Beavers Arrive Early For Better Weather

Dec. 21, 2000

PHOENIX - Oregon State took another step on its remarkable journey fromobscurity Thursday night, catching a flight to Phoenix to begin preparationsfor the Fiesta Bowl.

The Beavers arrived in Arizona four days ahead of Notre Dame, their opponenton Jan. 1.

'I look up and I see clear sky, and that was the biggest strategic movethat we made,' coach Dennis Erickson said about the decision to leave early.He said it rained daily during practices in Corvallis.

'We felt that we could get down here and get situated and be able to getseven or eight really solid practices in here. A year from now we'll have ourindoor facility, and obviously we could stay up there a little longer andpractice. But we don't have that right now.'

Oregon State begins workouts at Scottsdale Community College on Fridaymorning, but because of the extra time, the players will have Christmas Day offwhile the Irish travel.

Oregon State (10-1) earned a share of the Pac-10 championship, missing outon an undefeated season and the Rose Bowl berth by the margin of a three-pointloss to Washington.

But the Beavers weren't even in the preseason Top 25, and the highest theyrose in the Bowl Championship Series standings was sixth. There was even talkthat no BCS bowl would take them, which led Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen tosay the conference ought to pull out of the BCS if the Beavers were ignored.

The issue became moot when Fiesta officials, intrigued by Oregon State'sturnaround, issued the invitation.

Erickson left little doubt he felt it was justified.

'When you do things well, you get rewarded, and we feel that's whathappened.'

He said he still considers the BCS the best alternative to a nationalplayoff.

'Obviously there's some argument about who should play in the championshipgame, and obviously some people are going to be left out, but to me right nowit's the best way to go,' Erickson said. 'We weren't sure where we would go,and we couldn't have ended up in a better place.'

The Beavers endured an NCAA-record 28 consecutive losing seasons until theyhired Erickson in 1999.

His first team was 7-5, including a loss in the Oahu Bowl, and this yearOregon State made the biggest splash since it went to the Rose Bowl in 1964.

Part of the story line is the battle between Notre Dame, one of the collegegame's all-time haves, and Oregon State, the perennial have-not. But thecircumstances this year are reversed.

The Irish got off to a 2-2 start and had to win their last seven games toget into position for a No. 11 BCS ranking and an invitation to one of the topfour bowls. They were invited ahead of Virginia Tech, which had a higherranking, but Erickson didn't mind.

He remembered meeting former Notre Dame coach Frank Leahy when he was afourth-grader in Everett, Wash., and grew up under the spell of the Irish.

'When I first took this job at Oregon State, to be in a great, prestigiousbowl was a goal of ours, but we thought it was probably a long way away,'Erickson said. 'Now we're able to play against one of the great, historicprograms in the country, and we're very excited about it.'

AP Sports Writer

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