Thoughts On HallIn Out For The First Time

After interim head coach Cory Hall got Oregon State to be competitive in a loss for a second time last week against a depleted Stanford squad that played with RB Bryce Love standing on the sidelines, talk locally around western Oregon that Oregon State should make Hall their hire as the next non-interim head coach erupted from a little conversation to an uproar.

A #HallIn Twitter campaign was launched, and so was an on-line petition started by a player and signed by most of the players.

This is WAY overboard, and it would be extremely disappointing (as well as an extremely large risk, and therefore an extremely bad decision) if Oregon State were to do so.

That’s not to suggest the athletic department shouldn’t seriously consider retaining Hall, and making it a priority when interviewing candidates to discuss continuity of those things about the program that are good. When you have had 4 bad years in a row, and 6 in the last 8, and only one of those that was in anyway anything more than severely mediocre at best, there obviously isn’t much that is right with the program, but there are some positives.

Hall has exhibited qualities that will serve him well, as well as his employer, and keeping him in the program could prove beneficial, especially given that most of the contributors in the next 2 seasons are already on the team, or in the short current commit list.

But to read into 2 competitive home losses against struggling opponents that Hall, who has only 3 seasons of assistant coach experience, none of which is even with a full position group until 3 weeks ago, never mind as a coordinator, is ready AT THIS POINT to lead a Pac-12 program is a step too likely to result in an even bigger disaster.

Hall hasn’t had to hire a staff ever, never mind delegate to them, manage them, or evaluate them. And he doesn’t even have a very large network of associates to hire from (commonly called a coaching tree).

Hall is a notable recruiter, but he’s never had to create a recruiting strategy and oversee a recruiting process, one that avoids the many miscues made by recent OSU regimes, and not just in football.

Hall is an engaging and outgoing personality, and he’s great in front of a scripted cheerleading audience, which is important. But he hasn’t had to go into a board room full of the program’s major investors and answer hard questions about how he’s going to provide a return on their investments.

He hasn’t had to work with the academic side of the university on getting recruits admitted AND keep them in school AND get them through school.

He hasn’t had to go to his Athletic Director and have a hard discussion about the issues an inadequate budget has created.

He hasn’t had to put together an off-season program.

He’s getting better in front of a local media group mostly noted for pitching softball batting practice, but he hasn’t had to face the national media. Or work in Oregon State’s best interests in a room of tv executives. (And don’t think that’s exclusively the role of the AD; if you do, review Washington coach Chris Petersen’s unfortunate experience recently with ESPN).

Hall hasn’t even had to coach a road game yet. And we know from considerable experience, that’s proven a lot harder to do than playing at home. Gary Andersen won some home games, and was competitive in at least some of the others. But he was with 1 isolated exception never even able to field a competitive team on the road.

That problem extends to before he was hired as well; the current run of blowout road losses extends into the end of the Mike Riley era. And an inability to take the show on the road is the biggest why Craig Robinson was replaced by Wayne Tinkle, who hasn’t exactly been a successful road warrior either.

But this weekend, we do get to see for the first time how Coach Hall handles the road, as the Beavers venture back into Strawberry Canyon to take on the California Golden Bears.

Its about as good a situation as possible for his first road trip, as Memorial Stadium is not a difficult environment, and the Beavers have fared pretty well there in recent years, the 54-24 disaster loss their last trip there 2 years ago not withstanding. Prior to that, the Beavers had run off 6 straight wins in Berkeley (the last road loss prior to 2 years ago was the game in AT&T Park in San Francisco).

He’ll have the full band with him as well, the only time they will ventured outside the state this year (lack of institutional support away from home is one of the contributing factors to the Beavers’ road woes; see the above note about having hard conversations with the AD about an inadequate program that has an inadequate budget to be able to give themselves their best chance for success). This matters for a team that runs on emotion, both good and bad, as we have seen is especially the case with the Beavers.

California under first year head coach Justin Wilcox (and offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin, whom Beaver administrators and fans should really be taking a close look at this weekend) is also a much better team at home than on the road though. They are 3-2 in Strawberry Canyon (vs. losing their last 3 of 4 road games), which includes a 37-3 blowout of Washington State. One of those losses was a 45-44 double overtime loss to Arizona with Khalil Tate, the conference’s newest sensation, who was in the midst of his 3rd in what is a now all-time conference record of 4 consecutive weeks as the conference’s offensive player of the week. Oregon State can’t match the Khalil effect, though the biggest single reason the Bears lost was Wilcox’s inexplicably bad conversion decision to lose the game instead of extending it.

And while the Bears have very little talent and no depth (and that was before they began to pile up injuries at a rate that rivals if not exceeds the impact Oregon State’s depth chart destruction has had), Wilcox does have them playing as hard as anyone. The Bears 3-0 start has overall collapsed to a 1-5 record against Pac-12 competition though.

Wilcox has the Bears are playing closer to their potential than most teams in the country. The problem for the Bears is most teams’ potential is so much greater that they don’t have to play at nearly as high a potential to exceed what Cal can do. That’s not the case this week.

Oregon State is still without starting quarterback Jake Luton (though the good news is he is throwing in practice again after suffering a broken vertebrae in the loss at Washington State), WR Seth Collins (who has mono), and most of their secondary (as many as 8 players who have been starters/regulars are likely or certainly out), though freshman David Willis will return.

Also, Hall has another issue to deal with, one of those potentially difficult situations he has never had to make the final call on.

Oregon State captain and inside linebacker Manase Hungalu was involved in an incident outside a Corvallis restaurant last weekend, and though he practiced this week, there is uncertainty about the Beavers’ leading tackler’s status. And that was before he also missed practice time due to illness!

Hall decided upon more complete review that Hungalu will be with the team in Berkeley, and is expected to play, unless of course the illness persists. That decision of course conflicted with the initial knee jerk public reactions of some OSU program on-lookers. Welcome to the world of being a head coach!

This game is the biggest and most important test yet for Hall and the Beavers since Andersen’s departure, one that should tell us much more than anything that happened in the losses to Colorado and Stanford did.
(Photo by Andy Wooldridge)

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