Oregon State: Committed to Mediocrity

Although Portland runs rampant with OSU Beaver fans, I’m not one of them. In sports, aside from the occasional flash of brilliance, the Beavers are generally Oregon’s red-headed step-child when it comes to the big ones (football and basketball).

So I wasn’t surprised to see that the Beavers just committed to OSU football coach Mike Riley in a big way, extending his contract and upping his salary.

But what shocked even me was the following contract item which has to raise even the biggest Riley supporter’s eyebrows: “Riley’s contract also stipulates that a year will be added for every season the team participates in a bowl game.”

Another year for any bowl game? Really Have these people seen some of the bowl games out there?

Let’s take a look at last year’s bowl games, and who attended.

Per ESPN.com, last year’s bowl season started on December 19, 2006, with the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Pitted in that game were Texas Christian, which had a matchup of the No. 25 TCU Horned Frogs (10-2) and the Northern Illinois Huskies (7-5). Not bad. Of course, TCU got to No. 25 by beating such fine teams as Baylor, UC Davis, Army, Wyoming, UNLV, New Mexico, SDSU, Colo State, Air Force and Northern Illinois. And Texas Tech, their only victory of the season against a ranked opponent. Two bowl teams in the whole bunch. And Northern Illinois beat Buffalo, Indiana State, Ball State, Miami of Ohio, Temple, Central Michigan, and Eastern Michigan. Not a single regular season victory over an eventual bowl team.

There are similar stories throughout the lesser bowls, which goes to prove one thing: a bowl bid does not mean you’re good. Look at the Ducks; they made a bowl last year, and yet by most people’s standards that season was about the most horrible thing in recent memory.

So OSU has committed to a long streak of mediocrity, which is apparently as good as they care to do.

Is Mike Riley a good coach? Maybe. Is this contract the best thing for OSU? Probably not.

Discuss.

12 Comments so far

  1. The Pirate King (unregistered) on April 26th, 2007 @ 1:43 am

    Isn’t it just slightly hypocritical that someone named Rusty would pick on redheaded stepchildren?

    -A Beaver believer


  2. Rusty (unregistered) on April 26th, 2007 @ 8:14 am

    Would be if I were red-headed.

    One note: I know some Beaver Nation supporter is going to jump on the “but the Beavs were better than the Ducks last year” train and try to attack my argument from that standpoint. It’s true, they were. And I see no problem with rewarding the coach with more pay, more years, or whatever.

    My issue is that Mike Riley has yet to establish himself solidly as a big-time coach. The team’s best bowl bid was during the Riley-in-San-Diego hiatus, under Dennis Erickson, and otherwise they’ve been fair-to-middlin’ with streaks of solidness mixed in.

    To tie automatic extensions to bowl bids, which basically means to promise a coach more additional years automatically for simply being better than .500, is a mistake in my book.


  3. Rick (unregistered) on April 26th, 2007 @ 5:17 pm

    Yeah, nice try. It really bugs you Ducks that Belotti is on the downhill slope while Riley’s star is rising. Besides, is this the only part of the contract you can find to complain about?


  4. Steve (unregistered) on April 26th, 2007 @ 10:00 pm

    Try reading other articles… you’ll find that Riley gets 25% of the season tix sales beyond 23K. That’s HUGE money, and he isn’t going to get it by going to minor/mediocre bowls.

    I think I read somewhere that they have a potential of 30 some odd K season tickets in the current buildout -If he gets to a BCS bowl or even a couple years of near major bowls and the season tix sales jump 5-10K he pockets hundreds of thousands of $$$$ a year beyond the numbers listed in the article you linked.

    Time will tell how Riley does, but he sure appears to be building a team with depth out of a team that didn’t have it, and his last bowl was definitely a step up from all but one bowl in the last 30 some odd years the Beavs have been to.

    Give it a couple years and you’ll probably be eating your words.


  5. TV Beav (unregistered) on April 26th, 2007 @ 11:03 pm

    “So OSU has committed to a long streak of mediocrity, which is apparently as good as they care to do.”

    Thanks for the extremely unbiased and balanced analysis. Wasn’t Kramer’s horse in that Seinfeld episode named Rusty?

    :-)


  6. AeroBeav (unregistered) on April 27th, 2007 @ 1:31 am

    Rusty,

    Considering the amount of money Oregon “invests” in their football program, a coach who currently has the longest tenure of any coach in the PAC, fancy locker rooms, etc. it seems a little odd to hear a UofO fan talk about mediocrity when you look at the product you have. Diamond plating and all.

    Seems the Beavers, with their humble traditions, and blue collar attitude seem to be keeping the little ol’ducks in line just fine.

    Seems like you should pay more attention to what’s going on in your house in terms of being average and acceptance of it.


