Beaver Believers have their day in the sun |

Beaver Believers have their day in the sun

Steve Yingling

People around the Tribune office long ago grew tired of my boasting of Oregon State and Pac-10 teams.

Every year I have the Beavers winning the Pac-10 in football and the basketball team miraculously making the NCAA tournament for the first time since Gary “The Glove” Payton left for NBA riches.

In recent years I even started trumpeting the softball team, which has become a national power behind the pitching of former Wooster High School star Brianne McGowan.

There have been many disappointments for “Beaver Believers” such as myself over the years. When I attended the school in the early 1980s, Oregon State was playing its worst-ever stretch of football. Joe Avezzano was the head coach, and the student body’s favorite slogan during his tenure predictably was “Joe Must Go.”

Eventually Joe was run out of town and the Oregon State football team improved. Avezzano’s fortunes also changed when he left Corvallis, Ore., and collected three Super Bowl rings as a special team’s coach for the Dallas Cowboys.

Life sometimes isn’t very fair.

Despite my school pride and lofty expectations for the Beavers, I have only considered Oregon State a legitimate national title contender on three occasions in the past two and a half decades: In 1981, Oregon State was the nation’s No. 1 basketball team for most of the regular season and then was upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament by Kansas State. A year later, point guard Lester Conner and power forward A.C. Green led the Beavers to the Elite Eight, where they were succinctly brought back to reality by Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas.

The Beavers’ title hopes then laid dormant until Dennis Erickson rolled into town in the late 1990s and orchestrated a national title run in 2000. Oregon State decimated Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl that year and the once-beaten Beavers wound up fourth in the country.

In my heart, as well as my mind, I think the Beavers would have won the national title that year had there been an eight-team tournament. No one was playing as well as them at season’s end and many of their players wound up in the NFL, including Cincinnati Bengals’ receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Oregon State slipped back into football mediocrity the next year and Erickson has since been hired and fired by the 49ers and been thrown a coaching preserver by the Idaho Vandals.

But then the OSU baseball program came on, winning back-to-back Pac-10 championships the past two years. No one gave them a chance of winning the College World Series last year and they bowed out in two tightly contested games.

They were given a little more respect this year as the only returning team, but Cal State Fullerton, Rice and Clemson were the odds-on favorites to leave Omaha, Neb., with the championship trophy last month. How could a baseball team in the middle of a “rain forest” win a title meant for teams that see the sun most of the year?

But the Beavers did it, despite losing their first game of the two-and-out tournament and fending off elimination six times. They joined the 1961 men’s cross country team as the only OSU teams to win national titles.

And wouldn’t you know it, I was out of town. I couldn’t share my moment in the sun with my Beaver-beleaguered colleagues.

That’s all right, college football season is right around the corner and the Beavers are being picked to finish eighth in their conference. They return 15 starters from a team that won five games last year and their offensive line remains intact … all right, you’ve heard enough.

– Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or by E-mail at

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