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What Will Happen to Portland State’s Football Team?

Monday, February 02, 2015

 

Portland State Mascot Victor E. Viking via Wikimedia CC.

Two months. That’s how long it’s been since Portland State fired their head football coach, Nigel Burton.  

November 26, 2014, was the day we were informed by Interim Athletic Director Valerie Cleary that Coach Burton wouldn’t be returning, and that it would be the job of the soon-to-be athletic director to find the man burdened with the job of returning some sense of winning to the park blocks of Portland.

That’s right, burdened by the type of lackadaisical attitude responsible for a program dying a slow death since Tim Walsh left nearly 10 years ago.  The same attitude that fired a coach without an athletic director in place, said the new AD would be the one to make the next hire, then not hire said AD until after the 1st of the year, and not put him into place until nearly 3 weeks later … 2 weeks prior to National Letter of Intent Day.

Does that sound like a program on the right track?  Does that sound like a program genuinely invested in getting better?  And does that sound like a program that would know how to do it if they were?

What is going on at Portland State?

True, I’m not on the inside, nor am I connected to anyone that is, but I don’t feel one needs to be familiar from the inside out in order to understand a few basic concepts when it comes to winning football:

1. Have a coach.
2. Have a system.
3. Have players to execute said system.

Oversimplified?  Maybe, but without a coach, system, and players, losing and the type of backing – or lack thereof – they’ve been getting for the better part of the last decade is what you’re going to be left with.  And that’s what they’re currently in the midst of at a school that should be doing better.

Yes, when Burton was relieved of his duties, his staff was retained and his offensive coordinator was promoted to an interim version of Burton himself.  But if and when a new coach is hired, if he chooses to do what the majority of incoming head coaches do, he’ll send many of those “retained” coaches packing, bring in his own people, and in the process be starting from scratch a system of evaluation and preparation that should’ve been in place for months, from square one.

Reeks of success, doesn’t it?

When Burton was fired in November, a list of potential candidates arose, including local talent like former Willamette coach Mark Speckman, former PSU player and NFL coach June Jones, former PSU player and Montana Head Coach Robin Pflugrad, and long-time Lake Oswego Head Coach Steve Coury.  In addition, former offensive coordinator at Portland State, Al Borges, who’s also had stints at UCLA, Oregon, Auburn, and Michigan, has been mentioned and expressed interest. “Of all the places I’ve coached, and all the bowl games I’ve coached in, I had more fun at Portland State than anywhere else,” Borges said.  “I’d be interested if I thought the program could get the support it needs.”

In fact, all the aforementioned expressed interest, if the same interest was expressed by words and via action by the administration charged with doing better.

So what are they waiting for?

I’ve heard theories that consist of them keeping Interim Coach Bruce Barnum for a year, giving new Athletic Director Mark Rountree an opportunity to evaluate the program and hire a new coach based on his assessment.  If so, I’ve heard less appealing ideas.  But to do so would likely result in more of the same from a regime sent packing, and leave existing players wondering what’s next?

A situation that rarely reaps reward.

I wish the Vikings well.  I recall days past when they won at an elite level, and due to such created the type of buzz in and around the city that breeds future success.  But it’s been quite a while, seems to deteriorate annually, and has quickly become an afterthought in a town always in the market for a rooting interest.

I’m in no position to make demands, but it doesn’t hurt to ask:  Do better Portland State.  You’ve had 2 months to get a coach, and 10 years to get a winner.  Am I asking too much?

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

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