Last night I was browsing through Pac-12 articles and stumbled upon a 26 minute podcast from Larry Scott as well as commentary on how quickly and successfully Mike Leach is changing the culture, dynamic, and level of excitement at Washington State. Another article I found on Larry Scott was him talking about how they are trying to aggressively change the culture and evolve the conference. All of this got me thinking. Why does OSU insist on a snails pace of change and is Riley sticking around for so long already and potentially much longer really have any correlation with what is healthiest for Oregon State?
I have stated I think the time for the Mike Riley era to wind down is fast approaching. He just doesn’t fit the new Pac-12 mold of what the conference will be. He is not dynamic, very interesting and frankly furthers the image of OSU as stuck in a bygone era and reluctant to get with the times. Neither does he ever have a press conference, or BDC for that matter, that tries to raise the level of expectations. Truth is he and BDC are way too comfortable in their ways and to be frank prefer to keep expectations low. It just keeps things nice and calm and slow which is how they like it in Corvallis. All of this hurts Oregon State and its chances to ever be a nationally interesting program that is regularly ranked in the Top 25.
The icing on the cake came for me last night when I was listening to an Ashton Kutcher Bloomberg inteview on his new Youtube channel that has high hopes to compete with the national broadcasters. Ashton actually is respected in the tech world and stays up to date with and helps push new trends in social media and technology. His words on why they believe in their new channel were quite revealing on why OSU is destined to fail if it refuses to evolve. The quote was “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, somebody else will cannibalize you. I believe that if you’re not constantly trying to replace what you are currently working on with something that is the future of what people are going to be engaged in, eventually you’ll get replaced.” BINGO.
Riley trying to stick around as long as he can and the same with BDC goes directly against this. It only compounds itself and gets much worse when you are so sluggish to change or adapt. Cannabilizing yourself to make sure you don’t get caught in an ugly rut could easily have been replacing Langsdorf and/or Mark Banker. Not at OSU though where the “I’m OK, you’re OK” mentality between Riley and BDC has hunkered down. More OSU fans are realizing we are one of the most slow Athletic Departments in the Western US and rarely act decisively or boldy to enact needed change.
The thing is Ashton is dead on right. If OSU doesn’t do it themselves it will be done for them. Proof of this is the fact that even with one of the best schedules in the last decade with both Wisconsin and Oregon at home and 7 total home games, that season ticket sales are down more than 3000 overall. I predicted that almost exactly by the way when I said I saw around 42,000 as likely average attendance this year. Better for a couple games but perhaps barely topping 38K for Nicholls St. If we do only win 5 games this year, do you think next year will be better when the schedule takes a noticeable dip in the odd years? You might only get 40-41K if that is how it plays out.
Yes the 2013 rebranding can help a little and maybe bring next year to close to 42K but it isn’t the evolution Larry Scott or Ashton are talking about that really could allow OSU to adapt into a modern winner. First of all BDC and Riley will probably make it too conservative and second, to truly be effective rebranding, there needs to be new leadership so it is a new dawn for OSU Football. BDC said this about the new branding, “You can’t influence every single demographic group. Is it about recruiting, taking it to retail, to Beaver Nation – what is it? Whatever it is, I’m sure it’ll be powerful. Those different uniforms and helmets, that stuff’s all slick. But if you don’t win in the field, it doesn’t do much good.”
While he is right that “powerful” is key for the new branding, he sabotages himself in the final sentence and reveals plenty of doubt in Riley. If you don’t win on the field then it doesn’t make the impact it could. How true and even more so if you are using all the same old coaches that have been downward trending for years now. We don’t have the time to wait and stay non-relevant for Riley to play around near the 5 or 6 win mark for several more years. Truth is after that, as he continues to become less interesting to recruits he is most likely to have a double bottom and hit just 3 wins again rather than 8 or more. If OSU wants to maximize its new branding it would get 300% more impact from bringing in the right successor to be the new head coach. Someone that will forge a tougher identity and can make OSU a destination Pac-12 program.
It was possible last year with Leach and they drew strong crowds for their Spring Game as the excitement of a new day for them has done wonders. They also negotiated their own ESPN radio contract all off the Leach hire. OSU should have atleast been looking at new coordinators last year but only the multiple progressive and serious schools like Washington, WSU and Arizona took action. Holt was a friend of Sarkisian but when Steve saw a solid upgrade possible with the likes of Justin Wilcox he made the phone calls and made it happen. OSU could one up the Huskies and make a statement that a once Duck and Dawg is going to go traiterous and usher in a new aggressive era for OSU. We have the ability to pursue Wilcox and strip UW of a rising commodity just before they open their new stadium and make OSU a serious player moving forward.
That won’t happen though if OSU sticks to its stale and slow ways. New branding will be minimized if the powerful imagery has the ‘sheriff of Mayberry’ behind it. With the right next hire we can generate new and exciting buzz in Corvallis just like they are doing in Pullman. Larry Scott could quit having to doubt if Riley is capable of keeping up with his plans. We could start selling out the stadium with the right branding and right leader and get to where Raising Reser Phase 3 can be done. With Riley we are going to be wandering in the desert for too long with no real mission or true agenda to rival the Ducks or the best of the Pac-12. Without changes the stagnation will soon enough overtake Riley and BDC. If they don’t evolve they will get replaced. Very soon Oregon will have higher attendance at their Spring Game than we have for the Civil War. How do you like them apples?