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Highs and lows for Beavers in 2017

CORVALLIS — There was plenty of success on the fields and the courts for Oregon State teams in the past calendar year.

There were also some shocking developments that took place off them.

Here's a look back at some of what transpired throughout 2017:

Gary Andersen departs

The sixth game of the Oregon State football season had just ended and the Beavers were 1-5 after a 38-10 Pac-12 loss at USC.

The Beavers had lost all five games by significant margins and the team seemed headed for a bad season in Gary Andersen's third year with the program.

Andersen didn't wait to find out where the rest of the season was headed. In a development that stunned Beavers fans and observers, a mutual parting of the ways between Andersen and OSU was announced.

Players were caught by surprise. A few blamed their play on the field, while some former players had a "good riddance" attitude.

Not only had Andersen quit halfway through the season, but he left $12 million on the table that was part of his contract running through the 2021 season.

"Coach Andersen's decision to waive his remaining compensation is unprecedented in major college athletics," OSU director of athletics Scott Barnes said in the release. "His decision is made for the right reasons and values, and it speaks volumes about the kind of honorable person that Gary Andersen is."

In texts released by John Canzano of The Oregonian, Andersen acknowledged that he had OSU for every penny with no buyout on the next four years.

"But that’s not my style!!," Andersen said. "If it does not improve I will do some crazy (expletive) with my salary so I can pay the right coaches the right money!!”

Andersen also texted on Sept. 20 about the possibility of leaving while ranting about hiring the wrong assistants.

“It’s year three! If these (expletives) can’t get it right I will not just say fire them and start over!! That’s not the way to go about it. If I (expletive) it up that bad I will take the bullet and ride off into the sunset! I will stay old school!! I will not die doing this (expletive)!! Stay tuned!”

Football goes 1-11

The 2017 football season got off to a bad start and finished on a low note.

The Beavers had one of the worst seasons in the program's history and it could be argued that it ranks last considering NCAA scholarship limitations have led to stronger recruiting classes in the modern era.

There were also somewhat higher expectations after a strong finish in 2016. Those were all but dashed after the season-opening trip to Colorado State, where the Beavers were clobbered by the Rams 58-27 thanks in part to five turnovers.

OSU managed to slip by what would be a winless Portland State team with a game-winning drive for a 35-32 victory. Then came the start of a very fast-moving downward spiral.

The Beavers lost their next four games in blowout fashion, falling to Minnesota 48-14, Washington State 52-23, Washington 42-7 and USC 38-10. Starting quarterback Jake Luton was lost for the season at WSU after suffering a thoracic spinal fracture.

After the USC loss the Beavers were hit with stunning news with the departure of Gary Andersen. The Beavers continued on with interim coach Cory Hall, who was the cornerbacks coach.

Hall seemed to give the players a boost of energy and they nearly pulled off a win against Colorado before the Buffaloes scored late to hand OSU a 36-33 loss. The loss to Stanford the next week was even tougher to take. The Beavers only had to run out the clock late in the fourth but Ryan Nall lost a fumble and the Cardinal scored and held on for a 15-14 win.

The wind was out of the sails from there. The Beavers lost at California 37-23 and at Arizona 49-28 and then fell 40-24 to ASU on senior day.

The Beavers hit their lowest point in the Civil War with an embarrasing and record 69-10 loss to Oregon. With that, the focus turned in full to finding a new coaching staff.

Smith hired and the return of Riley

A couple familiar names returned to the Oregon State football program.

Former Beavers quarterback Jonathan Smith was announced as the new head coach.

After a playing career that included quarterbacking the Beavers to a Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame for an 11-1 season in 2000, Smith immediately embarked on a coaching career.

"The one thing that gives me the most confidence is that since the first time I met Jonathan, that's all he's ever wanted to do (is) coach the game," former OSU running back Ken Simonton said. "Obviously, he's an intelligent man; he could have done anything with his life. He didn't even pursue his own athletic career because that's what he knew from the start he wanted to do. I'm very excited to have a man with that kind of focus coming back to lead your program. This is something he has been preparing for, for a very long time. I'm excited to see him move up the ranks and get this opportunity."

