here’s why:

The last time Oregon State made the dance, I was 7 years old. At that point in my life, I wasn’t really into sports, much less college basketball. Ninja turtles and TGIF TV shows rocked my world.

Now 24 years later, I love sports. Probably too much. And I love Beavers basketball. One of my favorite memories while I was in journalism was covering OSU hoops for the Daily Barometer in 2004-05 — that season the Beavers made the NIT. Even though, they were one-and-done, making the NIT was such a big deal, at least in my mind.

So it was painful watching the program decline and eventually collapse under Jay John. But his replacement, Craig Robinson, gave me hope when he led the Beavers to the CBI title in his first season. But 5 years later, that hope has faded. Not to be a drama queen but I am starting to wonder if I’ll ever seen a March Madness bracket that includes the Beavers.

Let me get this out of the way: I like Craig. I think he does everything right in terms of representing the program well, his players graduate, he was instrumental in making the practice facility a reality, and for the most part he has gotten better talent to Corvallis (Cunningham, Nelson, Brandt, Collier, Moreland).

But at the end of the day, the one thing he hasn’t been able to do is win. Four CBI appearances and seven CBI wins over six seasons  isn’t going to cut it for a once-proud program that’s slowly becoming irrelevant. OSU needs to get back on track soon.

And that’s why it’s time for a change. I am thankful for Craig’s contributions, but it’s clear he’s taken the Beavers as far as he can. This year’s squad was his best hands down talent-wise and look how far they went.

But sadly, I think Craig will be at OSU next year unless he leaves on his own accord. His buyout is problematic for the athletic department. Besides, we know Bobby D holds on too coaches too long.

And so it continues, I’ll endure March Madness once again, without my beloved Beavers and wondering as always, “What will it take for the Beavers to go dancing again?” — RW

Ok, I am done.

Every time I try and say something nice about the men’s hoops program, I feel like the rug gets pulled out from under me.  I have a long standing belief that players, by and large, play hard and work hard.  I rarely call out a player publicly.  I am not above calling out coaches though, and I feel like this has been coming for a while.

I like Craig the man. I love what Craig the fund raiser has done for the OSU Basketball Team and I really like what he does for the players as people and as a role model.  But the fact is the team is not getting better and gets steadily worse every season.  He cannot get them over the hump and six years of not being able to shoot free throws, high turnover margins and getting killed by three point shooting has taken its toll on the team and the fan base.

And  me.

It is time.  OSU made a profit in Men’s Hoops this year, largely because they limited expenses.  They won’t be so lucky next year unless they have no expenses.  It is time and I really hope that Bob DeCarolis looks into this and makes a change.  Love him or hate him, the product on the floor is not even 50% and the bad losses keep mounting.

I have no insight on who they should get, but I would probably want someone that is more focused on fundamentals, on limiting turnovers and on defense in general. I would love to see a huge splash hire, but am not holding my breath.  Just as long as they get someone that is up and coming and willing to roll up their sleeves and get things done here. I don’t care if it is a stepping stone job, because if they leave that means we did awesome.
Go  Beavers!

Why I am glad OSU is playing in the CBI

I have to admit, I am pretty frustrated with Beaver Nation right now.  As a blogger,  I guess I can voice my opinions and people will probably just decide to not follow read me and I will be the tree falling in the woods, or whatever metaphor most accurately represents someone that everyone else thinks is on crazy pills.

My beef is simple, and it goes with my base philosophy in sports:

Its about the players, not the fans.

On the internet, it is easy to gripe and moan about players or coaches or whatever because it is anonymous and there is no personal element. I see things written about Craig Robinson, for example, and I wonder if they have ever even talked to him. Or his coaches. Or their wives. Or the Players. I wonder if any of them have sat in a room with Bob DeCarolis and asked him about Craig and why he has done the things he has done in terms of his contract.

Unfortunately, the fact is Craig has a losing record over six years.  No matter what the circumstances are, he is not winning and not taking OSU to the next level.  He will most likely be back next year and maybe they  shock everyone and go to the NCAA or NIT.  I wouldn’t put money on it because he hasn’t done it in six years and this team next year has a ton of questions round it.

But that is the program, the  coach and the decisions of the administration.  What gets lost in all of this is the hours and hours of training and practice that the players put in, the heart they showed game after game even as the had more than their share of disappointing losses that looked like they might be wins. The program was maybe one player, or a few less turnovers or a few made free throws from tying for third, rather than plummeting below the six team log jam at the middle of the Pac-12.  Those players played even when no one was watching because they came to OSU to play.

So I support the CBI because, for many of them, this is going to be their last chance to play basketball at this level or higher, and is definitely the last time this team can take the court together.  We can complain that they are wasting money, though the program was one of the most profitable teams in the conference.  We can talk about perception, but if Craig doesn’t win next year, the perception won’t be that much different because he will most likely be gone and someone else will come in to hopefully right the ship back to its winning days of yore.

What people are not saying is that this is the last chance for Roberto Nelson, Angus Brandt, Devon Collier, Daniel Jones, C.J. Mitchell and Michael Moyer to suit up for the Beavers and play with their brothers on this team.  It is a chance for the younger guys to get more practice and more games and it is a chance to support the young men that wear the Orange and Black for us and have for the last four or five years.

Say what you want about the coach and the program, but for me, the CBI is for the players and I wish them the best.  Enjoy these last games and build for next year.  Most likely they are not going to focus on empty seats at Gill but rather on the people playing next to them.  Go Beavers!

Second Set of Civil War Photos.

Dave really got some great shots of the game.  Feel free to contact us if  you want any of the originals or anything like that. Also, notice we have a new Gallery section on the site. That is where you can find all of our photos. Watch that space because it is about to BLOW UP!

