12.Apr.2010 Historical Analysis: Oregon State–A Football, Basketball, or Baseball School?

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If you hang around sports fans enough, you'll eventually hear sentences such as so-and- so "is a great football school" or so-and so "has great basketball tradition" when describing a particular university. Rarely do you hear the phrase "baseball school" uttered, but I suppose it happens if you're at a Rice alumni dinner. See what I did there? Rice…dinner. Aah, but I digress. When thinking about Oregon State, I think first and foremost it's a football school, but that notion is derived mostly from the fact that, for me, football is the most interesting sport to watch, has the most prestige (i.e. "bragging rights") amongst fellow college sport fans, and therefore it gets the most relevance and notoriety nationally. In other words, it's a football school because I want it to be, and the football team is relevant right now. Additionally, I've only begun following OSU athletics within the past ten years. Which leads me to my next point: if I asked an old-timer, he or she would probably tell me OSU is a basketball school. Basketball is the second most prestigious university sport, and OSU has an impressive resume, including two final fours, but these were in 1949 and 1963, prompting my old-timer comment above. The least prestigious men's sport is baseball. However, OSU has a long-standing tradition of success on the diamond transcending many decades. For example, in 1962 OSU was ranked 15th in the nation; 1963 saw them 10th; 1985 (29th); 1986 (23rd); and of course the recent string of 2005 (7th); 2006 (1st); 2007 (1st); and 2009 (24th). Even before polls were instilled, the Beavers won 13 conference titles dating as far back as 1908. So what type of school is OSU? Here are some numbers that might shed light on the question. The following numbers are as of the last completed season for each respective sport:

  • Baseball| National Titles (2); Conference Titles (22); College World Series Appearances (4); Tournament Appearances (10); Ranked Teams (8); All-time wins (1990, which is 39th all-time); Winning Percentage (.600, which is 50th all-time).

*A point to note when examining any sport is that winning percentage is a better measure of success than total wins, as many programs have more wins due to longevity. A perfect example of this is Fordham, who has the most DI victories, but they have fielded a team for 149 years, where as the Beavers have laced them up for a century.

  • Basketball| National Titles (0); Conference Titles (20); NCAA Tournament Appearances (16), Final Fours (2); Elite Eight (6) Ranked Teams (13), All-time Wins (1,594 which is 15th all-time), Winning Percentage (.575).  The basketball team under Slats Gill, was by all accounts, the glory years of OSU athletics. The 1940's saw some great Beaver teams, and they would have more in the "ranked" column above if not for the fact that the NCAA didn't begin college basketball polls until 1949.
  • Football| National Titles (0); Conference Titles (5); Rose Bowls (3); Ranked Teams (11); BCS games (1 offical, 4 if you count the 3 Rose Bowls); Heisman Trophy Winners (1); Wins (494, which ranks 70th all-time); Winning Percentage (.483, which ranks 95th). As many know, the football program holds one of the more humiliating records in college athletics, having a losing record for 28 seasons. Rice had 28 "non-winning" seasons, which included two .500 campaigns, thus allowing OSU to hold this humiliating record to themselves.

My initial thought after crunching the numbers is that OSU is first and foremost a baseball school. After all, the teams +60% winning rate is highest of the three major men's sports and they earned the school's only national titles. What better way to gauge success? But then I had to consider the dominance of the basketball team under Slats Gill and Ralph Miller. Gill has the most wins in school history, and Miller has the highest winning percentage. And then there is football. For me, the 70s and 80s ruined what was once (and could have been) a glorious and prestigious record book. The Beavers futility coincided with the advent of sports television, which ingrained the loser perception into the national media until this day. As much as we fans love football, and it's the sport that garners the most posts, attention, and response on this blog, I have a really hard time saying OSU is a "football school" after looking through the record book. My ranking would be:

  1. Basketball
  2. Baseball
  3. Football

Agree or disagree? I'd like to hear the perspective of some old-timers who lived through the glory years of all these respective sports. I'm sure they can shed some light on it.

