Alumni admiration: 28 years of losing football to a ten-win season


Jason May

Oregon State alumni, Jens Burks (left) and Mark Laswell (right) , are seen speaking with Daily Barometer sports writer, Ryan Harlan, on Dec. 16 in Las Vegas.

Ryan Harlan, Sports Writer

Oregon State fans have traveled far by plane and automobile to make it to Las Vegas, Nevada to see the Beavers play in a second consecutive bowl game. 

While there are plenty of fans enjoying the bowl game festivities this week, fans are ready to cheer on the Beavers on game day in Allegiant Stadium. 

For many of the fans in attendance for the bowl game, this isn’t the first bowl game that they have attended as Beaver Fans.  

There are Beaver fans in attendance in Las Vegas who attended last year’s bowl game against the Utah State University Utes in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl at SoFi Stadium. The appearance in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl was the first bowl game appearance by the Beavers in over eight years. 

There are seasoned Beaver fans who have been to bowl games of years past including attending the 2001 Fiesta Bowl win over the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Former quarterback and current head coach of the Beavers, Jonathan Smith, was on the 2001 Oregon State football team that won the Fiesta Bowl. 

Others have connections to the Oregon State football team including having personal connections to the team like alumnus Jens Burks who graduated from Oregon State in 1973. Burks has a daughter who worked as an academic counselor helping out student-athletes, including former Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers.

Oregon State alumnus Mark Lasswell graduated from Oregon State in 1976 and currently resides in Montana. Lasswell is a current season ticket holder and has been a lifelong fan of the Beavers, having grown up in Corvallis. 

For Laswell, the connections of him being a fan of Beaver Football started when he became friends with former Oregon State head coach Mike Riley before Riley took over as head coach and was coached in middle school football by former Oregon State running back/linebacker Gene Hilliard. 

Hilliard played at Oregon State under head coach Tommy Prothro and played two positions as a player during his tenure for the Beavers. Hilliard was on the 1960 football team that won 14-0 over the then No. 6 ranked University of Southern California Trojans in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

“28 years of losing football,” Lasswell said when asked about what the years of being a Beaver fan were like before the success that Erickson and Riley brought to the program.

Laswell mentioned that even in those times fans would show up rain or shine to games even if the Beavers were blown out by the opposing team. 

Those fans have stuck with the Beavers through highs and lows in the football program, from the era of head coaches Dennis Erickson and Riley to the years before the head coach and former quarterback Jonathan Smith took over the football program.  

There is one common consensus among Beaver Fans including Laswell and that is that they would find a bowl game win to be gratifying to close the book on the 2022 football season with all the achievements that the team has earned this year.   

“I think a win today would be a nice way to top off the season because we had such a great year,” Oregon State fan Michael Gallagher said, “Getting that tenth win and Jonathan Smith getting a contract, solidifies the direction the program is moving towards.” 

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