Smith started at OSU as a graduate assistant in 2002-03, then coached quarterbacks at Idaho from 2004-09. He spent two seasons as the Montana offensive coordinator and QB coach before coaching quarterbacks at Boise State for two years.

In 2014, Smith became Washington's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

He helped the Huskies to the 2016 Pac-12 title and a College Football Playoff berth. Smith also coached UW quarterback Jake Browning, who has been instrumental in the Huskies' recent success.

Smith got to work right away on putting together a staff and hitting the recruiting trail.

Among the first to join his staff was former OSU coach Mike Riley. Riley left OSU three years ago to coach Nebraska, but was dismissed from that position at the end of the 2017 season and was available to return.

Beavers go 56-6

Oregon State’s baseball season for the ages yielded an overall record that defied logic. But the magical run ended with the team’s only two-game skid of the year.

The Beavers blew away much of their competition en route to the Pac-12 crown, finishing 27-3 in conference play. It was the best mark in league history.

OSU put together two program-record 23-game winning streaks, the second extending to the College World Series. Consecutive losses to LSU abruptly halted the dream season.

The 56-6 final record matched Texas’ 1975 squad for the fourth-best winning percentage of the CWS era (1950-present) at .903. The Beavers set school records for regular-season (49) and overall victories.

Along the way, coach Pat Casey picked up his 1,000th career win. Infielder Nick Madrigal earned Pac-12 player and defensive player of the year awards while Luke Heimlich was the pitcher of the year.

Madrigal, Heimlich and Casey will all be back in 2018 as OSU gears up for another CWS push.

Another sweet season

Coming off a Final Four appearance, the 2016-17 season was thought by many to be a rebuilding year for the women’s basketball team.

The Beavers lost four key players who had been instrumental in turning the program from the doormat of the Pac-12 to national title contenders in a few short years.

But the returning players, led by seniors Sydney Wiese and Gabby Hanson, wanted to continue the program’s recent success.

Picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 in the preseason, Wiese, Hanson and company set out to prove everybody wrong.

That’s exactly what they did.

Oregon State was 7-3 against ranked teams and picked up a sweep of the regular season series with Stanford. That included the first win ever at Maples Pavilion with a thrilling 72-69 victory on Jan. 8.

The Beavers went 16-2 in the conference for the third straight season and claimed their third straight conference title.

Oregon State became just the second program to win the regular-season title three straight seasons, joining Stanford.

The Beavers fell short in the Pac-12 tournament title game, losing by five to Stanford but they received a No. 2 seed to the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.

Oregon State avoided a potential upset in the first round, escaping with a 56-55 win over No. 15 seed Long Beach State before beating Creighton 64-52 to reach a second consecutive Sweet 16.

The season came to an end in Stockton, California, with a 66-53 loss to Florida State in the regional semifinals.

Heimlich news

By nearly every metric, Heimlich was the best pitcher in college baseball last season.

The junior left-hander went 11-1 overall while leading Division I in ERA (0.76) and WHIP (0.78). Heimlich was the Pac-12 pitcher of the year and a first-team All-American.

On the eve of the Corvallis Super Regional, a report detailing Heimlich’s juvenile record made national news. Heimlich released a statement the following day in which he requested to be excused from playing.

Without their ace, the Beavers swept Vanderbilt in the super regional to advance to the College World Series. Heimlich did not travel with the team to Omaha, Nebraska.

Days after OSU’s season-ending loss to LSU, coach Pat Casey labeled the Heimlich situation and fallout as one of the most challenging developments of his coaching career.

“I have never been through something like that,” Casey said in late June. “I’ve been in some tough situations, but I’ve never seen anything taken to that level.”

Heimlich, a projected early-round pick for the 2017 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, went unselected. He is back with the Beavers for his senior season.

Gymnastics makes NCAA Championships

With Kaytianna McMillan and Dani Dessaints bouncing back from injury and Madeline Gardiner back on the competition floor for her senior season and decent depth, the Beavers looked poised to have one of their strongest years.

It took a while for everything to come together. The Beavers had two relatively low scores to start the season in wins against Auburn and Seattle Pacific, then put up a 196.900 in a win over Northern Illinois and Seattle Pacific and a 196.700 in a loss to UCLA, but instead of continuing to climb, the scores leveled out for the next two meets.