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  • OSBeavs says:
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    Baseball did not give Oregon State its only two national titles. Albeit obscure, the Beavs also have a title in men’s x-country in 1961. I know that is not within the scope of the article but contributes to our three total. I would love to see our school win a few more in our “smaller” sports like cross country, wrestling and gymnastics to add to our total number of titles.

    • angrybeaver says:
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      “the Beavs also have a title in men’s x-country in 1961″

      Noted.

      And as you noted already, I was talking about the 3 major sports.

      But you didn’t answer my question. I’m curious as to what type of school you view OSU as. I drew this article up because, as people know, I’m somewhat fascinated by the lack of identity at OSU, or at the very least, the school’s lack of marketing that identity.

  • ean says:
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    I always thought of OSU as an engineering school.

    • JackBeav says:
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      Funny… when I was going to Rice, we thought of it as an engineering school as well. Baseball wasn’t as good at that time, basketball was 15 years removed from their early 70′s success, and football only had the stupidity that was Tommy Kramer to help them remember that it was once a power in the ‘old days’… that and a giant football stadium (70K+) on the west end of campus. We used to joke that we could sponsor the Toilet Bowl and invite Kansas to come play.

      The real sport at Rice is Beer Bike.

  • sparkyd73 says:
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    I think people have a short memory. 10 – 15 years is about max. In light of that we are a:
    Baseball
    Football
    Basketball

  • JackBeav says:
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    I would agree that short term memory affects the outcome for current thought. But I think a poll of objective observers would put basketball on top.

    Btw… the first OSU Final Four was in 1963. There was no Final Four in 1949, and the NCAA Tourney was second fiddle to the NIT until 1951. Kentucky happened to be the #1 seed in the NIT that year, but there was a day known as Black Monday, on which the top four seeds in the tourney lost in a span of about ten hours. Kentucky decided to use their spare time to accept an invite to the NCAA tourney, and they went on to win it. UK lost in the NIT quarterfinals again in 1950–to a much lower seeded CCNY team. They did not go to the NCAA tourney again that year. But CCNY did go… as the #2 seed.

    It just so happened that CCNY beat Bradley in both tourney finals in 1950, so the actual national champs won the NCAA Tourney that year. They expanded the tourney to 16 teams in 1951, and they developed the Final Four weekend in 1952.

    • angrybeaver says:
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      Strange, I have a few “official” OSU documents and NCAA documents that say OSU made the final four in 1949. Not official, but the wikipedia for the tourny says it was founded in 1939.

      Where are you getting your info from, JB?

      • JackBeav says:
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        The NCAA Tournaey did in fact begin in 1939 as a tourney sanctioned by the College Basketball Coaches of America… or some such name. It was so poorly attended that they turned over the rights to the NCAA itself the next year. It was developed as a response to the formation of the more prestigious NIT Tournament in 1938. The NCAA Tourney was about as lofty as the NIT is now. The top teams always played the NIT if they could, but it was so selective so as to resemble the BCS Bowl system more than it did an actual tournament.

        Utah also lost their first game of the NIT Tourney in 1944 only to go on to the lesser field of the NCAA Tourney for a championship there. Since the NCAA Tourney was sanctioned by the NCAA from 1940 on, the actual winner of that tourney is rightfully called the NCAA Tournament Champion. I don’t know if that technically affects Oregon’s win in 1939 since it was not a NCAA sanctioned tourney, but I would assume it’s just a technicality.

        The actual national champions in 1939 were Long Island University when they beat Loyola of Chicago in the NIT championship game. That is still the only major hoops (D-I) championship game in which two undefeated teams played each other for the title.

        I’ve just accumulated basketball trivia knowledge over time, so I can’t really point to any one source.

