By T.J. Mathewson
Contributor, 750 The Game
At first, it seemed like a sick joke for most of Beaver Nation to watch what unfolded over the previous five months. Now, after the dust has settled a few weeks into the new year, you see a smirk creeping back onto the faces of many who were horrified just 60 days earlier.
The ripple effect of Nick Saban retiring has brought a tough reality to fans of West Coast football. Washington Huskies head coach Kalen DeBoer bolted Montlake to lead the Crimson Tide despite multiple strong contract offers that would’ve made DeBoer one of the ten highest-paid college football coaches the country. He left those deals on the table for a job he felt was superior, rather than the program he just coached to a national championship game.
I don’t think you will find any remorse from those down here in the Willamette Valley, Quite the opposite, in fact. The University of Washington put Oregon State in the situation it currently faces back on that crucial day in August. So when the Huskies had their coach exit in the same way the Beavers experienced, there was not a shred of sympathy. So much for “family”, “culture”, and “loyalty.”
Husky fans will have to learn the same hard lesson that was brought to me by a few people I’ve talked to down here in Corvallis: it’s time to stop getting attached to things in your program. The reality is that none of it is good enough if better opportunities come calling. It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re in the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-2, ACC, anywhere.
With the growing revenue gap between the Big Ten, SEC, and everyone else, it’s only going to get worse.
Oregon State has had coaches leave before. Dennis Erickson to the NFL, Mike Riley to the NFL, and then Nebraska which definitely hurt, but Jonathan Smith’s departure feels like the last straw. For many in Corvallis, your expectations should now be that you assume a coach will leave until you look back ten years later and they prove otherwise. Trent Bray is a great story and could be a great head coach, but his $2 million salary could easily be tripled or quadrupled by any Big Ten or SEC program that feels like he could lead their program. Who could blame him if he takes that?
Right TJ, and who could blame Kalen DeBoer? Jedd Fisch? Brent Brennan? No one, really.
You almost have to give the University of Washington credit for understanding their place in the college football world, hiring Jedd Fisch knowing full well he will leave for the NFL or Florida once it becomes available to him. Most people seem fine with it!
The most incredible part of all of this is the rival down the road, Oregon, pulled off an almost-stunner by managing to keep Dan Lanning rooted in Eugene, the first time in seemingly forever that a coach chose Oregon over somewhere else. That’s not the case for the rest of college football.
If I’m a high school recruit, I have to know that the coach recruiting me, unless he has one of the top ten jobs in college football, is now at risk of leaving whenever he feels like it. It could be before I get there, could be one year, two years, or more. If they win too much, he’s gone. If they lose too much, he’s gone. Heck, if they just go .500, he’s probably gone too.
As always, the real loser in all of this is the fans, who continue to invest their hard-earned dollars into NIL collectives, season tickets, and merchandise that are asked for by staff and players who don’t stick around long enough to see that money through.
That doesn’t sound like a good way to stoke the future fandom of college football.