So thanks to posts by rvm and olzeke, I decided to get some facts about our team. Now, while the program had success in the 50s and 60s under Tommy Prothro and Dee Andros, I feel that the best way to judge a program's successes is recently. So therefore, I compiled the records from 1970-1996 (we will call it BR as in Before Riley) and the records since. And let me tell you, our program has made leaps and bounds from where it was.
During the 70s, we had some run off from the Dee Andros era, but Craig Fertig lost all momentum (btw, I do feel bad about talking bad about Fertig, who passed this last week. May he Rest In Peace). We finished the 70s with a 25-83 record (23% winning percentage) and had 0 bowl games and 0 top 25 finishes. It went all downhill from there.
The 80s came and went, and Joe Avezzano and Dave Kragthorpe were leading the mighty Beavers into battle. It was a battle that we lost 78% of the time. We finished the 80s with a combined 22-85-4 record, and again, no bowl games or top 25 finishes. To put it in perspective: we had 22 wins in 10 years. We had 21 loses the first two years (0-11, 1-10).
From 1990-1996, two coaches led our team: Dave Kragthorpe's final year was 1990 and Jerry Pettibone took us all the way up to the apocalypse. While there was hope with JP, it never took, and the Beavers had the worst of their winning percentages during this time, finishing 14-62-1 (18%) and no bowl game or top 25 finish.
Then, a miracle happened. A young new head coach from Corvallis named Mike Riley was hired in 1997 to try and change the fortunes of this laughable program. Seriously. We were as bad as Duke (before this year), WSU and Syracuse. It was pathetic. We generally had a win or 2 every year, but I don't even know who those teams were. In Riley's first year, he took a rag tag team of option players and turned it into a 3 win year. The next year, we finished 5-6, our best record since 1970. Riley bolted for the NFL.
Enter Dennis Erickson: 7-5 his first year, he took us to our first bowl game since the 1964 Rose Bowl. He then took a couple guys by the name of Chad Johnson, TJ Whos-ya-mama, Jonathan Smith, DeLawrence Grant, Ken Simonton, and others, and led them to an 11-1 year, a Fiesta Bowl win, and a #4 finish. And we were a field goal away from being in the National Championship that year (a lot of analysts believed we were the best team in the country that year but I digress). The following year was a disappointment, starting preseason as S.I. #1 team and finishing 5-6, but we rebounded with an 8-5 year and a visit to the Insight Bowl. DE bolts for the NFL.
Enter Mike Riley 2.0: He has improved this program so much that our fans expect to win games, not just be happy when we do. It started with his turnaround his first term here, and he has continued where he left off. Since his first term, we have been to 7 bowl games, finished in the top 25 3 years, and currently have 19 wins the last 2 years. 19 wins in 2 years! That is almost as many wins as we had in the 1970s and then in the 1980s!
The fact that our fans now expect great things from our team is a testiment to our far this team has come since 1998, and I don't want it to stop. Everything has improved. Recruiting has gotten better. The facilities have gotten better. Everything has gotten better. I don't know about you, but I'm excited that 8 wins is now considered mediocre is a good thing. Don't get me wrong, I know that we are not a Michigan, a Texas, an Alabama. And we never will be. But if we continue to win, there's no reason that we can't change the national perception of this program. Go Beavs!
As one last final note, I'd love it if someone over at AtQ would write a piece about how Oregon has improved drastically over the last 20 years. Yes, you have been winning consistently for about 10 years more than us, but you weren't always a good program. In fact, Oregon and Oregon State used to only try and win the Civil War and this state was a laughing stock for football.