        I also can’t say why popularity shifted from the NIT to the NCAA in 1951. I always assumed that CCNY beating Bradley in 1950 made the NCAA Tourney a legitimate championship for once. I also assume that Kentucky attending an expanded (16 team) format for the NCAA’s in 1951 forced the top teams in the country to follow suit in order to beat the best… or try. I think only St John’s played in both tourneys that year because of their proximity to the NIT.

        The Final Four became a concept in 1952. Before that, the championship game followed the third place game, and that was it. I get that technically making the semi-finals before that time meant that your team was one of the final four teams in the Tourney, but the actual concept and terminology didn’t appear until 1952.

        Another factoid is that the term March Madness was first used in 1939 by an Illinois journalist to describe the IHSA tournament. They were the only ones to use the term until that SI cover showing Ro’s last second shot against Oregon State in the 1981 NCAA Tourney. When Syracuse, Oregon State and La Salle (the top three teams in the tourney) were all beat within a week on last second shots, SI put out that ‘March Madness’ cover the next week.
        http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/cover/featured/8737/index.htm

        Then Brent Musberger (from Chicago) started covering the NCAA’s in 1982, and he started using the term liberally during broadcasts. It wasn’t until the 1990′s that court rulings gave the rights for the use of the term March Madness equally to both the IHSA and the NCAA. They now run a conjoined effort to sue the pants off anyone who would use it illegally.

        • angrybeaver says:
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          Interesting.

        • Don from Salem says:
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          Brent Musberger was born in Portland, even though he might no acknowledge that fact today.

        • JackBeav says:
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          I think he has acknowledged it. He almost romanticizes the Civil War whenever he gets to call it.

          The point was that he covered the local hoops scene for a few years before CBS picked him up in the mid-70′s. Even then he spent down time in Chicago or LA.

    • angrybeaver says:
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      I sort of wish we’d revert to being a basketball school. We have two legendary/hall of fame coaches and tradition and a lot of good players in the state.

      I also wish we’d market the success we have had more and brand it into a cohesive image. I don’t think anyone outside of Oregon knows the tradition of the basketball or baseball programs. They see us as a pesky football school on an upswing in that sport. Older non-alums see as as eternal losers, mainly due to the coincidence of the 28 years with televised athletics/expansion of the media.

  • angrybeaver says:
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    Al Reser, dead.

    http://kezi.com/page/169791

    • JackBeav says:
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      RIP Al.

    • angrybeaver says:
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      Good man.

      I think I’ll have some potato salad this weekend in his honor.

      Is it crass to wonder if he left an endowment? Probably, but I can’t help it.

  • angrybeaver says:
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    I think an immediate goal should be to get this football program to .500 all-time. It’s a mental hurdle–you just naturally look at a team/program differently if they win more games than they lose. OSU is the only team in the conference (last I checked Washington State was at .501) below the .500 mark. It would be pretty remarkable to get to that point considering 28 straight losing seasons, and reflects the great success before and after that streak.

    • Diggs says:
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      Curious as to how close are we to .500 all-time?

      • angrybeaver says:
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        494–531

        Wikipedia has us at 495–531, but my calculations say 494 wins.

        • OSBeavs says:
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          To answer your question, I believe that we are historically a basketball school but we are baseball currently. Our basketball program is tarnished because of Jay John, Rob needs to bring us out.

          To answer your question about the difference in counts between wikipedia and yours, look into “unofficial” games. I believe there was a game in the 80′s that we played in that was a bowl game of sorts. It was unofficial but we played in Japan against UCLA or something like that. I am 99% sure we lost but there could be another instance of something like that that may account for the difference in counts. I think the best bet to determine our official win count would be to look at an official media guide. I have one from a couple of years back that I can dig out and look at.

        • angrybeaver says:
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          For that count, I took my numbers from the official NCAA record book.

          I just think it’s interesting that many schools you can pin them to one sport.

