Comments On Coaching Change

Feb. 11, 2003

Comments by Oregon State Athletic Director Bob De Carolis, OSU President Tim White and OSU quarterback Derek Anderson to the media on the evening of February 11 regarding the school's search for a new football coach.


'First of all, let me say that the day didn't start out very well. I woke up in San Diego; it was raining. My Palm Pilot ran out of power, my cell phone was blocked, and then I got a call from Dennis Erickson saying he was going to the 49ers. Let me say this - let's thank Dennis and his staff for what they have done over the years with this program. It's pretty remarkable. Mike Riley laid the foundation, then Dennis came in and took it to another level. If it weren't for him, we wouldn't have had the experiences we've had - three out of four (years) bowl games, the Fiesta Bowl, the Truax Center, and now we're talking about expanding Reser Stadium. It's pretty remarkable stuff for a program that had 28 years of losing. We thank Dennis, we wish him luck; this is a golden opportunity for him, because of his competitive nature, to really shoot for the top prize - that being the world championship at the highest level you can compete at.

'Yeah, maybe it's bad timing for us, but there's a reason for everything. I think we'll certainly move on. We've got a great foundation that's laid here that he's done for us. We're going to have a good team next year. We have 16 guys coming back who are starters. We have a lot of momentum. So this is a job that, quite frankly, people are going to be interested in. That's not to say that we're going outside or going inside as far as the candidate is concerned. The process will be that we will have some intense discussions with the current coaching staff and get there feel on it. We have a great staff; five of those guys have been offensive or defensive coordinators at some point in their lives, so they're all capable of being head coaches. I'm not afraid to pull the trigger on that one, if that's in the best interests of the program. Quite frankly, there are a lot of people on the outside who are interested in this program. We didn't have that four years ago, so again, thanks to Dennis for putting us in that position. We're also going to talk to the student-athletes and see what they're thinking. What are the pros and cons of this current staff, and where should we be going? So that's going to be the process and we want to move as quickly as possible, but haste isn't the top priority. We have time to make a good decision and the right decision. We need to get the right person for this program to move us forward and take us to the next level.'


'I'd like to reiterate that Oregon State University owes tremendous gratitude to Coach Erickson and his coaches and players. You think of the transformation that's happened here, and it's a very remarkable thing. Part of it is facilities, looking at the Truax Indoor Center. It's also our aspirations as we think about raising Reser Stadium and increasing our competitiveness, and not only going to the Rose Bowl but winning the Rose Bowl in the next handful of years. I think we also need to congratulate Coach Erickson. As Bob said, this is a chance in his career and his lifetime to get that big ring. I happen to be a 49er fan having grown up in the Bay Area, so of all the pro teams, I guess I'm satisfied that he's going to a very good franchise.

'I want to point out that his opportunity with the 49ers is, yes, based on a lifetime of success; but also the last four years. If you're looking for any sort of calibration about what we have going here at Oregon State University, that's a very good point of calibration - that the 49ers wouldn't have been interested in Dennis had we not had the kind of program development and the kind of success we had in place. And we have a terrific group of young athletes on our campus today; we have a terrific group of athletes that we've recruited in this recruiting class, and we'll work night and day to be certain they don't make any decisions to take away from Oregon State's dream or their dream as we look to the future.

'I want to be real clear: Oregon State University is fully committed to intercollegiate athletics at a competitive level, and to football. We'll be searching day and night over the next handful of days and weeks to accomplish that. When we say what kind of candidate we'll be looking for, yes, we'll be getting input from existing coaches and athletes, but we're going to look for somebody who is not only going to help build a more competitive program but also somebody who is going to help with the academic success of our athletes, to work well with our fundraising aspirations in Raising Reser, and to run a program with the highest integrity such as we've had under Coach Erickson. The student-athlete's success is big for us, it's very important. It's an important recruiting tool, and we're absolutely committed to that.

'As Bob said, this is a very attractive position. We will look at everybody, and we will decide as a University, among those who are selected in a short and timely process, to make the very best decision for Oregon State University and then act on that decision with dispatch. So while we're going to miss Dennis Erickson, we're not going to miss a beat. That's an important concept for us: We're going to miss Dennis Erickson, but we're not going to miss a beat - in our program, in our competitive success, in our academic success.'


(With the stadium expansion in the works, is it important to find a good public relations/marketing type of coach as well as an Xs and Os type of guy?) 'While you would like that, I think the bottom line is 'Just win, baby.' That's the best marketing tool you have. If you can win and do it right and have a program that exemplifies that, that will do everything you want it to do in the marketing/PR range.'

(Can you confirm a report that former OSU coach Mike Riley has been in contact with you?) 'I have received a voice mail from Coach Riley.' (How many others have you had?) 'I don't know - there's been a plethora of voice mails, believe me. He (Riley) called me and said 'Please return the call.' I've talked to Mike over the last couple years, so maybe he's interested, maybe he's not. I don't know.' (Would you be interested in him?) 'We're interested in anybody and everybody. Obvioiusly, Mike was here for two years, he's a Corvallis native, and there are a lot of things Mike brings to the table. But we're not opening or shutting the door on anybody. We're looking at everybody in an equal light right now.'

(How important is it to find someone who will stay at Oregon State for a longer period of time?) 'That would be great. I think in this day and age, those are few and far between. I mean, the days of Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler have gone by the wayside for most people. In fact, I believe that up until today, Dennis and Rick Neuheisel were tied for second in longevity in the Pac-10. What does that tell you about the state of our business? While it's a laudable goal, I don't think it's necessarily the thing you're going to try to attain.'

