Ah, the off-season. When I can indulge myself in mundane data and historical hypotheticals. Love it.
That Oregon State is just 33 games under .500 (497-530) in their history despite the infamous 28 year losing streak begs the question, to me at least: what if they were just…average…for those 28 years? Where would the Beavers rank in the annals of college football? Let’s go about answering that question, shall we.
The following table shows the number of wins between 1893 and 1971 (i.e. the first year of the streak).
These are the numbers for the 28 year losing streak.
And finally, the decade since the streak was broken:
The problem in averaging wins is that at the turn of the century, the Beavers were playing 3, 4, or 5 game “seasons”. Therefore, a ratio (winning percentage) makes the most sense for our exercise. Once found, the ratio can be expounded to determine expected wins during the 28 year losing streak.
This is relatively simple. Take the total games played between 1893 and 1971 (586) and divide it by wins (343). The ratio, therefore, is .585, or 58.5%. But what about the Beavers past decade? They, too, must be added since the idea is to find the Beaver’s winning percentage sans the 28 year losing streak. This is also simple. Take the total wins from 1999-2009 (87) and divide it into the total games played (137). The Beavers winning percentage the last ten years is .635, or 63.5%.
The final steps:
1. Sum total games (i.e. 586+137) = 723.
2. Sum total wins (i.e. 343+87) = 430
Divide: 430/723 = .5947. Rounded up, this is .595 or 59.5%.
This is the Beavers all-time winning percentage minus all games played from 1971-1998, the 28 year losing streak. During those 28 years, the Beavers played 304 total games (note: ties are not included in this analysis). If they had played to the .595 winning percentage as in the other 89 years of their existence…in other words, if they simply had “average seasons”, the Beavers would have won 181 games during the streak, giving them an all-time record of 611 wins and 415 loses.
That win total would place OSU 38th in career victories and 28th in winning percentage.
Revisionist history? No.
It’s more that two points need to be made:
1. The fan base has low expectations because they believe this is a historically losing program. The Beavers have a winning percentage of 59.5% sans “the streak”. Stop using the streak as both a crutch and benchmark for expectations.
2. When I see a fan write “To me, Oregon State is a program that’s been around 12 years” it again puts focus on the streak. Fans should research the causes of the streak–understand that it began because of racial concerns and continued because of apathetic leadership. Understand the history (Stiner, Prothro, even Andros) of your program. Understand that by being critical and demanding more you won’t have to live through another streak.
Personally, I view those 28 years as an aberration. I have no choice when faced with 89 years of winning tradition.