 

It’s Official: Doctor gets 5th Year!

It’s not much of a surprise, but it’s still good news that linebacker Michael Doctor was officially granted a fifth year by the NCAA. His return means that the Beavers will be deep and talented this season at linebacker.

Doctor, Rommel Mageo, and DJ Alexander, if healthy, are formidable trio. Add Jabral Johnson, who filled in admirably for Doctor in 2013, and  Darrrell Songy, who saw time off the bench last season, and linebacker should be a strength for the Beavers defense.

The key will be for Alexander to stay healthy and Mageo to continue to develop. If that happens, there’s no reason the Beavers shouldn’t have one of the top defenses in the conference, or at least a strong run defense.

Personally, this is the most excited I’ve been about a group of linebackers in some time. It would be nice to see OSU be strong at the position again. Also, it would help take the pressure off the DBs and hopefully reduce the number of first downs on 3rd and long given up by the Beavers.

I’ll end on a bad pun/joke/cliche: The Doctor is In!

Who should want to play for Coach Cav?

Everyone.

For many,  Coach Cavanaugh is a divisive figure in Beaver sports.  Last year, Oregon State had an anemic rushing game until the last two games of the season, and when the running game is absent, the line is the first to receive the blame. What many don’t see is the evolution of Coach Cav as a coach and a recruiter.  When Cav first arrived at OSU, he had one of the best offensive lines in program history with Jeremy Perry, Adam Koets, Roy Scheuning, Andy Levitre and Kyle Devan.  All of those players ended up on All Conference first or second teams.  Cav knows how to get the most out of elite talent, but also can get players ready to contribute in a hurry.

In 2007, injuries plagued their line starting with the loss of Jeremy Perry for most of the year, and with four starters missing two or more games in the season.  He had to work in young guys like Adam Speer and Tavita Thompson. or in 2008 when he had to start a redshirt freshman walk-on lineman against USC and came up with over 190 yards of rushing and the biggest upset in OSU history.  He dealt with huge losses in 2009 when he had to start three walk ons and a true freshman.  Or last year, where they lost three starters in the first three games and had to work in three players with zero starts, including another true freshman.

Cav as a coach has put walk-ons and highly touted players in to the NFL and coaches in an offense that allows him to prepare players to play in the NFL.  Kyle Devan went from teaching middle school to winning a Super Bowl in a year partly due to the trust the Coilts had in his technique and ability to perform.

Andy Levitre is one of the highest paid offensive linemen in the NFL and has played multiple positions on his team.  Adam Koets helped the Giants to a Superbowl and Mike Remmers, the a fore mentioned walk on that helped shock USC is now part of the Minnesota Vikings.

So players that should be interested in playing for Cav are players that want to be able to perform sooner rather than later in the NFL.  As with all coaches, OSU doesn’t have a corner on the market for great coaches and kids can achieve most of their dreams at other schools.  But looking at what Cav has done with kids that are willing to put in the work, do the bear crawls and learn his techniques are looked highly upon in the NFL and come out ready to play right away.  OSU should be one of those schools on every offensive lineman’s lists just to get to work with Mike.

Who should want to work with Coach Seumalo

In my series of random and unsubstantiated thoughts on what type of person should be looking at Oregon State University as their a member of their football team.  One position that, in my opinion, is the single hardest position to find quality players at is the defensive line. The number of talented and athletic 280 – 300 pound defensive tackles in high school football is very limited and is more precious than .   So are large yet quick defensive ends that can stop the run as well as get to the quarterback on pass plays.   No other position is so universally desired as defensive line, and the competition forces schools like OSU to get more creative with that position than any other.

This is where the pure coaching ability of Coach Joe (Seumalo) comes in.  While players like current Chicago Bear Stephen Paea are rare finds, the Beavers have been able to take undersized players, players that are very raw or even players that are out of position, and turn them into very productive members of the team.  While the a fore mentioned Paea is a physically dominant force that just needed refinement, the work that Coach Joe did with players like Kevin Frahm, Victor Butler, Gabe Miller, Brennan Olander, Andrew Seumalo and this year John Braun and Mana Rosa.   While not all those names are littering NFL camps or even going to be on a pro squad in the future, they all were great contributors for the Beavers defense.

Whether it is converting players like Miller, Frahm, Braun and Rosa midway through their careers or taking guys like Butler and Slade Norris and building them into legitimate Pac-12 (well Pac-10 at the time) players without high school experience at defensive end.  Outside of Miller, no one in that list had any fanfare coming to Corvallis, yet all of them left having made a huge impact by their junior or senior years.  Coach Joe also has a knack for taking junior college players like Dorian Smith and James Lee and in a short time turning them into guys that find themselves on NFL squads.

The players that want to seek out OSU are players that are high motor and highly motivated.  Draft analysts like to throw around terms like tweeners for guys they are trying to plug into their morbidly inaccurate draft lists.  In this case, those tweeners, assuming they are willing to work and are high motor guys, can thrive at OSU. While I want to see five star defensive tackles coming to OSU, the reality is that Defensive Line is the most premium position in football these days, so those chances are slim.  But guys that want the best chance to fulfill their NFL dreams and are athletic enough to make that dream a reality should look at OSU.  Coach Joe has put a lot of players in to the NFL, even if just for  season or so, that no one gave a shot four or five years prior.

If my kid was a high motor athlete that was just a little too short or a little too small to get the attention of a lot of schools, I would definitely look at Oregon State and what Coach Joe can do for me.  While I never advocate getting less than the best players you can, in terms of defensive line, sometimes those best players are not the ones that everyone else is lining up for. Sometimes you have to make them and Coach Seumalo is good at that.