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Editorial: NIL era means Oregon State must continue to be Giant Killers

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Oregon State vs Washington Football01

Oregon Stat's Jack Colletto scores the Beavers first touchdown against Washington.

Oregon State University will be at a disadvantage in this new era of name, image and likeness rights, where college athletes can profit from their fame and marketability. But the drawbacks may not be as significant as some outsiders believe, and OSU has triumphed over somewhat similar circumstances for decades.

By now, the “Giant Killers” role is coded into the DNA of the Beavers.

For those who missed the news about the NCAA’s new NIL rules, here’s a bit of a recap. College athletes can make money by appearing in endorsements, if a jersey is sold with their name on it, if they are identifiable in a video game or under other circumstances.

Football and basketball stars will be the primary beneficiaries. Quarterbacks could rake in moolah, for example, while linemen and athletes in niche sports will continue to toil in obscurity for the most part. There will be outliers, such as Jade Carey of OSU’s gymnastics team, who comes off as charming and possesses an Olympic gold medal, which seems rather marketable. Former Beavers women’s hoops star Sydney Wiese would have absolutely killed it with her combination of skill and personality, but we digress.

Some might question whether it’s a good idea to interject the corrupting influence of more money into college sports, and that’s fair.

It’s also fair to question whether college athletes — whose efforts are the heart of a gazillion-dollar industry — should be able to afford a pizza.

At this point, despite any misgivings we may have about NIL, the train has left the station, and in a few years it might be a spaceship. What matters now is whether we can direct things. OSU Athletic Director Scott Barnes made a great point in a recent article by James Day when he said that federal guidelines of some sort will be needed to make sure abuses aren’t rampant.

The big fear with NIL is that it will create a playing field that’s far more uneven, since talented athletes will chase cash and flock to schools with bigger media markets or a larger national following. The rich will get richer. Alabama and Southern California would become even greater powerhouses, and schools such as OSU would become minor league palookas, the reasoning goes.

But while OSU doesn’t have a strong national profile, the market for the Beavers isn’t Corvallis, which has roughly 60,000 people. It’s all of Oregon. And the Oregon sports scene, like the state’s geography, has a bit of wide open space, with just one major professional team, the Portland Trail Blazers. (RCTID, but sorry Timbers and Thorns fans.)

In comparison, the Bay Area, greater Los Angeles, Phoenix and even the Puget Sound have far larger populations, but there’s also far more competition for attention.

OSU also has other charms it can use to woo athletes. The school itself is a top-notch research institution and Corvallis is rightfully billed as the best college town in the Pac-12.

Still, Oregon State typically doesn’t get 5-star recruits, and that won’t change. The Beavers need to find diamonds in the rough, the overlooked and underappreciated, and the castoffs. They need athletes with grit and hustle who are willing to work as a team to overcome opponents that appear far more talented on paper.

You can make a magnificent machine out of spare parts, though, and some of the greatest OSU teams ever fit that archetype.

Masks at Reser Stadium

While we were disappointed with OSU’s loss to Washington State on Saturday, the football team seems to be taking form under coach Jonathan Smith. The Beavers are 4-2 and should make a bowl game. This is great news for Beavers sports fans, and, in a very real way, the local economy.

OSU football and other sports buoy local businesses, and that’s occurs even more so when the teams are winners.

Still, we couldn’t help but be discouraged when we saw an overwhelming number of fans going maskless at Reser Stadium this season. OSU doesn’t seem to be enforcing the state’s pandemic mask mandate, perhaps due to a lack of manpower.

If a business repeatedly behaved in such a manner, Oregon OSHA would almost certainly crack down. It doesn’t feel fair that accountability during this pandemic falls on the shoulders of mom and pop shops, but not a major university.


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