Time to Get on Board!

Nov. 25, 2003

Corvallis, Ore. -

By Brooks Hatch

Corvallis Gazette-Times Staff writer

I read nearly every opinion in the great Raising Reser debate that raged recently on the various Internet message boards that pretty accurately measure the prevailing mood throughout Gibbon (that's sportswriter shorthand for the Great Beaver Nation, or GBN).

A lot of ideas and millions of words flew through cyberspace during the exchanges, which were sparked by athletic director Bob De Carolis' rather candid address at the Portland Beaver Huddle on Nov. 10.

In diplomatic terms, Bobby D basically said, It's time for the GBN to put up or shut up, to make the financial commitment necessary to make Raising Reser a reality.

Here's the essence of the issue, boiled down as concisely as possible.

Envision the proposed east grandstand as an $80 million new house. OSU has the down payment, but it needs a guaranteed, steady flow of incoming cash from season tickets and the accompanying BASF donation to pay the annual mortgage.

To get the party started, the Beavers need west grandstand season-ticket holders to relocate to the more-expensive east grandstand. They need new Beaver Believers to jump on the bandwagon to raise the season-ticket rolls from the present 23,000 to about 30,000 to make the numbers work. They need boosters who aren't moving to still bump up their BASF contribution.

So far they've raised about $17.5 million of the $32 million needed to retire the current debt and start work. De Carolis is confident they'll garner another $10 million or so through naming rights and other one-time gifts.

That other $4-to-$5 million has to come from the citizens of the GBN.

The view from this little corner of the world is that the 'to give or not to give' decision isn't all that difficult.

* If you're satisfied with the status quo, stand pat.

* If you want to see OSU fall further behind the Nike-funded Oregon Ducks in facilities, budgets, etc., stand pat.

* If you're happy with OSU's non-conference home football schedule, stand pat.

* If you want to see the Beavers revive the 1970s/1980s strategy of playing paycheck games on the road and only four or five games at home, stand pat.

* If you're happy with the present state of OSU's Olympic sports and don't care if they remain fully funded and competitive with their Pac-10 peers, stand pat.

* If you want to see good coaches leave for other schools with better facilities/higher budgets, stand pat.

* If you want to see OSU remain in the lower tier in the Pac-10 pecking order, stand pat.

* OSU sponsors seven men's sports, one over the NCAA's minimum requirement for Division I-A membership. So if you wouldn't miss wrestling, or baseball, or crew, or men's soccer, or men's golf, stand pat.

* OSU is adding women's cross country and track to remain in compliance with the aforementioned I-A membership requirements. If you want those teams to remain stocked with well-meaning but generally overmatched walk-ons instead of Pac-10 quality scholarship athletes, stand pat.

* The Big East has dumped Temple's football program. UTEP and Hawaii were snubbed when their old conference brethren broke away from the new WAC to form the Mountain West. So call me a cynic, but I have absolutely no doubt that some in the Pac-10 would have no qualms at all about kicking out an underperforming, underfunded member (like OSU or WSU) if Colorado or some other big-market school became available. Don't you think Oregon would love to be the state's lone Pac-10 school? If you think that's a pipe dream, then stand pat.

It's that uncomplicated, really.

The price of maintaining a competitive Pac-10 athletic department rises every year as tuition, inflation, Title IX compliance, salaries and benefits increase. Dennis Erickson and Mike Riley each make more than the entire Jerry Pettibone coaching staff.

The university has provided about $4 million in financial support from the general fund for several years, but that subsidy is to be gradually phased out.

Tuition waivers, like those granted to Arizona and Arizona State, have been proposed but aren't yet a reality.

Football pays the bills; it will generate something in the neighborhood of $17 million in revenue this year. But without more seats at Reser Stadium, the revenue stream will remain static unless ticket prices and BASF donation levels are increased, moves that will force out the Joe and Jill Six-packs who have supported the Beavers throughout the years.

The Beavers need to generate at least $3.5 million more every year. That's possible with an expanded Reser Stadium.

However, simply adding 8,000 or so seats in a slap-dash fashion simply won't cut it. Without the sky boxes and other high-end seats, it wouldn't generate enough money to pay the debt service and to also help fund the other 13 (soon to be 16) varsity sports that aren't self-sustaining.

And it would be putting lipstick on a pig. As one Internet poster astutely said, adding 8,000 seats merely turns a substandard 35,000-seat stadium into a substandard 43,000-seat stadium.

Yes, there's an arms race in college athletics. But like it or not, OSU has to keep pace with the free-spending Ducks in sports (and in research, student services, academics and student housing, etc.) to attract quality enrollees.

The Beavers don't need a palatial, ostentatious locker room, which in reality is an NCAA-prohibited extra benefit masquerading as a dressing room. But they do need a football venue that's fairly comparable to Autzen Stadium.

Now, I bet you're thinking, 'How can someone who sees the games for free even presume to lecture me? He's never even paid for a ticket.'

True dat.

But my family doesn't get in gratis. My wife and son have been season-ticket holders in section 9 for several years. They're going over to the east grandstand in 2005 and they cajoled two friends to buy tickets and move right along with them.

So I know Pac-10 football isn't cheap.

And besides, I don't plan on doing this newspaper gig forever, and my passion for college football won't end when I finally leave the G-T. When that time finally comes, I'll want a nice chairback seat to plant my butt in, and a competitive Pac-10 program to watch.

The Beavers don't have a benefactor like Phil Knight, who generously bankrolled the Autzen Stadium addition, to open his checkbook and magically solve all of their funding problems. No, Raising Reser will be a true grass-roots, collective effort and the GBN will have the satisfaction of knowing that thousands contributed their fair share.

OSU won't be beholding to anyone.

The Beavers squandered the opportunity to cash in on their 1960s success and paid for that mistake with nearly three decades of wretched football. They became a Pac-10 parasite, not a Pac-10 power.

To repeat that mistake again would be unconscionable.

I'm no shill for the Beavers. But I've lived in Corvallis for 19 years and think I've acquired a little perspective and insight along the way. So to this dispassionate observer, there's only one course of action.

Move.

Buy.

Or watch a program die.

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