So, we e-mail each other quite a bit amongst the writers here at WSU Football Blog, much as anyone else emails their friends or co-workers or whatever. Occasionally it's pretty mild (if not boring), but sometimes there is a decent debate that pops up here and there. Last week the subject of facilities popped up, and it turned in to a look at Oregon State and how the Cougs compare to our state cousins to the south. And of course, the natural questions came up: Can WSU surpass the Beavs in the Pac-12 north, strictly in regards to football? Is the Oregon State program in trouble after consecutive losing seasons, all the while new stadium renovations are in full fury around the conference, including their neighbors to the north in WSU and UW? Or were the last two years just a blip on the radar, and after a couple of down years it is set to turn around again?
Anyway, LucasCoug and I both took a position - Lucas says the Beavs are in trouble and the Cougs are poised to pass them, while I am taking the other side and I'm just not so sure. So without further delay, here is our debate:
The Beavers from Corvallis, our state school brothers to the south. Historically, they're the worst football program in the Pac 10 / Pac 12, with the next closest program of inferiority being Wazzu, which holds a 48-45-1 all-time edge against them. Historic ineptitude aside, the Beavs have been one of the more consistent/efficient programs the last 12 years or so, posting an 88-61 record since Y2K, and appearing in 8 bowl games in that time frame. Prior to the turn of the century, OSU was 417-485 (0.462) all-time.
Are you wondering why we're talking Oregon State here? Well, I am of the ilk that Oregon State's sustained success the last 12 years or so is partially due to the demise of their conference brethren in the state of Washington. The University of Washington's fortunes turned around on the gridiron in 2009 after nearly a decade long flirt with being the conference doormat. Wazzu, while having not officially turned it all around on the field, has definitely made nice strides the last few years in rebuilding and look to be having a improved team in 2012 with Mike Leach at the helm.
Need any proof? Oregon State has gone 8-16 the last two years, including an embarrassing loss to Sacramento State in Corvallis and only 4 wins in their last 17 contests. Even Wazzu won more games than that in their last 17 under former Coach Paul Wulff. I may look like a fool saying this, considering 2/3rds of their wins in 2011 were against both Washington schools, however, I don't think either the Coug or Husky performances against the Beavs in 2011 were a harbinger of where they will be relative to OSU moving forward.
While it's safe to say OSU is presently ahead of Wazzu and maybe UW in the facilities and stadium arm's race, I don't believe that will last for long with major facilities and stadium projects nearing completion on Stadium Way and Montlake. They're ahead on facilities, until Martin Stadium and the Football Ops Building are complete and Husky Stadium is finalized.
OSU Coach Mike Riley has done a lot of great things in his time at OSU, and was rumored to be the leading candidate for the USC gig when Pete Carroll left for the Seahawks. However, a three year extension given to him in 2010, which extends him through 2019, could really come back to bite Beaver Nation in the butt. Have you seen Mike Riley's buyout? What the hell was Bob DeCarolis thinking with a $14,490,000 buyout should they terminate the Riles before the conclusion of 2019?
With a program struggling to win the last couple of years and a very slow start to the 2013 recruiting class (see, last BCS team to land a verbal commit), is it time for Beavers fans to begin worrying about the state of their program? Calling them stuck between a rock and a hard place with the Riley contract is putting it gently!
Historically, OSU is a far inferior program to us and not even in the same class as UW. I have a hunch, we will see them return to the cellar at some point in the near future.
Some excellent points Lucas. And first of all, let me just say that as the picture clearly shows above, Lucas and I stand UNITED in our love of all-things-Coug. Just because I am taking the side that I don't necessarily agree with him doesn't mean I'm an anti-this, or nega-Coug that, or however you want to call it! But while Lucas makes strong points about the overall history of Oregon State, I'm here to say as honestly as I can - the further back you go, ala Bill Murray in Meatballs? IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER.
