CORVALLIS, Ore. (KGW) — In Corvallis, the newly renovated Reser Stadium sat empty ahead of a season full promise, and a broken conference.
It’s a strange state to be in; an emotional tug of war and for Beavers fans, not a civil one. The University of Oregon jumped ship from the Pac-12 Friday — so did Washington. For those counting, that leaves just four schools left in the Pac-12 Conference including Oregon State University.
“Not super thrilled about it,” said OSU senior Jack Herbst. “I liked our conference, I thought it was competitive, thought we had some good games, some good rivalries for sure.”
No rivalry game is more storied than the one between the Ducks and the Beavers, a tradition dating back to 1894. If things remain where they stand within the Pac-12, the 2023 rivalry game could be the last.
“I think there’s more important things in life than just money,” said Beavers fan Carlin Irish. “Things like tradition, rivalries and something we can always count on as a state, as the fabric of who we are as Oregon.”
Which begs the question: Who exactly is Oregon now in college football? Where does OSU land in all of this? It’s an identity crisis that fans are managing.
“We’ve always been Beavers fans,” said Irish. “We haven’t always been Pac-12 fans so we’ll always be here to root on the Beavers no matter what conference we’re in.”
On the surface, it appears the force driving teams out of the Pac-12 is money. In Corvallis, some Beavers fans are floating another theory.
“I guess other teams, they’re scared!” said Beavers fan Zion Yisrael. “They see us getting good so they don’t want to be around no more!”
Washington State University is sticking around for now. On Friday, Cougars head football coach Jack Dickert talked about losing rivalry games in the northwest including the Apple Cup between Washington and Washington State.
“It hits home,” said Dickert. “At the end of the day what’s it worth? I understand business, I understand change. Everyone’s gotta change and we’ve got to adapt and we Wazzu will find its way, we have for a hundred and some years.”
After practice Friday, Beavers head football coach Jonathan Smith said he’s focusing on what’s in front of him.
“I just echo what we talked about as a team last night,” said Smith. “What we have in front of us is certain and these guys that built this program and worked so hard — to allow this to be a huge distraction — we’re not going to do it.”
© 2023 KOBI-TV NBC5. All rights reserved unless otherwise stated.