  7. Rusty (unregistered) on April 27th, 2007 @ 9:07 am

    Well, since I’m already on record as saying Belotti needs to go ( http://portland.metblogs.com/archives/2006/12/quacking_up.phtml ), I think I’m paying equal attention.

    Beav fans, read my message and tell me what you really think, instead of looking at it as a slight by a Duck guy against the Beavers. My question is legitimate: has Mike Riley really done enough to merit an automatic extension for any bowl appearance, considering that bowl appearances really mean very little these days? I mean, if it’s an automatic extension for a BCS bowl bid, that’s one thing. I can see offering that kind of clause in a contract. But if most teams that are just over .500 qualify for a bowl bid, and teams can get there without ever beating any other bowl-worthy teams, is that really a term you want in there?

    As I stated, I have no problem for rewarding a guy for a job well done. But, please, let’s be smart about it. Riley could get the team to 10 December 19 bowl games, and as I understand the contract that means he’s guaranteed 10 years. What happens when the team, the fans, the boosters, and what-not decide they want more? An expensive buy-out.

    Maybe he’s the Next Coming of Knute Rockne. But he simply hasn’t, in my opinion, done enough to merit this sort of commitment from a school that’s trying to establish itself as a legitimate topic in the ongoing discussion of great Pac-10 football schools…


  8. BeaverDude (unregistered) on April 27th, 2007 @ 9:25 am

    Ok, Lets look at your argument.

    The Pac-10 has 6 guaranteed bowl slots. If we put the contract in different terms then Mike Riley gets an automatic contract extension for finishing in the top 6 of the Pac-10. That’s not an easy task to accomplish.

    Beaver Nation has risen from the ashes, we still remember where we came from. We also remember that Coach Riley was one of the people who made that happen.


  9. Rusty (unregistered) on April 27th, 2007 @ 9:36 am

    Hmmm. If your definition of success is not being one of the worst four teams in a 10-team conference, that’s a problem in-and-of itself.

    Oregon State has certainly improved. Mike Riley was certainly PART of that. As was Dennis Erickson. I’d argue that Dennis Erickson had as much, or more, to do with the currently-improved stature of the program than Riley did.

    Reward Riley? Sure. But why, oh why, is this commitment by the University, which wasn’t necessary (they were only bidding against themselves, after all) reasonable? I don’t think that even your hated Ducks have cut such a deal (and if they have, it’s equally shameful).


  10. BigBeav (unregistered) on April 27th, 2007 @ 10:22 am

    Mediocrity? Over the last five years……OSU has the 3rd best winning percentage in the Pac. Check the numbers yourself. In the era of USC dominance, whom we beat last year, one could suggest we are the 2nd best team in the Pac. USC is in another league…….

    yeah, that is pretty mediocre. huh?


  11. Rusty (unregistered) on April 27th, 2007 @ 11:53 am

    So, I’m currently looking at the OSU Beavers’ Media Guide ( http://www.osubeavers.com/pdf4/39515.pdf?ATCLID=153842&SPSID=27968&SPID=1952&DB_OEM_ID=4700 ), and here’s what I’m seeing:

    Mike Riley Teams:
    1997: 3-8
    1998: 5-6
    2003: (with Dennis Erickson recruits) 8-5
    2004: (with fewer Dennis Erickson recruits) 7-5
    2005: (with, again, fewer Dennis Erickson recruits) 5-6
    2006: 10-4 (#21 nat’l rank)

    Dennis Erickson’s Teams:
    1999: 7-5 (w/ Riley recruits)
    2000: 11-1 (w/ fewer Riley recruits)(ended w/ #4 nat’l rank)
    2001: 5-6 (w/ fewer Riley recruits)
    2002: 8-5 (w/ generally his own recruits)

    As head coach of OSU, Riley’s record is, using the numbers made available in the references listed, 38-34, just over .500. Erickson’s was 31-17, which is .646. If you compare Riley’s last four years, which is fair, with Erickson’s previous 4, you see that Riley did less, arguably with more (Erickson, after all, had a better pedigree to woo potential players with, what with the prior national championship and the long NFL coaching career and a Fiesta Bowl/#4 ranking and all), with a record of .600 (30-20) on teams laden with Erickson recruits. Prior to inheriting Erickson recruits, his record was a dismal 8-14.

    In terms of the Beaver’s resurgence and in terms of whether Riley deserves the credit for it, he does deserve some. I haven’t yet, here, stated that Riley’s a bad coach. I think, though, that he’s benefitted greatly from following on the heels of Dennis Erickson. I don’t think he’s established himself as a great coach yet, and I don’t see that his performance merits the commitment that OSU has made to him.

    For everyone who may be wondering, over the same term covered in my reviews of Riley and Erickson, Mike Belotti’s overall record is 82-41, a .667 percentage (with nat’l rankings of 7th in 2000, 2nd in 2001, and 12th in 2005).


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