3 and out: Gary Andersen resigns from the Beaver football program

A photo illustration represents former head football coach Gary Andersen resigning from his position last week. 

Gunnar Boag, Sports Contributor and Riley Youngman

When the Beaver football team won their first Civil War since 2007 last season, Gary Andersen was their head coach. When Oregon State University Director of Athletics Scott Barnes was hired in December of 2016, Andersen remained the head coach. When OSU President Ed Ray said the university had the right man leading the program and offered the coach a contract extension last winter, he was referring to Andersen. As the OSU football players returned to Corvallis from their trip to University of Southern California last weekend, Gary Andersen was their head coach.

Then, in a move unforeseen by most, when the players returned to practice on Monday, Andersen was gone.

After two years, 10 months and five days, Andersen has stepped down as the Beaver’s head football coach, and done so by releasing the university of all contractual and financial obligations—a move that has both shocked and surprised players, fans and pundits alike.

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“After many discussions with Scott, waiving my contract is the correct decision and enables the young men and the program to move forward and concentrate on the rest of this season,” Andersen said in the press release following the announcement. “Coaching is not about the mighty dollar. It is about teaching and putting young men in a position to succeed on and off the field. Success comes when all parties involved are moving in the same direction.”

In his third year at Oregon State, Andersen had struggled to bring the Beavers to the level he had hoped for, and was just 1-5 on the season. In his tenure at OSU, Andersen went 7-23 overall, with a conference record of 3-18. He failed to win a single road game.

Andersen took over back in December of 2014, signing a six-year contract after ex-head coach Mike Riley’s departure. Andersen, who left the University of Wisconsin, would make a base salary of $2.45 million a year in his first year. From there, the base salary would increase by $100,000 for each additional year he remained in the program.

In addition, the contract also included bonus incentives both for himself and his staff for various accomplishments, including winning the Civil War, as well as winning eight or more games a season and appearing in bowl games.

In December of 2016, in conjunction with the hiring of OSU Director of Athletics Scott Barnes, Andersen signed a one-year contract extension. The extension stretched the contract to 2021 and put Andersen at over $3 million in his final year at OSU.

“Extending Coach Andersen’s contract reflects my belief that we have the coach in place who is capable of taking Beaver football to bowls and conference championships, and preparing our student-athletes to be champions in life beyond football,” OSU President Ed Ray said back in December at the time he announced Andersen’s extension.

In his first season at OSU, Andersen and the Beavers finished with a 2-10 record. Without a win in Pac-12 play, it was clear that the 2015 season would be a rebuilding year for the program.

In his second season, Andersen doubled his win total after going 4-8. He picked up his first Pac-12 win with an overtime thriller over Cal. He also brought OSU its first Civil War win since 2007, a 34-24 victory over their rivals from the South. After picking up three Pac-12 wins, the Beavers looked to improve even more in 2017.

Instead, the Beavers trudged their way to a 1-5 start this year. This season was Andersen’s hardest start, with three games in a row against three ranked teams. New starting quarterback Jake Luton went down with a thoracic spine fracture four games into the season. The defense, after holding opponents to an average of 30.5 points per game in 2016, gave up 45 points a game average through their first six matchups.

After being outscored 81-238 in the five losses, doubts started to raise about the direction of the program. After a sloppy loss to USC, the program was at an all-season low.

The news broke on Monday, Oct. 9 that the university and Andersen had mutually agreed to part ways. Andersen, who was on year three of a seven-year contract, chose to void all financial obligations with the university. This decision saved OSU over $12.5 million.

“Coach Andersen’s decision to waive the remaining compensation is unprecedented, and is made for all the right reasons and values,” Barnes said at a press conference. “It speaks volumes about the kind of honorable person that Gary is.”

The university has begun work on finding a replacement for Andersen, according to Barnes. Names that have been linked to the opening include Cal offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin and Washington offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith.

“We want an absolute high-integrity individual, somebody with incredible energy and intellect and passion for what we are doing,” Barnes said. “I will not be confined to geography or a sitting head coach compared to coordinator.”

With six games left on the schedule, the team must move forward. For seniors like Jordan Villamin and Manase Hungalu, this will be their third head coach in four years.

“I didn’t expect to go through it once, so I mean twice is pretty difficult,” Villamin said. “You just got to keep pushing and playing football.”

For players like running back Artavis Pierce, it was more than losing a coach.

“He is a great man, that’s why I came all the way out here,” Pierce said. “He is always going to look out for me and I’m always going to talk to him about anything. We are going to stay as a family.”

For now, Barnes has appointed defensive backs coach Cory Hall to take over as interim head coach. Hall was a secondary coach at Weber State before joining the OSU coaching staff in 2016. This will be his first collegiate head coaching position.

“Coach Hall is connected to these student athletes. There’s a belief and a trust and more than anything; we need that moving forward,” Barnes said.

In Hall’s debut as the interim head coach, the Beavers nearly got him a win. Colorado escaped with a 36-33 victory, but it was clear that the OSU offense had improved. Gaining 569 yards of total offense, the Beavers showed poise and promise, something that has been lacking the previous six games.

“We really are family, we really do care for one another,” Hall said after the game. “We saw the staff get a lot closer, we saw players get a lot closer. We saw confidence in the offensive scheme.”

The Beavers have five games remaining on the schedule. They will be looking to win their first Pac-12 game, but more importantly continue setting a foundation for the program.

Looking towards the future, OSU currently has nine players in its 2018 recruiting class.

As of now, Jake Dukart and Spencer Petras—both commits for quarterback—have reassured through Twitter that they remain set on joining the Beavers next season. They, along with current players, have a decision to make at the end of the season—will they want to continue playing at OSU with a new coach, or will they look into playing elsewhere?

If anything, Saturday’s game against Colorado may have changed their minds.

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