Canzano: Portland State 'pissed off' about Oregon State game
College football team longs for a return home.
Elvis played a concert at Providence Park once. So did Jimmy Buffett, Johnny Cash and The Beach Boys. But none of them sounded off about the place quite like Bruce Barnum did this week.
“It pisses me off,” the Portland State football coach told me on Tuesday. “That pisses me off, I mean come on. Are you kidding me?”
Barnum is ticked that Oregon State and Montana State are playing a football game on Saturday night in what used to be his program’s home stadium — Portland’s Providence Park. And I can’t say I blame the guy.
Portland State got systematically squeezed out of the stadium over the years. Partly, by the ambitious business interests of Peregrine Sports, LLC, the parent company of Portland’s MLS franchise. And partly, because city leaders in Portland lack the chops to do much about it.
“Nothing against Oregon State or Montana State,” Barnum said. “They’re not in charge of the place.”
The stadium opened in the 1920s as Multnomah Stadium. It later became known as Civic Stadium, then PGE Park, Jeld-Wen Field and, eventually, Providence Park. It’s been the site of dog races, a Billy Graham crusade, professional baseball games and soccer matches, but it has a deep relationship with football.
Our state’s father of sports — the late Harry Glickman — brought an NFL game to the stadium on a Sunday evening in 1955. The Rams and Giants played. Tom Landry and Frank Gifford suited up.
That night, Portland’s downtown stadium became the site of the first sudden-death overtime game in NFL history. Rams’ running back Tank Younger broke a 17-17 tie when he went over tackle and scored from two yards out.
The Ducks and Beavers played several Civil War games at Providence Park. Over the years, the Washington Huskies played a handful of times against OSU and UO there, too. So did Cal and UCLA. But Providence Park’s primary college-football tenant was Portland State, located just a couple of blocks away. Now, the Vikings bus 20 minutes to Hillsboro on game days.
I’ve bellyached about it to the Timbers’ brass over the years. They’ve invested tens of millions in renovations, improvements and turned the place into a soccer cathedral. But a publicly-funded stadium should strive to serve the state’s people.
High school championship football games, for example.
Portland State games, too.
Said Barnum: “We kept paying the money. It went up and up and up and up.”
The last full season of PSU football played at Providence Park came in 2017. The following season, Vikings’ athletic director Valerie Cleary, was only able to secure one home date at Providence Park.
“The logistics became a nightmare,” she said.
The costs went up. The football yard-mark lines were painted lighter and lighter. And the Timbers and Thorns soccer franchises pointed to league rules that required them to block out stadium dates for possible postseason dates.
“We had to move some of our games on very short notice,” Cleary said.
I reached out to the MLS club’s management. I’ll update if the Timbers provide a quote. The Timbers sell out. The Thorns have an unreal following. There’s money to be made. We all get it. Those franchises generate tax revenue for the city, have invested heavily in the venue, and bring a ton of people downtown. But Providence Park is owned by the city and should be a protected community asset.
Cleary said she was told the locker rooms wouldn’t be available to the football teams one season. Then, that there would be no ability to store football equipment overnight before games.
“All those things led us to Hillsboro,” she said.
The last Portland State football game played at Providence Park was held in 2018 — a 35-14 Vikings’ win over Northern Colorado.
Could PSU play one football game every season there?
How about two or three?
The MLS playoffs run Oct. 15-Nov. 5. The Timbers don’t participate, wire-to-wire, most seasons. It’s time to get Portland State back in its old building. The Timbers and Thorns should have first priority. They’re the primary tenants. But re-opening the doors to PSU is the right thing to do.
Barnum’s team doesn’t have a game on Saturday. The Vikings are on a bye week. He’s planning to call the coaches at Montana State, though. He’d like to come to their game and maybe get a field pass and see Providence Park up close again.
Said Barnum: “I’m pissed because I’d love to have it back.”
JACKHAMMER SPEAKS: I had Oregon State linebacker and running back Jack Colletto on the statewide radio show on Tuesday. He was a terrific interview. I asked Colletto what he tells people when they ask him what position he plays.
“I tell them ‘it’s complicated’,” Colletto said.
Colletto, who has a degree from OSU in mechanical engineering, talked about the on-field discussions that led to the game-winning play call last Saturday, his grandmother’s spaghetti sauce, and his apparel line.
• I spoke with Washington State coach Jake Dickert after his team’s upset win over Wisconsin. The Cougars were a 17.5-point underdog, playing on the road, and demonstrated some big-time mettle in the game.
Still, this week, WSU remains unranked.
Dickert said: “I don't know if we received votes. I don't know if we're ranked. I worry about what I can control.”
The full interview with Dickert here:
• Colorado coach Karl Dorrell is the highest-paid coach in program history. He’ll make $3.6 million this season. Dorrell is 0-2 this season and is 4-12 in his last 16 games.
If Colorado terminates Dorrell before Dec. 31 of this season, it will owe him $11.4 million. If it does so after that date, the financial obligation drops to $7.4 million. On Jan. 1, 2024, his buyout drops to $4 million.
Colorado athletic director Rick George can’t be happy with the results, but it feels like Dorrell may get some more time.
• Zach Klein is a voter in the AP Top 25 poll. He’s the news director at Atlanta’s ABC affiliate. He joined me on the radio show and gave insight into the Top-25 voting process and quarterback Marcus Mariota’s first game with the Falcons. But Klein was really good talking about the Georgia-Oregon debacle in the opening week.
Said Klein: “It’s just going to take some time. (Dan Lanning) doesn’t have his guys in there right now. You saw the physicality up front. When you have Darnell Washington, who is 6-foot-7 and 270 pounds, playing tight end for Georgia. He’s bigger than (Oregon’s) offensive and defensive lineman.”
• Bruce Barnum, the aforementioned Portland State football coach, is a colorful quote. He gave me a dandy this week on the Washington Huskies:
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Great story on "Civic Stadium" as I remember it (its been decades since I have lived in Oregon). I did see a Beavers game there once. It was in 1975. This was the beginning of 20 years of miserable Beavers football and Dee Andros was in his last year as head coach (in his full Great Pumpkin glory on the sidelines). The game was against Grambling, an all-black college at that time and that fact got all the attention in the lead up. I hope that would not matter today. Of course, the Beavs got beat by a faster, more athletic team, even though smaller and not Div 1 at that time, I do not believe. But it was a fun place for a game. Old school.
Some of Portland sports' biggest blunders happened at 18th and Morrison. Baseball running Jack Cain and the Rockies out of town so they could bring in Scott Thomason, Marshall Glickman, and the Beavers. Running PIL football out of downtown and Central Catholic all the way to Hillsboro(!).
The biggest might be Portland State deciding to make the jump from Division II, which they dominated, to I-AA, where they've never competed. That place used to ROCK on Saturday nights. I wonder who would have won out between a dominant and relevant PSU football program and the Timbers.