1. Beavers worry about time of possession. Ducks worry about time for possession.
2. Beavers know being called "The University of California at Eugene" isn't a compliment.
3. Beavers grow their crops outdoors.
How did the state of Oregon, home of loggers and joggers, displace Southern California as the epicenter of Pac-10 football? For starters, both Oregon and Oregon State credit the NCAA's 1994 mandate limiting schools to 85 scholarships, preventing USC and UCLA from stockpiling all the top Western talent. Nowadays, the rest of the Pac-10 recruiters descend on the Golden State like invading armies. "There are 3.4 million people in Oregon," says Bellotti, "but there are three million people within a stone's throw of the LA. Coliseum." So the Beavers' and the Ducks' rosters will boast nearly twice as many Californians as Oregonians this fall. For the most part, though, Oregon and Oregon State have taken different paths to success. To wit:
Oregon State's "Quick Fix" The best way to change Oregon State's losing mentality, Simonton says, was simple. "It's just like any business," he says. "You get rid of a lot of people. When we got here as freshmen, most of the seniors were used to losing. Me and [strong safety] Calvin Carlyle tried to organize Saturday conditioning one time, and nobody showed up. So that spring Calvin was walking around here like, 'I'm glad some of you seniors are leaving.' "
When former Beavers coach Mike Riley left after a 5-6 season in '98 to coach the San Diego Chargers, Oregon State hired Erickson, who had just been fired after four mediocre years with the Seattle Seahawks. Although he'd won two national titles during a six-year stint with the Miami Hurricanes, Erickson, who is a native of Everett, Wash., has always felt more comfortable coaching in small Western college towns—places like Moscow, Idaho, and Laramie, Wyo. He walked into his first players meeting in Corvallis wearing the two national championship rings from his Miami days and announced that his goal was to win the Pac-10. "Our staff has been in the NFL," says Erickson, "and we've been successful wherever we've been at the college level." He installed his user-friendly spread offense, maximizing the talents of Simonton (SI, Nov. 13, 2000) and quarterback Jonathan Smith, and he beat the recruiting bushes, signing 16 juco transfers during his first year.
"Quick fix" is a verboten term in Corvallis, especially after ABC's Sean McDonough ripped the Beavers during the Fiesta Bowl broadcast for signing so many juco transfers since Erickson's arrival. "ABC didn't know what they were talking about," says Erickson, and his boss Barnhart remains fiercely unrepentant. "We're not gonna back down from recruiting junior college athletes," says Barnhart. Whatever you may think of them, Erickson's Beavers compete with a swagger reminiscent of their coach's old Miami teams. "He lets us play with emotion, and the guys have thrived on that," says Smith. "He has a leash on us, but he doesn't tug it too tight unless we go way out-of-bounds."
Oregon's Building Boom Though the Ducks reached the 1995 Rose Bowl under former coach Rich Brooks, their road to the elite regions they inhabit today began in earnest with a January 1996 exchange between Bellotti and Knight soon after Colorado had hammered Oregon 38-6 in the Cotton Bowl. "He said, 'What do we need to be really good, to take that next step?' " says Bellotti. "I said, 'We need an indoor practice facility. It would be the first of its kind in the Western U.S., and it would also help for bowl games and off-season practices.' "
The $15 million athletic center was completed in 1998, providing what Bellotti calls "the wow factor" for their recruiting. "When we didn't have the indoor facility, it was used against us," says Ducks athletic director Bill Moos. " 'Why would you come to Oregon when you can't work on your game year-round?' "
Oregon's sugar daddy has been Knight, whose $20 million in donations to the athletic program (and an additional $30 million to the university) since 1995 rank him among the most generous boosters in college sports. It has been a problematic relationship, though, ever since April 2000, when the school expressed support for the Worker Rights Consortium, an organization that has been critical of Nike's labor practices overseas. Knight stopped attending football games and announced he would no longer donate money to the university. The school has since backed away from the WRC; while Knight's wallet remains closed, he resumed attending football games late last season.