(This is the first time you're leading a search for a coach. What do you know about doing it?) 'We've got a big dartboard, and we just start throwing.' (Laughter) 'Even though I haven't led it, I was very involved with this process last time in football, twice in basketball. Maybe we got it right once, maybe we didn't. But as I listened to the (OSU radio announcer) Mike Parker show on the way down (from the Portland airport), Steve Preece (OSU alum who played in NFL, does OSU telecasts) is two-for-two so I think we're going to add him to the mix. I think what you do is, you get the names, you get the information, you network like crazy, you have a lot of people you call or you have confidential conversations with who are in the business. It's easy to look at somebody's record and what they've done, but what are they really like? How do they treat their kids? How do their kids feel about them? What do the fans feel about them? You've got to do your homework on that stuff. At the end of the day, you've got to whittle that thing down to 'What is the best fit? Who is going to fit in Corvallis and Oregon and Oregon State?' That's what you're looking for, and sometimes it's pretty subjective; sometimes it's just the gut. But having been in those homes and on those interviews the last couple times, and having been through this 20 or 25 times with different candidates, you get a good feel for what's going to work and what's not. Sometimes it's just a crap shoot, but you try to do due diligence and cover all your bases and go from there.'

(With spring football not too far off, is there a target date for hiring a new coach?) 'No target date. I mean, you want to go as quickly as possible and you need to have a sensitivity for spring ball, but haste is not going to make a good decision. We want to make the best decision, because in the long run, somebody is going to be here four or five years, so we want to take our time and make sure we're doing the right thing.'

(Have you heard from any of the recruits?) 'I've been in transit all day. I know our coaching staff either has called the recruits or is in the process of calling them tonight, just letting them know where we - which we really don't know where we are - but at least hold their hand through the process. Because this is a tough time for them; I mean, they've committed to Oregon State and now the leader of the program is gone. Having said that, the message that we want to send to the recruits is 'When you signed up, you signed up for Oregon State.' While Coach Erickson was a huge part of that, there are a lot of other pieces to the puzzle, let alone the other 85 guys you're going to be sharing that locker room with, and all the other things that happen on campus and the academic side and all the academic support that you've talked about. There are a lot of reasons why you chose Oregon State; yes, it's unfortunate that the leader is gone, but we've got to band together and hang in there and that it'll do well.'

(Are there any financial limitations in the hiring?) 'I think we've paid, with Coach Erickson, pretty good market rate - we're like fourth in the conference. I think we'll be over $1 million this year. When you think about Mike Riley, when he left, making 185 (thousand), I think that statement stands on its merits of what we can afford to pay. I think we're in pretty good shape there.' (So whatever package you offer will be comparable to what Coach Erickson made?) 'I didn't say that - I said we'd be competitive. I mean, if you get somebody that's the stature of Coach Erickson, you're going to do something like that, but it's all relative. What's the experience you're bringing in? What are your credentials? I mean, here's a guy who won two national championships, pro experience, and he was worth every penny that we paid him. I think you take a look at what that particular candidate brings to the table. You can always ratchet up that contract as people prove themselves. We certainly did that with Coach Erickson on an incentive basis. So you protect the University on one hand on the financial end so it's a win-win situation as you have more success. We're hedging our bet, in a sense.'

(How many people were on the search committee when Erickson was hired?) 'It was me, Mitch (former athletic director) and Steve Preece - the three of us.' (See something similar this time?) 'I'm not sure. I haven't formulated it yet. I think it depends on what shakes out from some of the internal conversations we have. But certainly we want to try to keep it tight, but we also want to involve people like Steve Preece and Bob Grim (OSU alum who played in NFL, does OSU radio broadcasts) who have been in the business, have seen coaches up front, played professionally and understand the game, to get their perspective. That's important, so we'll include those guys in the process.'

(Are any of Erickson's assistants going with him?) 'I haven't had a chance to find out, so I don't know that.'

(What is the status of OSU's assistant coaches?) 'I believe that their contracts go through June 30, but I'm not sure of that. I believe their contracts go through June 30 on a yearly basis.'

(Have you called the athletic director of any other school to ask permission to talk with their coach? Did you have an instant short list?) 'No instant short list. I have a long list, but not a short list.'

(As far as Mike Riley is concerned, would you be hesitant about hiring him because he'd already left OSU once for another job?) 'I don't think that's a factor. Again, Mike had an opportunity to be an NFL coach for a lot of money. If anybody in this room had the opportunity to go to the pinnacle of their career, would you not consider it? I think the answer is 'Yes,' just like Dennis is doing what he's doing. Again, the game plan is like Mike Parker theorized today is, we bring Mike Riley back for four years, then when Dennis gets fired from the 49ers, we switch them for another four years and keep recycling them back and forth. We save on search expenses. No, that (Riley's departure) doesn't bother me at all. Mike didn't want to leave here. He had an opportunity, and if the opportunity is great like that, you've got to consider it.'


(What's your reaction?) 'Kind of shocked, but I'm dealing with it.'

(What did Erickson tell the players?) 'He started off and just told us he apologized for the way it had to come across and the way it came out to us, that we weren't the first people to hear it. That was pretty much it. He wished us luck.'

(Do you blame him for leaving?) 'No. That's one of the premier jobs in the NFL. It's a good job, and it would be hard for him to pass that up.'

(What was the players' mood?) 'Just still kind of spinning right now - not really sure what to think. We've kind of thought about it all day, but it's still kind of ... I don't know. People are obviously shocked and disappointed at the same time, but you've got to wish him luck, too.'

(Offensive coordinator Tim Lappano was your position coach - would you want to see him promoted to head coach? Would you talk to Bob De Carolis about him) 'I will probably sit down, or our team will sit down, with Bob and discuss the possibilities of that. But I'd have nothing wrong with that.'

(Do you think any players might want to go elsewhere?) 'We haven't really talked about that as a team. We just kind of found out throughout the day, and nobody's really discussed that.'

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