Leave it to Oregon State and Gary Andersen to provide us with another surprise coaching move.
The latest shock? On Monday, Oregon State announced that the head football coach and the school "agreed to mutually part ways," just six games into what's been a disastrous third season. Cornerbacks coach Cory Hall will serve as interim head coach.
At the end of the 2014 season, Oregon State played a part in two coaching stunners: Mike Riley left Corvallis to take the Nebraska job, a move that nobody predicted the Cornhuskers would make, and the Beavers responded be plucking Andersen from Big Ten West champion Wisconsin, just a few days after his Badgers were blown out by Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. Andersen made a rare move, leaving Wisconsin for a clear step down to a lesser Power Five job at Oregon State after two years in which he led the Badgers to a 19-7 record but proved to be a poor fit.
Both Riley leaving Oregon State for Nebraska and Andersen leaving Wisconsin for Oregon State rank up their with the biggest coaching surprises in recent years. This week, Andersen proved to be unpredictable again with an abrupt midseason exit.
After going 2-10 in his first season, Andersen improved to 4-8 in 2016 and signed a contract extension through 2021 last December. The Beavers finished the season well with a rivalry win over Oregon, and they hoped to take another step forward in 2017.
"We are excited about the direction of our program and the way our young men work to represent Beaver Nation the right way," Andersen said in a statement released by the university after the extension was announced.
That apparent excitement about the future didn't last long. With hopes of reaching their first bowl since 2013, the Beavers are instead 1-5. They beat Portland State, an FCS team, by three points, and their five losses to Colorado State, Minnesota, Washington State, Washington and USC have come by an average of 31.4 points. The closest of those games came on Saturday, when the Beavers lost to USC 38-10. They rank 100th in yards per play on offense and 121st in yards per play allowed on defense.
That game in Los Angeles was perhaps the Beavers' least likely win entering the season, which makes Andersen's departure after a routine loss to the Trojans all the more surprising. He's the first midseason Power Five coaching change of 2017 and the third FBS coaching change since the summer, joining the ouster of Hugh Freeze from Ole Miss before the season and the resignation of Sean Kugler at UTEP last week.
Andersen will leave Oregon State with a 7-23 record. He began his FBS head coaching career with a successful rebuilding project at Utah State that ended with an 11-2 campaign and WAC title in 2012 that landed him the Wisconsin job when Bret Bielema -- who continues to achieve uninspiring results in the SEC -- unexpectedly left for Arkansas. Now, he's cycled through three FBS jobs in less than a decade, leaving another surprise opening in his wake.
The most stunning part of Andersen's exit is that there will be no buyout.
"After many discussions with [athletic director Scott Barnes], waiving my contract is the correct decision and enables the young men and the program to move forward and concentrate on the rest of this season," Andersen said. "Coaching is not about the mighty dollar. It is about teaching and putting young men in a position to succeed on and off the field. Success comes when all parties involved are moving in the same direction."
Andersen won't collect the more than $12 million left on his deal.
"Coach Andersen's decision to waive his remaining compensation is unprecedented in major college athletics," Barnes said. "His decision is made for the right reasons and values, and it speaks volumes about the kind of honorable person that Gary Andersen."
John Canzano of The Oregonian filled in further details in a column after the news was announced, writing that it appears that Andersen didn't believe he could win like he wanted to at Oregon State.
Of course, few coaches have ever won like they wanted to in Corvallis.
Oregon State produced a Heisman Trophy winner, Terry Baker, in 1962 and went to the Rose Bowl in the 1964 season. But coach Tommy Prothro left for UCLA after the Pasadena trip, and the Beavers didn't make any appearances in the AP poll from 1969-99, a three-decade period of struggles that included a streak of 28 straight seasons with losing records. The Beavers have finished ranked in the AP poll 10 times ever, with much of that success happening last decade: a No. 4 ranking under Dennis Erickson in 2000 and four top-25 finishes under Riley, who coached the Beavers from 1997-98, then returned for a relatively successful tenure from 2003-14.
It's one of the most difficult Power Five jobs, made even tougher by the rise of rival Oregon over the past 25 years within a state that lacks recruiting talent. None of the Beavers' past four recruiting classes have ranked in the top 50 nationally, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. That difficulty is what made Andersen's move from Wisconsin so surprising in the moment.
Upon taking the Oregon State job, Andersen had to have known that success wouldn't come easily or quickly, making such an abrupt midseason so surprising, too.