COMMENTARY: Beavs make right choice on TV

OREGON STATE RECENTLY had a choice. Choosing Door No. 1 meant they could make life easier for their fans on Homecoming, eschew a TV payday and schedule kickoff for early in the day. Or they could schedule a later game and keep their televised streak alive and put some badly needed money in their pockets.

Hard times have hit and families are finding ways to cut back. For many, football is undeniably now a luxury -- and one which has become too expensive. Such difficulties have been reflected in lowered attendance in 2009 and thousands of empty seats come Saturdays in Reser Stadium.

BF.C COMMENTARY

In a recent Oregonian article where Paul Buker interviewed Bob De Carolis, the A.D. voiced his concern about said empty seats.

"I've never seen a state like this, where it's one or the other, you're a Duck or you're a Beaver," De Carolis said. "Well, if (OSU alumni) are so proud of that, why is it so hard to keep this thing going? We have a hell of a football product -- a hell of a football product -- and we can't sell out the stadium?"

As a supporter and avid fan of Oregon State athletics -- not just football -- I took this a bit personally. "Is he saying I (we) are not supportive of our Beavers? How dare he!"

GRABBING PEN AND paper, an angry letter was about to be authored. And then I took a step back, and rethought what I had read.

Now, what De Carolis does need to realize is that not everyone has deep pockets and clothing, food, and shelter take precedence over a $200-or-more emotional roller coaster ride on a Saturday. But I came to the conclusion that De Carolis wasn't calling out Beaver fans in a negative way.

His frustrations are evident, sure. However, I believe they're warranted.

The 2009 season has been less than stellar, and understandably so, with 41,922 in Reser on average thus far compared to the 44,324 in the first four home games of the 2008 season. Reser's 2008 attendance averaged 44,930 -- just 744 less than capacity. That's less than two percent short of consistent sellouts.

So who's to blame -- Fans? The Athletic Department? The economy? The schedule?

OREGON STATE HAS had their last 24 games televised and will move that number to 25 after they play in the Coliseum this Saturday against No. 4 USC.

OSU was given the option to have the October 31 home game vs. UCLA televised. But with ASU and Cal winning the previous week, the 12:30 time slot was now unavailable to the Beavers.

OSU could have moved the game to 3:30 pm and had it broadcast. But October 31 is also Homecoming. And De Carolis said no.

"It's a big day for families -- it's a huge day on campus and in Corvallis," Oregon State SID Steve Fenk told BF.C. "We sided with our fans..who come to our games."

With television broadcasts comes exposure and money. A regional broadcast last year was worth about $303,158. With money so hard to come by as of late, it seems as if moving a game back 2 1/2 hours would be simple enough for De Carolis to provide a much needed budgetary boost to a struggling department.

BUT WHAT ABOUT the fans with children hoping to tick-or-treat in their neighborhood that commute from Portland or Bend?

And forget that it's Halloween -- Oregon State gets lots of emails from season ticket fans complaining bitterly about a 3:30 (or later) kickoff, where television, traffic and the masses all conspire for families with a short commute finding themselves lucky to get home by 9:00 p.m.

While I believe passing up a televised game and losing out on the money that comes with it is questionable, I think De Carolis is ultimately headed in the right direction for one simple reason.

He placed the concerns of Beaver fans first.

Improving the OSU Game Day Experience
Complaints about game day atmosphere have resurfaced since De Carolis comments. Fans believe, if they're going to donate the big bucks and still sit in nose bleed seats, there need to be added incentive for them to spend their well-earned money.

Ideas ranging from alumni basketball games to beer gardens and live bands in the Merrit-Truax Indoor center have been discussed and then discussed some more. And I believe these are all positives that would in the long run bring more casual fans around.

Even if people don't buy tickets but instead treat it as a Saturday market, the added atmosphere surrounding game day will bring in some people who will buy tickets.

De Carolis is in effect asking for money based on the "on field product." Well, it goes beyond that. Fans want Reser Stadium and the surrounding areas to be an event.

Bands playing in the streets, local breweries and businesses setting up shops around the stadium and alumni games are all ideas that are easily organized -- and they create revenue for the Athletic Department and they're fun and interactive for fans.

Are these the next steps? We'll see.

BEAVER GAME DAY has always been about family for me. Relatives have been pouring in from all corners of the state since I can remember to don the orange and black and sing along to Harold L. Wilkins' "Hail To Old OSU."

Parking lots are filled and vehicles decorated in Beaver gear and more often than not, collective groans and cheers are heard based on reactions to radio broadcasts of those feathered guys to the south.

I became a Beaver fan by birth in 1983. I grew up in the days of Jerry Pettibone and the wishbone offense, Bi-Mart 2-for-1 tickets and the rock hard Parker Stadium astro-turf. I think I left some elbow and knee skin from my high school playing days on that turf.

AND WHILE I have missed just a handful of games in my-albeit brief-lifetime, my wife and I were lucky enough to finally become season ticket holders for the 2009 season.

The trip to the ticket office to hand pick our seats, season tickets being mailed out, and the anticipation of fall practice are just the tip of the iceberg for what is an entire college football experience.

Recent success has brought vast improvements all over campus, most notably to the athletic facilities. The Merrit-Truax Indoor Practice Facility, Sports Performance Center, Gill Renovation, and Reser Phases I and II are monumental steps in the right direction for the future of OSU athletic success.

What began as a dream under former Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart and then-head coach Dennis Erickson, came to fruition under the guidance and continued perseverance of current AD Bob DeCarolis and the return of Mike Riley.

FAN SUPPORT HAS been tremendous since the rise of the football program -- and has truly become a "Beaver Nation." The faithful have been through the worst of the worst (see 1971 through 1998), and have tasted an 11, 10 and two nine-win seasons in less than a decade.

Undoubtedly the best of the best of times, at least for less seasoned Beaver fans such as myself -- sadly I cannot count the days of Terry Baker or the Giant Killers as among my memories.

But five consecutive bowl victories under Mike Riley, the second best record in the Pac-10 since 2006 and three consecutive seasons finishing ranked in the top 25.

That would seem to warrant increases in fan support, donations and the completion of Reser Stadium, right? You'd think so.


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