          Michigan–football
          Cincy–basketball
          Kentucky–basketball
          USC-football
          North Carolina–basketball
          Rice–baseball

          OSU is a conglomeration of ever-changing success in these programs, and the result is an undefined and unrefined image. Is this the perils of recruiting to a small, college town? That’s what fans tell me, but I don’t buy it. I think it’s the result of poor hires and branding during the dark ages, and we’re just coming out of it in the past decade. Half our fanbase is still caught in those dark ages. It’s just peculiar to our school–can’t think of another one with such volatile, extreme, and random ups and downs.

          • OSBeavs says:
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            This might sound strange but I like that we are kind of volatile and are not branded as a single sport school. I think the lack of branding allows us to be versatile. This might be a bit of reach but I think if we let each sport grow in their own right, why not be great at all of them.

            Look at some schools like Texas, they are great at football but baseball and basketball are pretty damn good too. How great would it be to be outstanding at several sports? Look at Penn State, I think their athletic department should be the model of the country. It is self sustaining, they have one of the largest athletic departments in the country (like 31 teams) and they are successful in a load of sports. Granted we may never attain the status of Penn State but to model and chase that dream is not a bad goal for our athletic department. I can only hope that our athletic department has those high goals and works towards them.

          • angrybeaver says:
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            We need money.

            Hopefully some of these guys we’re putting in the NFL step it up and donate back to the school.

            With Mr Reser’s passing I’m a bit worried.

            • BeaverFan says:
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              Funny how you worry about what others are giving and you hope OTHERS will do their part when you made a big stink about a $20 minimum donation via the web site being too much for you to consider.

              If you won’t even donate $20 yourself, you should just STFU about the whole topic of donations as you’re just embarrassing yourself when you bring it up if you can’t put the gin aside long enough to save $20 to send OSU’s way.

            • JackBeav says:
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              Wow! What a moron. It’s not like that thread has been deleted. But even if it had, you could at least try to recall some of the facts with something that might slightly resemble accuracy. Do you embarrass yourself in your daily life as well? I just can’t imagine someone who gets it so wrong can get anything right.

  • JackBeav says:
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    We got baseball tonight.

  • angrybeaver says:
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    Beaverfan,

    Well, first of all over the last ten years I’ve been to handfuls of games, bought cable packages specifically for the games, and bought merchandise. I think I’ve given plenty.

    Secondly, how do you know if I eventually wound up donating to that specific cause or not? The article was clearly my (understandable) rage at the ADs decision to disallow small donations and make the process difficult for fans willing to donate.

    • JackBeav says:
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      My understanding was that there was no way to make a quick donation of less than $40 ($50?) while online. As I recall, Bobby D responded to you and thanked you for pointing this out to him.

      I believe the consensus was that people are likely to give more were they able to give $20 or $10 many times rather than $40 or $50 once. That model has proven itself out over time to be a highly successful fundraising technique. 500 or 1000 people giving their pocket change on a monthly basis outweigh 20 people giving $1000 annually. Then you have 1020 fans who feel they have something invested in our success rather than just the 20.

      The attitude that those who give more deserve our undying love and worship speaks to an insecurity that is too deep to explore on this forum. Even Al Reser gave what he could out of a love for his alma mater. All reports of his character made him out to be a kid in a candy shop when he associated with OSU athletics. He was just Joe Fan like everyone else on gameday.

      We should be happy to know that he didn’t try to buy the candy shop and turn it into a potato salad shop like some boosters of some universities in this nation.

      • angrybeaver says:
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        “My understanding was that there was no way to make a quick donation of less than $40 ($50?) while online. As I recall, Bobby D responded to you and thanked you for pointing this out to him.”

        Exactly, but I just wanted to point out to the idiot above that I support the team (financially) in many ways. Not that I should spend time justifying that since it’s nobody’s business.

    • Beaverfan says:
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      Attending games (especially using student tickets) is not the same as a donation.

      Cable packages… how does that support OSU directly? What a laughable premise to think that buying the FSN package from your cable or sat. TV provider makes you a “supporter”.

      Buying a few shirts and hats… again, hardly the same thing as breaking out your checkbook and giving to the BASF.