But a 196.825 in a loss at California set up the Beavers for a big push at the end of the season. They went over the 197 mark with a 197.125-196.325 win at Stanford, then returned to Corvallis and put together a 197.325 in a win over Washington and a 197.475 against Illinois-Chicago.

The Beavers looked poised for a good postseason run with a second-place 197.400 at the Pac-12 Championships. Erika Aufiero won the bars title with a 9.950 and Dessaints tied for first on vault with a 9.950 and tied for second on beam, but the big team scores came to an abrupt halt. The Beavers eked into the NCAA Championships when their 196.150 score at the Champaign Regional was good enough for second.

McMillan was named Pac-12 gymnast of the year. Gardiner was a first-team all-American on beam and McMillan (floor), Aufiero (bars) and Silvia Colussi-Pelaez (beam) were all second-team.

Volleyball makes tourney

The Beavers made the program’s fourth appearance in the NCAA volleyball tournament and first since 2014.

OSU finished the season 21-12 after a five-set loss to North Carolina State in a first-round match in Austin, Texas. The Beavers were seventh in the Pac-12 at 11-9, their first winning record in conference since 2001.

Senior outside hitter Mary-Kate Marshall was named a Senior CLASS second-team All-American and selected to the AVCA all-region team.

Marshall was a three-time all-Pac-12 first team selection and this fall was named the conference’s offensive player of the week three times.

Setter Kylee McLaughlin was named the Pac-12’s freshman of the year. Maddie Goings, an outside hitter, joined her on the conference’s all-freshman team. OSU’s Mark Barnard was voted the Pac-12 coach of the year.

A win at Washington — the program’s first since 2001 — started a stretch in which the Beavers won 10 of 12 matches. That included two five-match winning streaks in conference. OSU had not had one such streak since 1990.

Barnes’ first year

Scott Barnes was named the Beavers vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics on Dec. 22, 2016, but didn’t take over until Feb. 13, 2017.

It has been an interesting first 10-plus months on the job for Barnes, who was at Pitt before coming to Oregon State.

The biggest news of his first year to date has been the departure of former football coach Gary Andersen and the subsequent hiring of Jonathan Smith as the new coach.

Andersen and the university agreed to mutually part ways after the Beavers’ sixth game of the season.

It was a tough deal for Barnes, who worked with Andersen at Utah State and considers him a close friend.

Barnes also dealt with the departure of cross-country and track and field coach Kelly Sullivan, who left the university after spending 14 seasons building the programs after their reinstatement.

Barnes also made a change in the men’s soccer program, parting ways with coach Steve Simmons after nine seasons. Simmons was 67-82-15 with the Beavers.

Sullivan retires

Kelly Sullivan, head coach of the cross-country and track and field programs since those sports were reinstated at the university in 2004, announced his retirement on May 31, in a release sent from the athletic department.

Sullivan’s retirement was effective immediately, and he didn’t coach through the end of the spring season. On July 27, Sullivan was hired by Seattle University to head its cross-country and track programs.

Sullivan coached three All-Americans at Oregon State: men’s high jumper Jordan Bishop in 2010, women’s distance runner Laura Carlyle in 2011 and 2012, and women's heptathlete Kara Hallock in 2017. The Beavers set school records in 16 of the 21 events contested at the Pac-12 championships during his time in Corvallis.

Under Sullivan, women’s track and field went from a distance-only program to one that competed in dual meets.

Sullivan oversaw the fundraising for and development of OSU’s Whyte Track and Field Center. The facility opened in September 2012, with funds coming almost entirely from donors.

Work at the track complex this year included the creation of a top-level hammer facility and an area beyond the backstretch that includes a new pole vault runway and room for practices and warming up off of the oval. A state-of-the-art HD video scoreboard was also part of the plans.

Oregon State quarterback Darell Garretson warms up before playing Oregon on Nov. 25 in Eugene. The Ducks won, 69-10. [THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]
Jonathan Smith listens to a question at a news conference on Nov. 30, in Corvallis, announcing his hiring as football coach at Oregon State. [THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]