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Canzano: Ducks and Beavers go head to head with bashes
It's the beginning of a golden era.
The employees at The Embassy Suites hotel in Tigard opened the doors of the Deschutes River Ballroom early on Wednesday morning and began set up. After that, they’ll assemble tables, set out silverware, napkins, wine glasses and chairs in the Columbia River Ballroom.
Two ballrooms, folks.
That’s the state of things for coach Jonathan Smith and his 10-win Oregon State football program. The Beavers are hosting a “Signing Day Celebration” reception at 6 p.m. in one ballroom with dinner to follow in the other. OSU is flying FS1 broadcaster Petros Papadakis and his wife in for the event. Papadakis will serve as emcee. It’s sure to be a bang-up celebration.
A few miles away at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon Ducks coach Dan Lanning will take the stage at the same time. For a $100 general-admission ticket you can join the recruiting celebration at the Tiger Woods Center, toast with beer and wine, and hear Lanning and his staff talk about their signing-day haul.
Two 10-win football programs.
Two head coaches.
This is probably a good time to point out that what we have here is the beginning of a golden-era of college football in the state of Oregon. It’s a renaissance for the Civil War rivalry, punctuated by the back-slapping recruiting bashes going on within miles of each other on Wednesday evening.
I keep thinking about what F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby: “I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”
Football coaches in this state have thrown plenty of small recruiting parties over the years. There was no privacy. But I’m thinking today about the enthusiasm that former coaches such as Lon Stiner and Tommy Protho raised in taking OSU to Rose Bowls decades ago. And I saw Mike Riley regularly kick up his heels with a “hip, hip… hooray!” during a stretch where he won 28 games over three consecutive seasons.
Now comes Smith, who has not only resurrected his alma mater, but shed the “little engine that could” mentality that always threatened to hold back OSU’s football program. His team now stands among the contenders for the Pac-12 Conference title next season.
Oregon has been throwing loud off-season bashes for years. The Ducks made the national title game under Chip Kelly, and later, coach Mark Helfrich. Mario Cristobal won a couple of conference titles himself. But only two other times in state history have the football programs at Oregon and Oregon combined to reach the combined 20-victory mark that Lanning and Smith posted last season.
One of them came in 2000, when the Beavers went 11-1 under Dennis Erickson and the Ducks went 10-2 with Mike Bellotti on the sideline. The other came in 2012, when OSU’s Riley posted a nine-win season and UO’s Kelly went 12-1.
The standing record: 21 combined victories.
Could Lanning and Smith match that in the next couple of seasons?
Is there a plausible scenario in which the football programs play their annual rivalry game, then meet in Las Vegas a week later in a rematch for the conference title?
There’s where my head is today.
Oregon recruited a great class and is getting quarterback Bo Nix back next season. I’m eager to see how Lanning’s staff will grow. Meanwhile, Oregon State recruited well and landed prized transfer quarterback DJ Uiagalelei in the transfer portal. The Beavers will be the most talented they’ve been since Erickson was coach.
Last week, Erickson told me of Smith: “He’s not arrogant. Some of these coaches these days blow my mind. He’s not an arrogant guy. He gives players a chance. When he took that thing over it was a fricken mess, as you know. He took it over and built it and built it and it’s going to get better and better because he hasn’t changed what he’s going to do.”
After Oregon State beat Oregon in the Civil War last November, I told the coaches of both programs I thought the rivalry was just beginning. The Lanning vs. Smith head-to-head matchup has a chance to be epic. Both coaches are going to stick around, be well supported, win games, and compete.
I think we’re about to see a series of high-stakes meetings between the programs.
Lanning shot back: “I hope so.”
So yeah. The parties are set. OSU’s event is sold out. Don’t bother trying to get a ticket. Oregon is rolling out the green carpet for its donors on Nike’s campus, too. There’s a lot of offseason work to be done. Also, Washington, USC, Utah and some others are going to be fierce next season in the Pac-12.
But if you look and listen closely enough at 6 p.m. tonight, you may see and hear some of the hoopla. It feels like a golden era, folks. It hasn’t always been that way around here.
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