Assessing an Awkward Coaching Situation in CorvallisPosted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on April 2nd, 2014
Craig Robinson said these words following Oregon State‘s season ending loss against Radford, a game played in front of fewer than 1,500 fans in Corvallis.
As he got up from podium, Robinson said, "If I get fired, it's been nice knowing you guys." Added that he was joking.
— Connor Letourneau (@ConnOregonian) March 20, 2014
That game ended his sixth season in Corvallis, with no single campaign resulting in a postseason finish higher than the CBI, and comprising the lowest attendance totals in Gill Coliseum history. Needless to say, Beaver fans aren’t happy and would like to see a change. Still, with that all laid out on the table, I thought Robinson’s joke was hilarious. Timely, self-deprecating, and unexpected — a perfect combination for a laugh in my book. Unfortunately, his boss, athletic director Bob DeCarolis, did not find it as humorous, which is understandable since he has been in Robinson’s corner since day one. “A bad joke at a bad time,” he said the next day. A little over a week later, DeCarolis penned a letter to his biggest boosters, telling them that he had chosen to retain Robinson as head coach for another season.
The relationship between Robinson, the athletic department and Oregon State fans has grown incredibly awkward. The coach needs fans to buy tickets in order to attract recruits. The fans have stopped coming until they start to see a winning product. And there won’t be a winning product until the recruits head to Corvallis. It’s a vicious cycle, one that Robinson has been tasked with breaking. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that his mouth is getting him in trouble. And I’m not talking about his joke to reporters last month. It’s the other quotes like, “Next year’s team could be ranked in the Top 25.” Not likely when he loses Roberto Nelson, Devon Collier, and Angus Brandt. Or, “If Eric Moreland returns, we will be one of the top teams in the conference.” He’s already building in excuses for next season six months before practice even starts. No one wants to hear that. And then there is his agent, Rick Giles, saying that the 2013-14 Beavers were “two wins away from the NCAA Tournament.” Um, try two wins away from the NIT — maybe. The empty promises, excuses, and over-inflated expectations aren’t cute anymore. It’s annoying and a waste of time.
Robinson has gotten players like Brandt, Nelson, and Jared Cunningham to come to Corvallis and hasn’t been able to do much with them. There have been losses to Coppin State, Utah Valley and Texas Pan-American, and of course, a 51-point home defeat at the hands of Seattle University with then Beaver commitment Jahii Carson in attendance. He didn’t stay committed for much longer. For Robinson to still be coaching at Oregon State at this time next year, those types of losses need to disappear. The quotes that irk his bosses and fans need to do the same. No more essays on all of his many accomplishments need to be sent out. He has done a lot in his stint with the program, and the difference between competing for 11th versus an upper half finish in the conference is a big one. But the program is now at the point where it needs to see a top-half finish, and not just be a couple victories away. That’s where the problem lies, and he may not have what it takes to fix it.