Now that not only has Mike Riley moved on to become the Nebraska football coach, and taken at least some of his staff with him (LB coach Trent Bray was Riley's first hire, followed by O-line coach Mike Cavanaugh, Special Teams Coach Bruce Read, Defensive Coordinator Mark Banker, and Director of Football Operations Dan Van De Riet [though his role in Lincoln is less clear], and apparently Director of Player Personnel Ryan Gunderson, and there will likely be more to come, as details are worked out), the focus for Beaver Nation has to totally be on who will be the next head coach.
Getting this right is the single most important thing Athletic Director Bob DeCarolis will ever do, but it also has to happen relatively quickly, in order to not have the turnover turn the program upside down in terms of players and recruits. There has already been a couple of decommits, and a commit to the Cornhuskers, and the more time that passes, the greater the chance for more, not to mention finding replacements for players that have left, and firm up new recruits.
Existing players are working through Finals Week, and will have to turn their attention following the term to making a decision about whether to remain at Oregon St., or explore transferring. With spring practices beginning before winter quarter ends, and most schools on the semester system, there is plenty of urgency to the matter.
Adding to the oddness of it all, WR assistant coach Brent Brennan, who has not changed up his twitter account affiliation, and still is out recruiting. Presumably for Oregon St.
Good morning! Rise and grind! Jumping on that big bird. I've got home visits with speeeeeed the next 3 nights. #gobeavs— brent brennan (@coachbrennan) December 9, 2014
(This is a bit of a surprise, given Brennan's recruiting ties to Texas, and recent success with the likes of NFL stars Marcus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks; I thought he might be the next one hired after Bray.)
Riley recommended Banker to become the next head coach at Oregon St., but that was never going to be taken as anything but a polite gesture, and doubtless DeCarolis is burning through all the roll-over minutes on his cell-phone plan.
Former Michigan coach Brady Hoke, who was an assistant at Oregon St. to both Dave Kraigthorpe and Jerry Pettibone, and was successful as the head coach at San Diego St., has been the subject of some of those phone conversations, and so too has Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin, who has already made it clear he's interested, saying "By no means would I not be interested in hearing from a school at the Pac-12 level."
Baldwin, a northwest native, has validated himself not only with a win over Oregon St. last year, but also by coming close against other Pac-12 competition with his FCS program.
Another former Beaver assistant coach, as well as an alum, that's on DeCarolis' call list is BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. Mendenhall has familiarity with the situation in Corvallis, augmented by a recent visit the Cougars made in 2011. He also has no path to the new Football Playoff system, unless the Big XII, which found they too have less of a path than they thought, decides to add BYU and someone else, like Cincinatti or maybe Northern Illinois or Houston.
A 4th candidate DeCarolis has called that's a good fit is Utah St. coach Matt Wells, and that quartet provides a list of quality prospects.
Whether an assistant coach would be entertained probably depends on what the level of interest the 3 coaches in the list above with FBS experience ultimately is, but that would likely be limited to USC Defensive Coordinator Justin Wilcox, an Oregon native, and Washington Offensive Coordinator Jonathan Smith, due to his history as one of Oregon St.'s greatest quarterbacks ever.
Other names are floating around, and in the case of former California coach, and Oregon assistant, Jeff Tedford, actual overtures to Oregon St. have been made.
Suggestions of former Oregon St. head coach and current Utah assistant Dennis Erickson and Pac-12 football analyst Rick Neuheisel, who has coached at UCLA, Washington, and Colorado in the conference, seem more like grasping for familiar names on someone's part.
To distract those following the situation closely, DeCarolis has announced that tomorrow, Wednesday, a formal announcement of more details of the formerly announced remodel and expansion of the Valley Football Center, which won't happen until after next season. The Pac-12 stream will carry the press conference live.
More details will be nice to know, with the $42 Million project price tag the headline, but we already knew the locker room and equipment room will receive necessary expansion. Whether it will include the addition of a locker room for the visitors, so the problematical situation of having players cross the street to the basement of Gill Coliseum multiple times each game day, we should also learn.
This expansion should have been undertaken this off-season, but the fund-raising plan is what it is, slowed no doubt by declining results in most of Riley's recent years. Regardless, its a necessary improvement, and probably one that at this point has to be addressed before building the other half of the stadium can begin. Perhaps we will also learn more details about that as well.
The occasion will also provide an opportunity for the crucial gathering of key investors with President Ed Ray, who has said "I want us to get to the next level!" in an interview with the Portland Tribune, and DeCarolis, doubtless to discuss details and dollar levels of the coaching hire, as well as facilities fixes.
This conversation could be the most critical of all events in the current tumult.