      And, how do I know you didn’t subsequently donate… well, simply because if you did, you’d have made it a big issue and told everyone “look at me and what a big fan I am”. Or, if you didn’t make a post of it, you’d have already said “I’ll have you know I gave $X”.

      Sorry dude, but you’ve already said you’ve never even donated before, and nothing makes me think you’re giving anything now.

      And, if you don’t see the difference between being truly invested (be it $20 or $2,000) via giving to the BASF and just saying “well, I pay my cable company extra so I can watch the games and I bought a hat last fall”… well, you’re dumber than I imagined.

      And, Jack… you just keep getting dumber and dumber in your knee-jerk defenses of angry.

      • JackBeav says:
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        Really? You seem to be a big enough fan to not know that CBS Sports is the official partner of OSU online sports. Add your total disregard for fact to the equation, and I willfully accept your description of me as non-speaking.

        Do you really want to step into a realm where you’re mentally spanked at every turn? You have this great big internet thingy right in front of you, yet you refuse to resource it for even the simplest of arguments.

        You even have a single topic of Oregon State athletics, yet you refuse to display any knowledge of its existence.

        I’ve previously thought thst you were not smarter than a fifth-grader, but your subsequent posts have forced me to downgrade you.

      • JackBeav says:
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        And you’re lucky I’ve had plenty of good Oregon brew tonight, or I might let you know what I really think… not that you would understand.

      • angrybeaver says:
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        Well, considering I paid the university out of state tuition for two years, I graduated with over $45,000 in tuition alone, which was paid off to the cent within a year after my graduation. I’m sure that figure is much more than you’ve ever given the school in your life. Even if it’s not, it’s enough to make me feel I paid my dues, pun intended.

        OSU gets money from cable broadcasts. Without an audience, that doesn’t happen. It supports them directly.

        And merchandise is a key component of any team’s income, whether it be MLB or college football. The model is to get fans to the game, then using their emotion against them, lure them in with, as Will Rogers would say, “[advertising]…the art of convincing people to spend money they don’t have for something they don’t need.”

        Finally, your idea that I would boast is obviously incorrect. I’ve given a lot of money to OSU and never mentioned it once. You’re just misinformed and making assumptions. It’s called ignorant by most.

        Oh, and for the record: I’ve never used a student ticket in my life. Come on now, I like the good life. Since moving to California, the past three years I’ve even made the long drive up each season to catch a game. Are you one of these Oregonians who hates anyone who “defects to California”? You should start a blog called angryhippie.wordpress.com

  • BeavGirl says:
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    beaverfan bringing the donation police in this thread

  • JackBeav says:
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    It seems that the Beavs do better in the fifth inning than any other.

  • JackBeav says:
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    Peavey out in the seventh… Sitton in.

    It looks like Sitton will be the set-up man. Who’s going to be the closer?

    • angrybeaver says:
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      I think the Beavs will take 2 of 3 in this series.

      I was too busy to do a write up on it.

      The fact that Stanford just tacked on 3 runs to take the lead doesn’t help that prediction.

  • JackBeav says:
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    No kidding.

    I was hoping to see somone close out he game. Now we have to play catch up again.

  • JackBeav says:
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    Rhoderick didn’t help matters.

  • JackBeav says:
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    This is depressing.

  • JackBeav says:
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    UO leads UCLA 5-4 going into the bottom of the 5th.

  • angrybeaver says:
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    Jack there is a thread for the baseball series now.

  • JackBeav says:
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    It’s probably safe to say that we need some pitching besides Peavey, Robles and Gorton… and Gaviglio when he’s on.

    Can we get our recruiting class in now?

    Can we get our full recruiting class without the draft taking half of them?

  • Roger Ness says:
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    When I attended OSC in 1948-50 Slats Gill was offered other coaching positions. In 1949 money was collected from majority of students (not over $1.00 each) to buy Slats a new car. Can you verify this. Bob Welch wants
    proof if you can find it.
    Thank you. Roger Ness

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