Though he was announced as Oregon State’s new Athletic Director late last month, Scott Barnes’ last day in his previous job in the same job for Pitt was Friday the 13th, so Saturday was his first day fully on the job for the Beavers.
What happened Saturday night should have been an eye-opener.
Barnes indicated he would take his first 100 days or so to evaluate things. That will take him until after spring break, and the start of spring term, and after
spring winter football practice.
And while there are systemic issues he still won’t have fully unearthed by then, the debacle Saturday night should have been all Barnes needed to see to get an idea of the biggest issues, and should have made it clear to him that there’s no need to wait to get started on them.
In a sold-out Matthew Knight Arena, Oregon obliterated Oregon State 85-43. It was the Beavers’ worst loss in the 347 game history of the Civil War, and they were never even competitive.
The Ducks scored the games first 21 points, and the Beavers didn’t even score until almost the middle of the first half. The spread was a ridiculous 25 points, but Oregon had that covered a couple of minutes before halftime.
This is not a prelude to a call for Coach Wayne Tinkle’s job. He’s proven he can get wins, given a little of talent. In his first 2 years, he produced back to back winning seasons in Corvallis for the first time since players Ralph Miller recruited did it, and with Gary Payton II, and little else,
got the Beavers back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since Gary Payton I was playing.
And he can develop players. Case in point Drew Eubanks, who arrived a year ago with the basketball skill set of a high school freshman, and is now the Beavers’ best player, and the only one who plays at a Pac-12 level on a consistent basis.
The problem Saturday was not with what Oregon State has, its what they don’t have, namely enough Power Conference players to put a Power Conference starting lineup on the floor. Never mind sub in any.
As a result, those players that are of that level are playing out of position, and asked to play over their heads. Stevie Thompson would be a good compliment to a competent point guard, but must instead struggle to be one, since there isn’t another on campus. Much like Eubanks must play the post when he’s better as a power forward because there isn’t anyone else who can.
And a couple of project players with some promise, at least offensively at times, are expected and needed to be transcendent players and leaders long before they are ready.
The result is a season that’s already a disaster, and going to get worse. And also one that can’t be fixed without the recruiting of several elite players, and actually getting them into school, and on the floor prior to the season, something that has been an issue contributing to the problem for Tinkle, as well as football coach Gary Andersen this year.
Until recruiting provides more and better talent, wins won’t come, at Gill or across the street at Reser. But there lies the problem for Barnes, and Saturday night underscored that.
The other team on the floor had all the better players, and the better coach (who took over the Ducks when they were in worse shape than the Beavers at the time, and has consistently produced 20+win seasons, and been named the conference coach of the year 3 of the last 4 years), playing in the better building.
The program down the road has a new, modern facility, which was sold out, and is also used for other profitable ventures ranging from concerts to rodeos. They also have the bigger and better football stadium and practice facility, and the newer, better, baseball stadium as well, both of which bring in more revenue than their Corvallis contemporaries.
Barnes’ office is in the corner of the second oldest, and most out-dated, such venue in the west, unsuited for anything profitable, and a continuing drain as upgrades are made to make do.
Next door is a first rate practice facility, but the reason that had to be built in the first place was the shortcomings of Gill. And while Oregon State would have been better served by using the resources invested in the practice building and the make-do changes in Gill to build a replacement for the out-of-date warehouse, the price tag for a total replacement, and expansion, was more than the program could afford.
And those projects diverted resources from the project that has to be tackled before any thought of replacing Gill can even come up for discussion, the replacement of the old side of Reser.
With the over-due completion of the Valley Football Center, the delay of which from when it was really needed contributed significantly to Mike Riley’s long slide into mediocrity, Reser now looks like parts of 3 stadiums patched together, because it is. And since the opposite end-zone was done on the cheap when the new side was built, it now looks like it with the more modern new end adjacent to the VFC offices.
But affording to update it in conjunction with replacement of the old side will be an added cost likely to be skipped, given it will be hard to fully fund the project lacking a winning football team.
But that’s what Barnes inherits, a team that’s had a losing season 3 years in a row, and 5 of the last 7, and will be pressed to make it up to .500 this coming fall. This in an era where the majority of the teams in the FBS go to a bowl in any given year, and about 3/4 of the teams in the Power 5 conferences.
Saturday night gave a glimpse into the challenges faced on that front as well, when the new Oregon coaching staff, brought in to energize the program after it slipped to just one losing season, took on some of their players at halftime. When Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert blocked head coach Willy Taggart’s shot and took the ball the other way for a layup, we saw the degree of connection that’s a component of why Oregon and Taggart will wind up with a recruiting class that’s an order of magnitude above what Andersen will be able to bring on board.
Of course, being the only Pac-12 team in a town without a air service or adequate hotels doesn’t help either. That’s a larger problem, one that puts the entire University at a competitive disadvantage, but also one Barnes, Andersen, and Tinkle have to contend with, and one that so far the University hasn’t done anything to mitigate.
Barnes has a reputation for effective and efficient use of resources, something Oregon State can’t help but benefit from, but he has also said he needs and plans to bring new and larger resources to the program, recognizing you can’t compete in a space race with a biplane. The existing deficiency compared to the competition down the road, and the purple one up the road too, for that matter, only makes it harder to do that though. This isn’t something that cheesy marketing slogans can overcome.
And Saturday night pretty clearly showed what the difference looks like.