John Foster knew the Oregon State football season was not going well. Like most other Beavers fans, the 59-year-old Bend resident and OSU graduate was frustrated by the team’s 1-5 record, the lackluster and seemingly flat performances on the field, even the play-calling.
But none of that lessened his shock Monday afternoon when he learned that third-year coach Gary Andersen and the university had agreed to part ways at the midway point of the season.
“I think something needed to be shaken up, I just didn’t expect the head coach to be gone,” said Foster, who serves as the president of Central Oregon Our Beaver Nation, a group that raises funds for scholarships and athletic activities at Oregon State.
“I talked to a couple people, and one of them is an old roommate of mine. He and his wife were just as dumbfounded as I am, and it seems like everybody is.”
Foster said he always liked how Andersen conducted himself despite defeats on the field, an opinion that was reinforced when he learned that Andersen had agreed to release the university from his contract, which ran through the 2021 football season. Had he been fired without cause, Oregon State would have been obligated to pay him about $12 million.
“That surprises me, too, but then that’s just kind of showing you what kind of stand-up guy he is,” Foster said. “He was there for the right reasons, he just couldn’t do it.”
But another local Oregon State fan, 39-year-old Jeremy Dickman, said he was concerned by the message that Andersen’s departure might send to prospective Oregon State coaches.
“(When) I heard he was basically giving up his salary. I almost couldn’t believe it,” Dickman said. “It made me think there was a health reason (for the move), or some other personal reason, because that’s a lot of money to leave on the table. If there wasn’t any other reason, if he really was just sick of coaching at Oregon State and not being able to succeed, then that’s pretty scary. If another coach who might be qualified somewhere else sees this situation and, (Andersen) is saying $2.5 million (a year) to coach here isn’t enough, then what does that say about the program?”
Oregon State cornerbacks coach Cory Hall will serve as interim head coach until the university names a permanent replacement. He will coach his first game when the Beavers host Colorado in Corvallis this Saturday.
Chris Yaeger, a 74-year-old former Oregon State football player who now lives in Bend, said he was concerned about how the move will affect current Beavers players.
“Any time you get a new coach, for some players it may be better and for some it isn’t good,” Yaeger said of changing coaching philosophies and preferences, noting that he struggled when Tommy Prothro left Oregon State for UCLA after the 1964 season and was replaced by Dee Andros. “There will be frustration and there will be happiness.”
Although he is a former member of the program and occasionally attends events hosted by the athletic department, Yaeger said he first learned that Andersen would be leaving OSU while watching ESPN. He was especially surprised by the timing of Andersen’s departure.
“I’m sure most fans are OK with the change,” Yaeger said. “I’m just not sure why they did it right now, because it puts a lot of stress on the program.”
Yaeger said he is curious to see how Hall performs as the interim coach, but Dickman admitted he has already turned his sights to 2018. Although some fans have already suggested that current Nebraska coach Mike Riley might return for a third stint as head coach in Corvallis, Dickman said he hopes that a younger, more dynamic coach might take over and revitalize the program. And at the very least, Dickman said, he can look forward to Oregon State baseball, which went 56-6 last spring.
“There’s some level where I’m hopeful,” Dickman said. “Because if you’re a Beaver fan that’s what you live on: hope.”
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