OSU football commentary: A day that may never be forgotten

OSU football commentary: A day that may never be forgotten

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Gary Andersen handles the spotlight in his introductory press conference, now it's time for the new Oregon State football coach to get to work building a staff and plan of attack to get the Beavers back to winning football games.

Remember the date: Dec. 10, 2014.

It could go down in the annals of Oregon State football as a major turning point in the direction of the program.

It’s the day Oregon State stole the show.

The day the Beavers, despite coming off a 5-7 season and no bowl game, were the talk of the college football world.

It’s not like it was a slow week, either.

Just a couple days before was the selection of the four teams that will play in the inaugural College Football Playoff and a few days later would be the announcement of the Heisman Trophy winner.

It’s the day Oregon State announced a $42 million expansion of the Valley Football Center, a project coined “victory through Valley” by the university.

But that was just the starting point.

Less than an hour after wrapping up the press conference to discuss the project, the school announced the hiring of Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen as its next head football coach.

The selection caught many in the college football world by surprise. Even OSU play-by-play guru Mike Parker playfully stumbled a bit when he received the written release announcing the hire.

The question was: why would Andersen leave an established program like the Badgers to go to what many in the national media feel is one of the worst jobs in the Pac-12 Conference.

On Friday, Andersen explained his decision, saying he felt Oregon State was the place he was supposed to be and that he was blessed to be in Corvallis.

Whatever the reason, the fact the Beavers were able to entice Andersen to leave a “Power 5” program like Wisconsin to come to Corvallis shows OSU isn’t about lip-service anymore.

It means business.

On Wednesday, university president Ed Ray talked about doing things in a “world class” manner and bringing in “world class” people to fill the new football facility.

He immediately backed up those bold words with the hiring of Andersen.

There is still plenty to be done.

The expansion of the VFC won’t begin until after the final game of the 2015 season and is expected to be ready for the 2016 opener.

It will certainly be a selling point to recruits.

“Facilities are very important, No. 1 for the young men it allows them to be able to prepare to be better football player,” Andersen said Friday. “For instance, if you get an upgrade in your training room it gives you a better opportunity to hopefully prehab instead of rehab.

“… In the end, kids like a lot of things and I kind of like the same things they like. Nice facilities, it’s pretty cool. It’s nice to have big-time stuff that when you walk in it’s as good as there is in the country and that’s exactly what we’ll have when we get through this.

“It’s just awesome that we’re able to move forward in that direction and become the best of the best, and for these young men it’s a tremendous opportunity.”

While Andersen’s hiring has Beaver Nation excited — he definitely won Friday’s introductory press conference, he still has to prove his worth on the field.

He takes over for Mike Riley, whose move to Nebraska was equally as shocking at the time.

The Beavers struggled the last five seasons under Riley, going just 29-33 and missing the postseason three times.

The cupboard isn’t bare at Oregon State, but it’s not close to the shape Wisconsin was in when Bret Bielema bolted to Arkansas in 2013 after three straight Rose Bowl appearances. Andersen went 19-7 in his two seasons there.

So while there is plenty of optimism in Beaver Nation, the proof will be in the pudding.

If Andersen can find the same level of success he did during his four seasons leading Utah State from the bottom of the Western Athletic Conference to champions and the school’s first bowl game since 1993 in 2012, then there is a good chance Wednesday will be remembered as a turning point.

“We’re right there, we need to take another step, somehow, and get to the next level,” Ray said. “I’m not the X’s and O’s guy but I think Gary is and I think he understands and has the fire in the belly and the passion to get us to the next level.”

Beaver Nation sure hopes he can.

If he does, Dec. 10, 2014 will be remembered for a long time to come.

Steve Gress is the sports editor for the Corvallis Gazette-Times. He can be reached at steve.gress@lee.net or twitter.com/stevegress19

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