You see, we can point to the overall records and distant history. That's great, and a lot of times it matters if you are looking at the entire body of work. But does it really matter all that much when the two schools' history is so similar? Consider:
WSU all-time: 501-513, with 45 ties all-time. That is good for a .494 winning percentage. The Cougs have at least a share of the conference title four times all-time (1917, 1930, 1997 and 2002) and we are 6-4 in 10 bowl games.
OSU all-time: 505-546, with 50 ties all-time. That is good for a .481 winning percentage. The Beavs have won at least a share of the conference title five times all-time (1941, 1956, 1957, 1964, and 2000) and they are 10-5 in 15 bowl games.
Pretty similar results if you ask me. But that's just the overall body of work. I mean it's not like we're comparing WSU or OSU to USC for example, but it's pretty clear the Beavs and Cougs have a similar body of work?
Where the differences are however is what Oregon State has done in the last decade, on and OFF the field, compared to what WSU has done (or better yet, hasn't done?). And the things that have happened in recent history is what recruits have really gobbled up as they helped transform OSU from a joke to a real factor in the conference!
Lucas pointed out that the Beavs have been excellent since the 2000 season, an 88-61 record with eight of their 15 bowls all-time. But did you know that from 2000 to 2010, Oregon State was THIRD in the Pac-10 in wins? It's true. After USC and Oregon, the Beavs were the third winningest program in the conference. Better than Cal, Stanford, UCLA, the Arizona schools, and of course, the Washington schools, the Beavs did it consistently. And it wasn't just a one, two or three-year run, but a solid decade of upper division finishes, bowl games, and big wins against the conference superpowers.
But it was off the field where the Beavs really made waves. Back around 2000, Oregon State was regarded as having one of the worst stadiums in the west, and one of the worst in the country. It was small, with cement-like turf and just really outdated compared to the rest of the conference. But once the Beavs started to win, and some big donations followed the winning, they struck while the iron was hot. In the last decade they launched Raising Reser, and transformed that small outdated facility into a modern, cozy, cool stadium that now seats 45,000+ in an intimate setting that can really get loud for the bigger games on the schedule.
The differences here are that the Beavs put shovels in the ground as soon as they started to win. The timing of their rise coincided by the UW's failings with Rick Neuheisel and then on to the Ty Willie era, and WSU's decline after Mike Price bolted and Bill Doba let things go off the rails. But while UW and WSU struggled mightily to figure out the next steps on the field, and had a long road of delays and more delays when it came to their facilities, the Beavs rolled forward with wins on the field and successful facility upgrades along the way. It was the perfect storm, if you will, and the falling-down-the-stairs act in Washington saw an impressive rise in Corvallis.
And now, today, Oregon State has more donors to the athletic department, more season ticket holders, and a modern, renovated stadium with football facilities that are several years ahead of WSU. Of course, things are changing in Pullman as we speak - Mike Leach is the "splash" hire that we've been waiting for, and the Martin Stadium renovation is firmly on schedule with the latest phase. And Bill Moos has his plan, a plan that has been clear since he took over in Pullman. Build the demand on the field, and everything else can fall in to place off the field.
So winning, and winning NOW, is huge for what lies ahead at WSU. The last phase will be the football-only facility built into the stadium, and while luxury boxes and premium suites are great for the bottom line, there may not be a more important push towards attracting recruits than the final phase of Martin Stadium. But it is pretty clear today that the Beavs are ahead.....for now.
So can WSU overtake the Beavs? I don't think it'll be as easy as some might think. We have work to do, no question. But I do believe that it is a very realistic goal. With Bill Moos leading the charge from the AD chair, and Mike Leach pushing the envelope on the field, we could be on the cusp of taking a huge step forward.
So that's it. Lucas has weighed in, and I have bellied up as well. What do YOU think? Will the Cougs surpass Oregon State in the years ahead? Or have the Beavs built a nice "lead" on WSU, and they will continue to be a step ahead?
All for now. Thanks to LucasCoug for the healthy debate, and as always, GO COUGS!